How to Prepare Your Body for the End of Daylight Savings Time
Historically, the yearly arrival and departure of Daylight Savings Time has been somewhat of a game-changer for me. The inevitable “spring forward/fall back” cycle is one I have learned to dread, much like getting a root canal or having to clean out the gutters on my house. While spring’s arrival heralds the beginning of DST, I knew that ultimately I could look forward to long, sun-filled days and warm evenings often spent outdoors. However, hailing from the great state of Minnesota where our summers are a mere 3 months long, sunlit hours are a cherished commodity. The arrival of autumn and the cool, shortened days have always hit me especially hard. 6 months of cold weather, dark days and staying indoors was often brutal and depressing. Sadly, I often noticed myself succumbing to that depressing feeling in the afternoon of leaving my workplace, the gym or my kids school and realizing it’s already dark. I became increasingly tired and sluggish and had little motivation to change things.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a simple and very real problem that effects millions of people as the seasons begin change. Humans are naturally diurnal animals having evolved our natural internal clocks according to the rise and setting of the sun. We are not much different from plants – if you remove our exposure to sunlight, and we begin to slow down. As seasons continue to change, so does the amount of sunlight we receive, which can directly affect our circadian rhythm – the body’s natural internal clock that governs certain brain activity, physical, mental and behavioral changes and hormone production. In many people who suffer from SAD, this shift alters mood-related chemicals in a way that can cause depression, low energy, irritability and trouble sleeping or waking. Highly sensitive people are especially prone to depression as the weather changes. Experiencing darkness just one hour earlier can shock a sensitive person’s system much like jet lag can affect a frequent traveler — generating a negative response from our central nervous system.
When researching more about SAD after consulting my doctor, I became committed to learning more about what I could do to naturally lessen the effects of this disorder and regain control over this part of my life. Here are a few tips I’ve learned on my journey to help you beat the winter blues and feel better and more energized when daylight savings time comes to an end on November 6th.
Natural Sunlight is Your Friend
Remember when the days were warm and long and you were able to spend hours outside in the glorious sunlight? Well your body still craves that. If it’s possible, take some time daily to get outside and enjoy some natural rays from the sun. Maybe you will have to adjust your normal schedule to do so- such as moving your afternoon walk to the morning – but the results can be well worth the effort. Researchers have shown that getting your natural sunlight boost in the morning is best and helps set the stage for your body the rest of the day. Also, if you work near a window, take a moment to open those blinds and soak in the rays at your desk. Bright, sunlit environments can give you that natural boost you are looking for.
If You Can’t Get the Real Stuff, Get Some “Artificial Sunlight” Instead
Sunlight affects many of our natural body cycles. If you find you don’t have the time to get out in the natural sunlight daily (which was a problem for me when living up North- where the daytime temps in January often barely rise about zero!), consider getting some artificial
sunlight. There are some great lighting products on the market that can help mimic the effects that natural sunlight has on your body.
Lighting Science makes a great lamp, the GoodDay™ LED, that targets the specific healthy-light spectrum of natural sunlight. It’s amazing what a difference something as simple as a phase-appropriate light can make when you’re feeling tired and blue! I keep one on my desk at work and it does wonders for those of us often stuck inside during these winter months when natural sunlight is at a premium.
Stick to a Regular Sleep/Awake Schedule
People who live with SAD often have trouble sleeping at night and getting up in the morning. Your circadian rhythm is thrown into a bit of chaos trying to adjust. If possible, try to maintain a regular sleep, eating and exercise schedule. Getting your body on a healthy, regular schedule can your improve sleep, which can help alleviate symptoms of seasonal depression.
Exercise is a Great Metabolism and Mood Booster
It’s a well-known fact that exercise can help alleviate the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, as it does with other forms of depression. Of course, getting outside in the natural sunlight is best. But if you can’t do that because you are stuck indoors during the cold, winter days ahead, choose to exercise inside instead. Pick a place by a window if possible and get moving! Something as easy as a walk on the treadmill can do wonders for your energy level. Another perk is that exercising can often help to combat another common symptom of SAD- weight gain. Who doesn’t have to be a little more vigilant in the winter to stick to an exercise schedule to combat those pesky winter pounds that can creep up on us? Try to make a commitment to get out and get active for a bit daily and you’ll be amazed at how your mood can improve!
Ensure You Are Getting Enough Vitamin D
Lastly, I recommend ensuring you are getting enough Vitamin D. With the decreased sunlight in the winter months, I noticed a significant drop in my overall energy level. My sluggish feeling caused me to visit my doctor to get checked out. A quick blood test found my Vitamin D was shockingly low. Talk to your doctor about checking your Vitamin D levels and whether supplements may be right for you. I’ve now upped my Vitamin D in the winter months and it’s made a significant improvement in my feeling of depression and general lethargy.