While many can’t seem to wait for autumn and the cooler weather that comes after a hot summer like last, fall can also be a stressful time for many. As students are reluctantly preparing for midterms, some people are stressed about getting everything prepared for the holidays; and some folks are simply feeling the pressure of another new year rapidly approaching.
As the leaves start falling, so do the moods of many.
Though seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is most prevalent in the winter months of December, January and February due to cold weather and shorter days, some start to experience a decline in motivation and energy as early as October. The worst cases of SAD can last from October until March.
East Tennessee State University psychology professor Julia Dodd said SAD is mainly the result of decreased exposure to sunlight. As the temperature begins to get cooler in the fall, the days also become shorter as winter approaches.
With less sunlight in the early morning hours and in the evening, our brains produce more melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy. This can lead to grogginess — and a bad mood to match.
Less sunlight also means less serotonin, a hormone responsible for maintaining mood balance.
“Interestingly, for the diagnosis, it is independent of other psychosocial stressors,” Dodd said. “It’s what’s happening in your body biologically based on those seasonal changes.”
Some people would simply prefer an endless summer if given the chance.
“For some, summer might be considered a happier time, or sometimes, they (students) feel less stress than they do in the school year,” she said. “Summer is certainly associated with fun things like vacations, too.”
Whether you’re feeling the affects of SAD or simply wishing you had more time to take another summer vacation, Dodd said it’s important to do things to stay motivated. She recommends going out as much as possible or seeing a therapist when the post-summer blues become too much to bear.
“Some of the ways to ward that (depression) off is to make sure you’re staying active, staying involved socially, doing the things you enjoy and getting out of the house as much as possible,” she said.