Winter is here. Are we gaining or losing an hour?
If you’ve been feeling more tired, less motivated and a lower mood than usual - you’re not alone. As we have eased into the winter months, along with a second lockdown, we have been presented with new challenges. If your mood usually suffers during the winter months, you might have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a subcategory of depression which is diagnosable by a health professional. But SAD isn’t the only challenge our well-being might face during this time, