3 Fall Activities for People With A Mental Illness

3 Fall Activities for People With A Mental Illness

For many people, autumn is comforting.

Autumn is full of fun holidays, opportunities for romance, and seasonal activities that make a lot of people jump for joy when the weather falls below 65 degrees. For me however, the beginning of autumn doesn’t make me want to break out the sweaters and decorations as much as it makes me want to stay inside, far away from the outside world.

For people who suffer from anxiety and depression, the holiday season can be difficult. Up to 20% of people may suffer from a mild form of seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D), meaning that the shift into the fall and winter seasons causes their symptoms of anxiety and depression to rise. Even for those who aren’t affected by S.A.D, the typical autumn themed activities that serve as staples for this time of year can be overwhelming. From pumpkin patches, to state fairs, to haunted houses, there are so many activities that surround autumn that exclude introverts and people with mood disorders from all the fun. This is not to say that these activities are bad, however as someone who suffers from a mood disorder and often has to miss out on autumn activities with my friends because of it, finding things that make me feel both festive and safe can be very difficult to find this time of the year.

Here are some suggestions of activities that you and your friends can do together that takes some of the pressure off of people with social or mood disorders. Just because riding fast rides in a crowded epicenter or watching scary movies isn’t your idea of fun, doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on the season entirely.

Start a scrapbook

Autumn is a beautiful time of the year, and there’s no better way to appreciate and preserve that beauty then to start taking pictures of it. Starting an autumn themed scrapbook can help you in a few ways if you have an anxiety or mood disorder. First, photography and scrapbooking are both new skills that you can practice as a way to release some of the feelings your anxiety or depression may be causing you. Studies have shown that getting a creative hobby can help those who suffer from mental illnesses relieve some of their symptoms and increase their chances of recovery. Secondly, the act of going out and taking these pictures will provide you with a low pressure opportunity to explore the outside world. For some people, going outside to take pictures may sound like an easy task, but I can say from my personal experience with depression that the illness sometimes keeps me from going outside for days, simply because if there’s nothing forcing me to leave my house, I don’t have the energy to. This photo project not only gives you a reason to go outside, it also gives you a goal to achieve that can last the whole season. You can also customize this activity to how social you’re feeling and invite your friends along on a nature walk to help you.

Take a drive to see some autumn scenery

If you don’t suffer from car or driving anxiety, taking a drive through a nearby scenic area to appreciate the beauty of fall could be a great and calming activity for you. Driving has always been an outlet for me, whether I’m anxious and upset or just bored. If you have the privilege of owning a car or knowing someone who would drive around with you for 20 minutes, just hanging out watching the scenery go by can provide some serious stress relief. Some great places to see fall unfolding around you are The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and the West Elk Loop Scenic Byway in Connecticut.

Go see a play or seated live event

Part of the fun of the autumn season is all of the big, community wide events that happen like fairs, tree-lightings, or football games. As an introvert, it always felt bittersweet getting invited to these things because, while I really did want to go to some of them, the thought of standing in a large crowd full of strangers was enough to make me stay at home.  Sometimes, events like plays or small live music concerts work well for me because I can still be with a larger group of friends in public, but have the comfort of a table or assigned seat for me to retreat back to.

These events are also examples of things that give you time throughout the night where you don’t have to engage in conversation because you’re watching the show, which can be helpful for someone who might need to recharge from too much social interaction. If you decide to try a public event that you think might work for you, remember to have an out in case you start to feel overwhelmed. It’s good to challenge yourself, but you don’t want to risk any progress you could be making by forcing yourself into a situation that you aren’t ready for, no matter what time of the year it is.

Cover image courtesy of Getty Images