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Are you feeling SAD?
Learn how Daylight Savings Time impacts those with Seasonal Affective Disorder and strategies to deal with it.

Entering the winter months can bring about a range of emotions and experiences. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, we often find ourselves in new or familiar situations, whether surrounded by our family or friends at a long table or sitting in a secluded space, reflecting. The holiday season, the change of weather, the countdown to a new year can feel magical for some, difficult for others, and – sometimes – a mix of the two. Although feelings on this time of the year vary, there is one event that we all experience: the end of Daylight Savings. Ending on November 5th, many of us experienced the initial joy of turning the clock back and gaining an hour of sleep. Interestingly, as time progresses, that initial joy tends to wane, mimicking the waning hours of natural sunlight during the wintertime.

So, what does this do to our biological clock?
Extra hours without sunlight can have an impact on our natural routines, causing a mismatch between our biological clock, our Circadian Rhythm, and the reported time of day. This mismatch leads to many disruptions impacting our hormones, which can lead to intense feelings. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition that typically occurs around the same time each year, typically corresponds to daylight savings. As our sleep and rise time – even our eating habits – can be thrown for a loop, symptoms of SAD can creep into our lives: feeling down, shifting moods, sleep disruptions, heightened anxiety, stress, difficulty concentrating, apathy, and even an increased tendency to isolate and withdraw.

Here is what you can do to feel more settled
Eat healthy!
How we eat, what we consume, and what time of time day all impact our mental health as well as our quality of sleep. Pay attention to alcohol, caffeine, spicy or fatty foods, and high-carb foods, especially if consuming close to bedtime. Instead, create and maintain a diet that incorporates fruits, vegetables, low-sugar foods, and nutrient-dense items like fish, nuts, or lean meats. Simple as it sounds, these have all been found to help with quality of sleep.

Create good sleep hygiene.
Consistent sleep routines help us regulate our emotions. You can create an environment that promotes sleep, such as soft music, dim lighting (such as a candle), taking a hot shower or a long bath. If you are struggling with turning off your active mind, try deep breathing and use a white noise machine to drown out any disruptions. And most importantly, stay consistent with a new sleep/rise time. Of course, limiting electronic use before bed is helpful – put down Instagram and pick up a book.

Wake your body up!
Exercising is full of great benefits including boosting mood and energy which activates endorphins (the feel-good hormones in our brains). Endorphins are natural forming; they promote a sense of well-being all the while assisting in emotion regulation. And exercise does not have to equate power lifting at the gym or training for a half marathon. Think of more like a brisk walk in the morning, going for a sunny bike ride or explore a new park. Do some old school sit-ups or just do some stretching. Want to get some chores in at the same time? Vacuum or deep clean the bathroom. In other words, do your best to move your body.

Take care of yourself
We know we know we know. We all should be taking care of ourselves’, but unless we are intentional about it, then it just doesn’t happen. To be intentional means to give focus and awareness to the activity you are doing. When you go for a jog or when you are stretching, you will have more success if you focus on your form and breathing vs. what you will eat for dinner that night or about a recent argument you had with a partner. In other words, be present.

  • Here are a few quick ways to help be present and, more specifically, turn down racing thoughts.
    Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your routine. Start with some simple deep breathing exercises. Try to match your inhale with your exhale. For example, breathe in to the count of 4 and then breathe out to the count of 4. Do this a few times.
  • Can’t stop an overactive mind? Try journaling. Get all those intense thoughts or feelings out of your head. One you are done writing, walk away and do another activity. If those same thoughts come back, remind yourself that those thoughts are now somewhere and give yourself permission to gently return to the activity. Sometimes, just a little bit of space from our thoughts and feelings gives us an opportunity to find some respite.

Get help
Experiencing shifts in mood and energy is not something we have to navigate alone. Reach out to friends, family members, or professionals for support. Sharing your experiences and thoughts during this time provide comfort during challenging moments. If you find yourself experiencing changes in mood, energy, or thought patterns, reach out to Tobin Counseling Group to schedule a free consultation. We are here to support you through Seasonal Affective Disorder.