Your Therapy

As an anxiety therapist in Toronto, I often see clients struggle more during the cooler fall months.Anxiety increases in the fall. Here’s how to cope. In The Waste Land, poet T.S. Eliot famously wrote that “April is the cruellest month”, but many living in my part of the world would nominate November.

Eliot was implying that spring is a time of hope, and hope can lead to painful disappointments—but he likely never experienced late fall in Eastern Canada.

This is the time when the days seem to get rapidly shorter, accelerated by the jarring change back to Standard Time. The weather turns wet and windy, and the little sunlight we do get seems thin and weak. As all this happens, we spend more time cooped up indoors. It’s tempting to turn inwards, and away from some of the crucial things we depend on for social support and mental health. If that isn’t enough, students (and their parents) have many deadlines looming, plus the holidays, and its many pressures, are just around the corner. In fact, those bards of the 1990s, Guns N’ Roses, may have had it right when Axl Rose wailed about his emotional pain “in the cold November rain.”

Maintain your mental and physical health with self-care

The bottom line is that late autumn can be a rough time. As I’ve explained in previous blogs, mental and physical health are strongly linked. Unfortunately, many of the habits and practices we may be using to maintain our health simply get harder to do when the season is less pleasant, and we have less daylight time for doing them.

For example, part of my own mental-health routine includes taking evening walks around my neighbourhood picking up groceries and running errands, along with spending time in my garden. But my gardening season is now long over. In addition, our cold, dark and windy evenings don’t make for pleasant walking. On top of that, during the pandemic I discovered how easy it was to order almost everything I needed. So it’s becoming hard to get motived to bundle up, and go out for a walk. The simple solution: I shifted my neighbourhood walking time to midday. It’s not exactly tropical at lunchtime, but it’s more enjoyable than at night, and even 20 minutes outdoors can lift the spirits immensely. This is just a small example of seasonal changes we can make to help with self-care.

Maintain your mental and physical health with self-careSimilarly, this seasonal tendency to self-isolate also brings challenges for those with social anxiety. An important part of managing anxiety is keeping yourself out there in the world. When you pull back, anxiety can return, along with depression and related mental-health challenges. We saw this  snowball effect throughout the pandemic: first you’re staying in, then you become complacent about your self-care routines, and that opens the door to a recurrence of anxiety and depression.

However, there are simple, but surprisingly powerful steps you can take to combat this cycle of isolation, depression and anxiety. It’s important to get out, and to maintain contact with friends and family. One way of doing this is embracing our new post-pandemic freedoms, by going to dinner, a movie or just shopping with a friend. In my region of Ontario, it’s been a long time since we could do that, but all of those activities are now permitted.

If you really need an excuse to get out and get moving, you can also get a jump on preparation for December’s slate of seasonal holidays. The holidays can be a huge source of stress. I’ll discuss that in detail in my next blog, but for now, you can take steps to make the holidays go more smoothly. If gift giving is important to you, start shopping now or perhaps work on a budget. We’re also hearing about supply-chain issues that may cause shortages of consumer goods. So if you’ve always wanted a simpler holiday, perhaps this is the year to talk to your family about a more modest gift exchange. That removes a huge amount of emotional—and financial—stress before it even begins.

Seek out anxiety therapy and depression therapy if you are struggling

Ultimately, it’s important to acknowledge that this is a hard time of year for many people. Sometimes without even realizing it, the shorter and colder days can contribute to mental-health challenges. But once you do recognize the issue, it’s possible to take steps toward feeling better.

Your Therapy is a safe, welcoming, counselling therapy practice in the Greater Toronto Area. Thanks for reading and, as always, please feel free to reach out with questions about talk therapy or other mental health issues. We offer depression therapy, anxiety therapy and more.

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