It’s Not In Your Head — You Really Are More Anxious at the End of Summer, Psychologists Say

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After exiting the subway and starting my walk home to my Brooklyn apartment last night, I noticed something pretty disturbing. It was dark outside. Not the gradual, lingering shadows of a late summer sunset, but actually dark-dark. And, as a panicky glance at my iPhone screen confirmed, it was only 9:30 p.m.

As a dedicated devotee to summertime and a fairly unrealistic person to boot, I’m somehow able to convince myself each May or June that summer won’t end. And as another weekend finds me on another stretch of New York’s beaches, I really do believe it — that this will be the year when summer days stretch out indefinitely in one continuous loop.

So it never fails to come as a shock to the system when August sunlight starts to shorten. I’m reminded of what lies ahead — leaving the office well after night has fallen, weekends spent huddled indoors and far away from sweat and sand and sea — and my mood plummets. To put it frankly, August depresses the hell out of me, even as I try desperately to savor the summer moments that are left. The promise of winter, though, clings to the periphery of these last summer days like a cloud, and my anxiety never fails to spike.

Apparently, I’m not alone in this. In an interview with The Cut, Stephen Ferrando, director of psychiatry at Westchester Medical Center, describes the phenomenon as the “August blues, which are sort of like the Sunday night blues for a month.” Although, given its short duration, the August blues aren’t quite the same thing as Seasonal Affective Disorder — which affects as many as 10 to 20 percent of people — that doesn’t make them any more fun to navigate in the moment. 

As Ferrando described to The Cut, those of us who have depressive inclinations toward the end of summer find ourselves in “more of an agitated and anxious depressive state,” as compared to the “vegetative depressive state” more commonly experienced during the winter months. For The Cut writer Katie Heany (and for myself), that means going up against “a period of high-strung neuroticism and anxiety.” 

So, what can those of us dealing with the August blues do to help us make it until autumn’s reprieve? Below are some tactics to try out: 

1. Apply essential oil to your pulse points during anxious moments.

I swear by lavender oil for this. It’s a small thing, but the calming scent encourages you to breathe more deeply — something many of us struggle to do during moments of anxiety, which only makes its physical symptoms worse.

2. Put on a favorite album.

3. Reduce your caffeine intake.

4. Watch a film you love that’s set during autumn or winter.

As a reminder of the seasons’ more positive attributes! 

5. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

6. Talk to your therapist about it.


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