The scents, flavors and annual activities of fall are iconic aspects of life in Michigan, but these often sugar-coated and static activities can leave those who partake feeling groggy and ready to hibernate for a long winter. Holland, with leaves already beginning to blush and pumpkin spice filling the downtown coffee shops, makes for a picturesque backdrop for the fall-ready student. However, fall can bring exhaustion and apathy, leaving many students mourning summer. It turns out there is something to the old “it’s the weather” excuse that follows complaints of the annual fatigue, headaches and runny noses of the changing seasons, but there are things that can be done to counteract this fall sluggishness.
With heartier meals, less sunlight, colder weather and the stress of a new semester beginning to settle in, many medical specialists argue that the fatigue associated with fall adds up, and blaming it on the weather may not be too far-fetched. Dr. Michael Howell, a sleep specialist with the University of Minnesota, says that delayed sunrise of fall can create change in the human body’s natural rhythm. Although not much can be done to change the timing of sunlight, getting outside more during the day can fill the hours with a little more energy and help regulate sleep cycles. Whether this is taking a lunch break outside or walking the longer route home from class, putting a little extra time into getting out into the crisp air can go a long way for sleep.
However, the change in sunlight isn’t the only aspect of the season that makes people feel fatigued. Food has the power to improve moods and make days, but it also has the power to do the opposite. Fall is associated with hearty stews, creamy pasta and heavy desserts, and although these comfort foods can be good for the soul, they can also encourage the autumn slug. Luckily, there is a way to have fall favorites that still keep you attacking the day. Delish recommends maximizing the use of fall fruits, such as pears and apples, in desserts and afternoon snacks and letting the taste of pumpkin speak for itself with some sugar-free pumpkin bread. As for meals, fall is filled with fresh root vegetables and dark, leafy kale, so let these vitamin-filled, energy-boosting foods take the spotlight in those warm soups and pastas.
With endless to-do lists and crazy schedules that accompany this point in the semester, sometimes the sleepiness has nothing to do with the fall-related food and later sunrises. Although choices can be made to make fall celebrations more life-giving and wholesome, it is also important to prioritize self care amidst stress. At times, this might mean making time for a restful sleep or scheduling time for fall apple picking or pumpkin carving. Finding balance often correlates to living more intuitively and being mindful to pursue fall habits that reflect the productivity and energy that all students need. If seasonal sadness is consuming too many days, please reach out to the many resources that campus has to offer. From scheduling appointments at CAPS to reaching out to an RA, Hope is filled with people who are here to help you make the most out of your fall.