Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

5 Ways to Manage Autumn Anxiety

autumn leaves 2.jpg

Even as I love the autumn season, it is full of anxiety for me (like every other season, come to think of it).

I start to mourn the ending of summer when I hear the cicadas grow louder the last two weeks of August and when I feel the crispness in the air at that time, which brings less sunlight and longer nights. Then the back-to-school craze: buying shoes, supplies, backpacks, etc. and trying to catch up on the homework we didn’t do during June and July. By the time I make it to the parent-teacher conferences in early September, when I hear about all the things I’m supposed to be doing with the kids, I’m well into panic mode.


Yesterday my therapist and I talked about a few coping exercises to keep my anxiety from disabling me this time of year.

1. Pick a sound or object to be your Xanax.

My therapist looks up to the clouds. They calm her down in traffic or whenever she feels anxious. For me it’s the water. I don’t now if it’s because I’m a Pisces (fish), but the water has always calmed me down in the same way as Xanax, and since I don’t take the latter (as a recovering alcoholic, I try to stay away from sedatives), I need to rely on the former. So I just downloaded some “ocean waves” that I can listen to on my iPod when I feel that familiar knot in my stomach.

2. Repeat: “I am good enough.”


My therapist reminded me this morning that even if I don’t meet other people’s standards or my own, I am good enough for God. And that’s all that really matters. So whenever I feel the pinch of anxiety when I don’t have time to call back a friend or send a response to an email or write the blog post that I said I’d write, I should remind myself that I am good enough in the eyes of God.

3. Take it one minute at a time.

One cognitive adjustment that helps relieve anxiety is reminding myself that I don’t have to think about 2:45 pm when I pick up the kids from school and how I will be able to cope with the noise and chaos when I’m feeling this way, or about the boundary issue I have with a friend–whether or not I’m strong enough to continue putting myself first in that relationship. All I have to worry about is the very second before me. If I am successful at breaking my time down that way, I usually discover that everything is fine for the moment.


4. Pay attention to your breath.

Another easy exercise to ground yourself in the moment and manage anxiety is to concentrate on your breath–and move it ever so gradually from your chest to your diaphragm–because the extra oxygen will send a message to your prefrontal cortex that every thing is just fine even though the fear center of the brain (the amygdala) doesn’t think so at all.

5. Learn from it.

Anxiety doesn’t have to be triggered by an event, but it certainly can motion some adjustment that you need to make in your life. My anxiety says that I am doing too much, once again. Over the summer I forgot about my fragile chemistry and attempted to work full time and take care of the kids full time until, in August, I was going on fumes. What adjustments do I need to make? Bite off less professionally and invest more energy into finding good help for the kids and housework. Because I can’t do it all.


What about you? What techniques do you use when you feel anxious?

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kevin Keough

    These simple tips are actually “fundamentals” that too often we dismiss. I am still working on breathing.

    Thanks for this one.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment tutelstar

    I read somewhere that looking at the second hand of a watch is helpful to calm down.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sam gyura

    Jeez, why don’t you ask an easier question like ‘what is the meaning to life?’ Anxiety remedies? If I had the infinitive answer I’d be a rich woman.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Irene

    Therese, I’m just finishing reading your book Beyond Blue for the second time. I just love it! 5 Ways to Manage (Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer) Anxiety is a wonderful piece! My 19yr old son was dx’ed with BP2 at 10 years old. I handled everything great for the first 5 years. But his PDoc kept saying ‘I’m worried about Mom’. Well, I finally became depressed at trying to ‘handle it all’! I need to be reminded that I can’t do it all and I am good enough in the eyes of God. Thank you for being brave enough to speak out on this very tough issue.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mary

    I also get anxious when fall comes around. It is worse this year because it seems everywhere I look there are reminders that this is the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Just seeing that can throw me into a full blown panic attack. Plus, the end of Sept. is my wedding anniversary to a man who turned into an abuser. My psychiatrist tells me to think that I can make it one more second. Of course, by the time you say or think that, another second has passed. If I am home, I try to find an interesting show on tv or a good book to immerse myself in. If I am outside I try to work with my breathing. That has become difficult, too, because I have COPD. Before you all say I deserve that, I never smoked in my life. My parents were 3 pack a day smokers, and always kept me near them and the smoke. My physician says I got the condition from their second hand smoke, he has seen it quite a bit with my generation who are the big non-smoking group surrounded with parents, co-workers, and sometimes grown children who smoke. I feel betrayed because of this, too.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment KimO

