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Tips for getting through about this loved (and loathed) time when we set our clocks to fall back.
Parisians know that when “the autumn leaves drift past my window”, it’s a most romantic time of year along the banks of the Seine.
These lyrics from Jacques Prévert’s timeless song, “Les Feuilles Mortes” (Autumn Leaves), translated into English by Johnny Mercer and sung over the decades by musicians as diverse as Chet Baker, Edith Piaf, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Seal, Eric Clapton and Eva Cassidy, have brought an extra hour of lovemaking by candlelight into our imaginations for nearly a century.
While there’s plenty of unpredictability about what happens when the time changes and we “fall back”, there are certainly things you can do to prepare yourself before daylight saving time (aka DST) ends and the chilly weather begins.
In most of the U.S., daylight saving begins at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.
This year, daylight time ends and standard time begins when we set the clocks back one hour before waking up on Sunday, November 3, 2019.
You might be looking forward to some extra time in bed to snuggle under that cozy down comforter. Yet many others will experience a different kind of “down” accompanying the time change, as more darkness can contribute to a down mood and worsened or seasonal depression.
Some people who were okay just a week ago may notice themselves feeling a bit more blue, but find it manageable, sensing their mood shift will pass soon.
Others who have experienced significant mood lows or clinical depression in the past may feel nervous this will set off another major depressive episode.
Where your mental well-being stands at the time this increased darkness falls plays a part in how quickly you’re likely to rise up into the light.
Let’s turn the spotlight on the reason the end of daylight saving time causes a shift in mental health — the circadian rhythm of our biological clock.
You can’t buy one of these clocks at Target, of course. It’s something we and other members of the animal kingdom are born with.
As explained by the National Sleep Foundation, “Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle …
“A part of your hypothalamus (a portion of your brain) controls your circadian rhythm. That said, outside factors like lightness and darkness can also impact it. When it’s dark at night, your eyes send a signal to the hypothalamus that it’s time to feel tired. Your brain, in turn, sends a signal to your body to release melatonin, which makes your body tired. That’s why your circadian rhythm tends to coincide with the cycle of daytime and nighttime.”
What an elaborate system of chemical signals and hormones reacting to all sorts of environmental inputs such as light, feeding, and temperature!
Ever listened to Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra?
While “the Orchestra consists of 15 virtuosos, composers, arrangers, educators, and unique soloists in an unprecedented variety of styles,” by the time they reach opening night, the ensemble plays perfectly in tune and with impeccable timing. It sounds amazing!
If one single tenor saxophone or trumpet were to be off pitch, the whole piece would be ruined.
When daylight time ends, it’s the shifting rhythm of our circadian clock that sends many of us off pitch for a bit.
The good news is that you do have some control over how off pitch and depressed or moody you get.
There’s bonafide reason for concern, especially when you’re already vulnerable due to pre-existing depression, mood disorders or other mental health condition.
It’s best to consider your own history of medical conditions, mental health issues, behavioral habits, environmental stressors and how they’ve been impacted by the switch to standard time in the past.
Love that extra hour of sleep? Nighty-night! But too much sleep and immobility will bring your mood down and wreck havoc on your physical health for sure.
If you’re challenged by depression already, this time of year is likely increase to your difficulty, as our circadian rhythm is entwined with mood.
Here are five ways you can prepare yourself before daylight saving time ends and we go “Slippin’ Into Darkness” by an extra hour.
Light box therapy, also known as bright light therapy or phototherapy, is a method used to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and other conditions by mimicking natural light and affecting “brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep.”
Timing and consistency are critical, as are intensity and duration. Light is delivered to the retina as soon as possible after spontaneous awakening to achieve the desired effect.
This form of therapy is best used under the care of a physician, especially if you have a condition that makes your skin sensitive to light, you take medications that increase your sensitivity to sunlight, you have a condition that makes your eyes vulnerable to light damage, and/or you have bipolar disorder.
People have also had success with lights that simulate dawn by turning on shortly before awakening.
Circadian rhythm shifts and other imbalances affect mood, and an essential daily influence on overall mood and thought stability is our food intake.
Eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, and some protein keeps your blood sugar stable, which is critical as blood sugar instability leads to instability in mood, thought, and concentration.
Reaching for more caffeine during standard time helps you stay awake and energetic … for awhile.
But drinking caffeine after 2 p.m. can have a negative effect your sleep cycle. Plus, too much caffeine can dehydrate you, reversing the energizing effects.
It’s best to drink a lot of water throughout the day in order to both sustain alertness while being able to naturally drift off to sleep at bedtime.
And another energy inhibitor is alcohol, which also messed with your sleep cycle and leads to dehydration. So, cut down your consumption during standard time.
Adjusting to the time change slowly will minimize your exhaustion. Experts recommend going to bed fifteen minutes early and gradually working to your normal bedtime.
We already know how closely sleep and mood are related. People deprived of sleep regularly can become depressed or anxious. Layer on the end of daylight saving time, and up goes the risk that depression will stay once the fall leaves have left the trees.
Is there a family member or friend who seems to be struggling even once the time is a month behind? Are you still feeling less engaged at work, less social, and less/or more hungry than you were during the spring and summer months?
This may be a sign it’s time to see a primary care doctor for a full medical check up, as well as a mental health counselor or psychotherapist who can help with stressors.
By now, you can see how your daily lifestyle influences your resilience and stability when you’re hit by change.
The end of daylight saving time is one of those hits on our physiology, which is tied to our psychology. Get professional help as needed.