Whether from suddenly jam-packed schedules, the approaching holidays or even changes in daylight, a lot of people say that the fall months feel more stressful.
This stress has become so prevalent that health experts have even created a term for it. “Autumn anxiety” is defined as an increase in anxiety that some people experience during the autumnal months.
Autumn Anxiety Can Impact Health
According to Medline Plus, “Your body reacts to stress by releasing hormones. These hormones make your brain more alert, cause your muscles to tense, and increase your pulse.” While these reactions help protect you in the short term, they can be damaging to your health when present for longer periods of time. Chronic stress can increase your risk of other health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and even heart disease.
Stress and higher cortisol levels (a hormone released in response to stress) can also cause people to accumulate fat around their belly area, which is the most dangerous weight to carry since it secretes hormones that damage organ function. One study, conducted by Yale, found that non-overweight women who are “vulnerable to the effects of stress” are more likely to have extra belly fat and elevated levels of cortisol.
Our very own Registered Dietitian, Courtney McCormick, spoke with U.S. News & World Report about the dangerous connection between your waistline and your health. She explains that visceral belly fat can be found deep within your abdomen around major organs, such as the heart and liver. “This type of fat is biologically active, which means it can upset the balance of several hormones and produce substances that cause inflammation in the body and increased insulin resistance which may lead to diabetes,” explains McCormick.
Belly fat can harm your heart, fog your memory and increase your risk of diabetes, stroke and premature death. Managing stress can therefore help you avoid major disease.
If you’re feeling some added stress this season, you might be looking for some ways to practice self-care. The fall can be a really great time to participate in some special activities that will help relax the body—and the mind. It’s easier to find a comfortable temperature, and the season is known for distinct flavors and smells that can be grounding and warming while promoting mindfulness. Here are a few fun fall self-care ideas to get started.
1. Try Some Fall Crafts
Are you someone who enjoys crafting? Even if it’s not a regular hobby, getting creative can be relaxing and enjoyable. A study out of Drexel University found that art therapy—at any level—could reduce cortisol levels. In other words, you don’t have to be good at crafting to see the benefits from it.
Fall is the perfect time for crafting since there are so many cute and creative themes in line with the start of the holiday season. Grab a paint brush and do some painting, or hit the local craft store and pick up some supplies to make some fall crafts. For inspiration, hop on Pinterest or TikTok and perform a search for “easy fall crafts.” You’ll find lots of ideas to get you started.
Your fall crafts don’t have to be expensive either! Hit up your local dollar store to stock up on crafting supplies and fall decorations that you can repurpose and transform. Again, a quick search online for “dollar store fall DIYs” will yield tons of inspiration.
2. Spend Time in Fall Foliage
Over the years, a lot of research has pointed toward the importance of spending time outside for reduced stress levels. Nature baths have been featured on the news and in popular culture.
And what better time to do just that than during the beautiful autumn months when fall foliage is at its peak of beauty?
Many people find taking in nature’s shades of red, orange, yellow and purple to be peaceful and calming. Whether going on a hike in the forest or just a stroll around the park, use the moment to take in the beauty of the trees around you. Take deep breaths of the cool, crisp fall air. Enjoy walking around now that the muggy, hot days of summer are done.
Sometimes we’re just too busy to stop and appreciate how beautiful the natural habitats around us can be.
Tip: Don’t forget to forage for some fall leaves and pinecones to use for your crafts!
3. Make a Fall-Inspired Beverage
Nothing calls upon the warm and cozy feelings of autumn like sipping on a fall-inspired beverage. While your local coffee shop or fall fest is probably selling fall-inspired drinks like pumpkin spiced lattes, pumpkin cold brew, hot chocolate or spiced apple cider, you can make healthier drinks at home. Homemade fall beverages will still give you the fall feels without the unnecessary fat or calories.
Nutrisystem’s official weight loss blog, The Leaf, is here to satisfy your fall cravings the healthy way! Our Skinny Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew recipe tastes just like you hit the Starbuck’s drive-thru, but has less calories. We also have a Skinny Pumpkin Latte recipe and a Warm Mulled Cran-Apple Cider recipe that both get rave reviews. And don’t forget to check out our healthy ideas for hot drinks to help warm you up on a chilly fall day!
4. Read a Book
While you might think of reading a good book purely in terms of the entertainment factor, did you know it’s also effective at reducing stress? In a study conducted by the University of Sussex, researchers found that reading can decrease stress levels by up to 68 percent.
Do a little self-care this fall and get reading! Grab a good book, a blanket and maybe a healthy hot beverage. Then get cozy on the couch and get lost in a favorite story.
5. Go Apple or Pumpkin Picking
Fall is also the quintessential time to hit a local farm and go pumpkin or apple picking. Besides spending time outdoors, you’re also burning some calories. Squatting to pick up a pumpkin and carrying it around builds muscle. And if you hike around the patch, you’ll blast even more calories—and have some fun doing it. Your pumpkin will definitely come in handy for fall crafts, and you can even get a tasty snack with some homemade toasted pumpkin seeds. The same goes for picking apples, too. Reach, stretch, twist and pick—it’s like a yoga sequence but while taking in all the fall feels. Then go home and make some healthy apple snacks to enjoy.
Finding Something that You Love
Hopefully these five fall self-care ideas gave you a place to start. However, at the end of the day, self-care is all about YOU. Find the things that you love and that bring you joy.
The self-care activities that are going to de-stress you the most are the ones that you like to do. Maybe it’s taking a warm bubble bath surrounded by your favorite fragrances, meditating, doing yoga or even just putting on some music and decompressing. The most important thing about self-care is finding something that works for you, so that you actually make the time to enjoy them.
If you’re not carving out time in your busy fall schedule to de-stress, it’s going to catch up to you. Self-care means taking care of the mind, body and spirit so that you can be the best—and healthiest—you.