    Thanks for the reminders. Been feeling it myself with the rain, cooler temps, darkness, kids activities, “should” list, and wanting to go back to bed. When I most want to forget my sensitive chemistry so that I can go full speed is when it bites me in the you-know-what. Am I really good enough for God when I feel like this? That is one I will have to reflect on more.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cindy

    I too experience some of my worst depression in August. I hate endings and then to have the back to school chaos at the same time really overwhelms my reserves. I have to really work on coping by journaling, prayer, walking and chilling out to make it through. Thanks for all you do…I love your blog and sense of humor!!!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Razz2

    Perfect timing on this for me. Along with depression and an anxiety disorder I suffer each year with S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I used to love fall when my kids were young and we all felt that “newness” that goes with back to school and other activities. Now as the season starts to change I feel my anxiety rise and the dark clouds of depression start moving in.

    A couple of years ago I invested in a special S.A.D. lightbox and it was well worth the money for me. This year was so gloomy I used it all summer as well. It does help me.

    So thanks Therese for your suggestions. I’ll try to be mindful of them as things start to feel like they are crowding in on me.

    Be good to you – Razz2

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Cheryl

    Staying in the moment has made a huge difference in my life. Realizing that my thoughts about the past cause depression and thoughts about the future cause anxiety was like a light switch for me. Now when I feel those feelings I check in with my thoughts and recognize where they are – and then bring them to this moment which is fine and peaceful. I am doing better working with my thoughts in this way than ever before – it surprises me every day.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Julia

    I sit on my balcony in a reclining style patio chair and stare up at the huge hackberry tree against the sky…so soothing. I’ve also made photos of that view for every season of the tree to remind me that beauty and change are constant and can go hand in hand.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment barb

    first to mary — i am sorry for your condition, and not being a smoker. i can see why you feel betrayed. i have a dear friend who also has COPD and i worry about her condition every time i talk with her.

    we all have something that makes change difficult. with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome it only makes change that much more difficult. i don’t know if anyone knows what this it, but Google it and you will see what i have to deal with daily, and it has been 18 years now. because i live in Western NY, we were spared much of the rain that the eastern seabord was/is dealing with. we did have a dry summer, and since i cannot deal with humidity, i was able to enjoy some parts of summer this year. i also get SAD in the fall, and i think i will spend money on a light to help with this disorder.
    so far my anxiety and depression are under control (thank God), but with autumn on the horizon and then winter, that may change. but i have a great psychiatrist and that helps a lot. God bless all of you, and Therese, especially you, for everything you do for all of us. you keep us going everyday. thank you.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment veronica

    The change of season is a time my work gets more busy, the stress at work becomes more and more, and then the grandchildren living here and my daughter trying to make a new life and I think and think and try to plan and then I realize, it is not doing any good to keep looking at the calendar weeks, and seeing deadlines and seeing that it may not be possible, and then I take a breath, and I actually pray and pray and St. Theresa is my most calming. I pray to her by just talking and asking for her help. It helps and helps and helps.
    I pray for us all to go on each day with the peace that the Lord wishes us to experience, and throws a little calm in there too for good measure. God Bless.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment arleth

    I believe that Autumn Anxiety visits a person whether we like it or don’t. For me, it serves as a reminder that I have to slow down whatever that keeps me occupied. It gives me time to reflect of where I am and where I want to go. It is also a time to sit, be still and pray. Solitude is one of the factors to counter attack anxiety. I don’t take it as something negative. It is a way to for me to keep grounded.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment K

    Fantastic suggestions, thank you!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Deb

    Thank you, Therese. You truly help so, so much.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jami

    wonderful tips and wonderful comments!
    Perhaps I am the exception: autumn for me is less anxiety provoking than summer. The trees and plants are entering their rest period, and I welcome that. I certainly agree that the short days that go with it are tough. If I were in charge of the world, the work day would shrink to 6 hours during winter:-)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Pamela Hood, RN

    I have just read a really good article that states that a serious roll and tumble thought consumes us for about 90 seconds. If we can be aware of that thought in that 90 second moment. STOP and find FIVE (5) little victories that you have achieved like: I am alive and breathing right now, I have family or friends that believe in me right now, I took my meds today, I’m kind to others, I’m a survivor of my disease right now. Those are general type victories. Write down your five little victories today and memerorize them and when you let your thoughts snowball into anxiety. Combat with your mind and fight back with your list.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jami

    Awesome, Pamela!

    Those little victory thoughts are going into my toolkit and will be shared. Thanks!

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