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Joe has extensive personal and coaching experience with addiction and mental health conditions, including bipolar, depression and anxiety.

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Q: I’ve noticed a change in my mental health lately. Is this normal?

A: Fall is a beautiful, relaxing season; it’s my favorite time of year. However, for many, fall is a tough time. The change in seasons can lead some people to a dark place.

We see this every year as coaches. All of a sudden, members go through some pretty drastic changes.

Why does this happen? Most are familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but it’s much more common than people realize. The symptoms of SAD are very similar to those of depression. They include feeling sad or disengaged, changes in appetite and sleep, and a loss of energy.

Think of an animal preparing to hibernate. They’re eating more than normal and getting ready to retreat. Even though we don’t hibernate, we are mammals. There’s still a little bit of instinct to move in that direction. 

Our behavior can change, from eating more carbs to isolating from friends, family and fun. Other tendencies include sleeping more and having less interest in hobbies or other activities. All of these are very common at the start of fall and can be dangerous for people with addiction. Not eating well, sleeping too much or too little, isolating — all can be risks to wellness.

When I see these traits in people I coach, I talk about the following areas with them: 

Spending less time alone. Isolation and boredom – especially for intelligent people – are very problematic when it comes to substance use. Connection is so valuable, particularly in such an isolating year like this one. 

More movement. Exercise and eating well are always crucial elements to addiction recovery. It’s normal to want to spend more time inside, but there are a number of ways to stay active indoors.

Medication. If someone is struggling severely, I may refer them to additional professional help. An antidepressant could be helpful in the difficult winter months.

Whether someone is in recovery from addiction or not, it’s normal to experience mood changes as the seasons shift. Do your best to stay active and draw support from your friends and family. If you’ve noticed a change in yourself and you’re worried about your use of alcohol or other drugs, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 


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