On the 25th of this month, British Summer Time will officially draw to an end as the clocks go back one hour. For many, this will trigger cause for celebration, as that much needed extra sixty minutes in bed is recaptured, before we make our way to work in the inky soup of Autumn dusk. Then there are those, for whom excitement and anticipation abound, as Halloween, Guy Fawkes and Christmas draw ever-closer. Even now, in early October, the slow infiltration of Yuletide hoopla has begun creeping on to our television screens; the starting gun has sounded and the countdown to that long anticipated day in late December has begun. But this somewhat merry portrayal of acceleration in to Autumn and Winter only tells one story, because the change of seasons can also bring on bouts of unwelcome anxiety.* In my practice, for instance, it’s not uncommon for clients, at this time of year, to notice their levels of tension and apprehension steadily rising, or even spiking.
And there are many reasons for this: it may, for example, be a fear of the dark or the sound of fireworks that generates anxiousness. For vulnerable people, such as the elderly or those living alone, it may be a fear of increased anti-social behaviour, whilst others might feel more preoccupied with the financial pressures the Winter months bring, as rising personal and social expectations generate tension-filled gluts of consumerism. And then there are those, for whom unhappy memories of family, loss and loneliness become as illuminated in their minds, as the lights on our high streets.
So what can be done about Winter anxiety? Perhaps we should start by looking after our selves. If, for example, you notice your anxiety levels increasing, ask yourself why. Perhaps you’re feeling pressured, or pressuring yourself, to do something you’d rather not? Or maybe you’re worrying about something that needn't be a source of concern, if you try thinking about it differently. You might find that changing your plans, or doing ‘something else’ during the festive season might help; who knows, it may even pave the way for a set of new traditions.
Given the deeply complex nature of family dynamics, I wonder if suggesting that we surround ourselves this Christmas and New Year with people we love, might seem a little threadbare. Firstly, it may not be physically possible, because families and loved ones are often scattered around the globe. Secondly, although we may love our family members, we may also dread spending a concentrated period of time with them under one roof. What then? I would suggest the following: know your limits, establish boundaries and take time out for yourself if you can. If however, you’re already thinking, “I just won’t be able to cope,” there is always the option of talking to someone about how you’re feeling. The Winter months can be wonderful, but they can also bring anguish. Don’t suffer in silence.
* There is also a great deal of information on the links between seasonal change and depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects many people in the UK. So, if you have noticed your mood tending to flatten as autumn sets in, whilst it may be a simple case of those transient “Winter blues”, if your change in mood noticeably disrupts your day to day life, it might be useful to do some research. Use these links to find out more about SAD:
Article written by Malcolm Scott - Hove
Sometimes painful memories, strong feelings and intrusive thoughts become too overwhelming to manage. When this happens, it is not unusual to feel anxious, panic-stricken, low in mood or just aware that something isn't right. You may be asking yourself "what's happening to me," and when there appears to be no answer,... [read more]