Autumn is a season of change: the weather gets cooler; the days get shorter; the trees change color and lose their leaves.
It can also mean a more hectic routine after lazy summer days. The kids are busy in school and activities. Your work is likely ramping up. You might already be thinking about the stress of holiday preparations. Those shorter days mean less sunshine and warmth.
With the likelihood of increased stress in autumn, why not make some simple changes to your routines to embrace this new time of the year and commit to looking after yourself? Here are 5 ideas for autumn self care to ensure you enjoy this transition time of year.
1. Go to the Light
If you’re suddenly feeling foggy and sluggish, or hungry for “comfort food,” your body is probably having a normal response to the shorter days. Those who really feel the effects of the winter blues may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a seasonal depression that’s estimated to affect 5% of people in the United States. Symptoms can include: fatigue, disruption of sleep patterns, overeating and craving carbohydrates, trouble focusing and social withdrawal.1
Treatment for SAD can include light therapy, in which you get doses of artificial light from a bright light box. Getting outside during the sunny part of the day can help, or you can consider Vitamin D supplements. If you find the symptoms worrisome, talk to your doctor about your feelings and possible treatment options.1
2. Try a New Exercise
This is a standard suggestion in any self care plan, and for good reason.
Regular activity can help you physically, strengthening bones and muscles, reducing the risk of disease, and aiding weight management. But it also helps mentally and emotionally: it can improve your brain health, help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp, reduce your risk of depression and anxiety, and help you sleep better.2
You don’t have to buy a gym membership or add a bunch of extra equipment to your house. Something as simple as a commitment to walk 30 minutes, even five days a week, can make a difference. Walk at noon, on your coffee break, or while the kids are in their activities. Try something new by enrolling in a local zumba or yoga class. Or, develop a simple routine with functional fitness exercises that you can perform at home without equipment. Examples include squats, lunges, planks, and push-ups.3
3. Get Out in Nature
Those changing leaves and fresh temperatures make autumn a perfect time for outdoor activities. Research continues to show that being outside and experiencing nature helps boost mental health and increase the ability to focus. That’s particularly true for those of us who are behind a desk or in front of a screen for much of our day. Our increased urban environment means we spend less time outside experiencing the natural world.4
Plan a road trip on the weekend to go for a walk in the woods. Maybe there are some stunning displays of autumn trees nearby, and you can do a “leaf peeping” excursion. Find a local orchard and go apple picking, walk through a corn maze, or take the kids on a hayride. Don’t worry about over-planning and thinking you need to take a weekend away—there are likely plenty of local activities that can get you outdoors, or you can do something simple as a family, like fly a kite or play a game of touch football.
4. Start A Habit of Well-Being
Look after yourself with a new habit that can be incorporated into your busy schedule, and that will also help your mental health and well-being. Start a journal, which can help you manage anxiety and reduce stress. Try to write every day, and make it easy by keeping a pen and paper handy at all times. This is another activity you can do while the kids are at their activities.5
Or take up meditation—another habit that doesn’t require any special equipment and can be practiced wherever you are. Meditation has been shown to provide emotional and physical benefits, including stress management, being more present, increasing creativity, lowering resting heart rate and resting blood pressure, and improving sleep quality.6
5. Make One New Recipe a Week
When life gets busier, it’s easy to get into a rut in the kitchen. Even worse, it’s often too simple to pick up takeout on the way home, adding expense at the same time as you’re consuming food that’s likely not healthy. If you’re sick of cooking the same thing all the time, make a commitment to try one new recipe a week.
Don’t make it too complicated—embrace the autumn harvest by trying what’s in season, like spaghetti squash or zucchini. There are actual health benefits to adding new foods and rotating what you eat on a regular basis, too, like getting more and varied nutrients.7
Talk To A Doctor
If you’re feeling stress, anxiety or depression in any season, use our Physician Finder and see a doctor near you for help. Don’t let your mental or physical health suffer. There are plenty of resources for you to access, including these ideas for self care in autumn or all year long.