If the Sunday scaries are those pangs of anxiety you feel the evening before the start of a potentially stressful workweek, the August awfuls are the seasonal equivalent. "Cooler temperatures, shorter days … and back-to-school tantrums can create apprehension and even sadness for many of us as the summer days come to an end," says Audry Van Houweling, a holistic psychiatric nurse practitioner.
The end of summer is a time of transition out of vacation and back to a life that feels more serious and structured, adds Susan McClanahan, PhD, chief clinical officer at Eating Recovery Center/Insight Behavioral Health Centers. "It can feel disappointing that summer did not live up to all it was supposed to be, and that life just goes on," she adds—like a disappointing weekend or a Sunday that ended too soon.
That said, the end-of-summer blues don't have to be inevitable. After all, the beginning of a new season means the opportunity to reset priorities, says Van Houweling: "Jump-start your business, start an exercise routine, or reignite a hobby." Want mental health experts' advice on how to minimize the August awfuls? Just keep scrolling.
1. Get organized.
Channeling your end-of-summer anxieties into organization can be a really positive thing. That is, if you're feeling bummed about the lazy vacation months giving way to a stricter schedule, reorient your perspective by taking this more productive season by the reigns. As McClanahan suggests, "Making lists, writing, taking time to reflect about goals and hopes for the future can be very helpful."
2. Recommit to exercise.
Traditionally, summer is when we all have fitness on the brain, but holing up at home for hibernation season is not the way to combat your August awfuls. McClanahan suggests using this time to recommit to exercise—maybe by renewing that expired ClassPass membership or starting to train for a local 10k. After all, who says our sweater bods can't be as healthy as our swimsuit bods?
3. Embrace the simple pleasures of fall.
Sure, eating tropical fruit and going to outdoor concerts are fun, but so are pumpkin-picking and getting to wear your leather jackets again. As Van Houweling says, "Rather than being focused on the summer days you'll miss, think about the beauty of the changing leaves, apple cider, getting cozy by the fire, pumpkin spice lattes, comfy sweaters, and harvest festivals."
4. Go outside.
Just because it's about to get chilly again doesn't mean you have to lock yourself up inside for six months. In fact, you shouldn't. "Bundle up and continue to enjoy the outdoors!" Van Houweling advises. "One of the best ways to avoid seasonal blues and seasonal affective disorder is to embrace the sunlight and spend time outside." If it gets too cold, Van Houweling also recommends starting a morning exercise routine in a well-lit gym with windows. Pro tip: Consider adding a vitamin D supplement to your fall wellness routine if you live in a rainy climate.
5. Don't let sugar get the best of you.
Fall is when the Halloween candy and other sweet treats come out in full force, but giving into these sugary traditions might make you feel crummier. "Try not to eat too much pie, as sugar overload can also worsen mood and can contribute to low energy," says Van Houweling. If you're baking this year, opt for a natural sweetener alternative like monkfruit.
6. Limit your news intake.
With elections coming up, fall can also bring politically induced anxiety. Of course, it's important to stay aware, but if it's negatively affecting your mental health, experts agree you should scale back on your politics consumption. "Limit your daily news intake," suggests Fran Walfish, PsyD, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, and author of The Self-Aware Parent. Consider making a rule to read the news only on certain days and at hours when you're not already feeling overwhelmed so you can "control what and how much goes into your consciousness."
Wishing you minimal August awfuls and maximal cozy fall days ahead!
Next: The Post–Long Weekend Blues Are the Worst—Do This to Feel Better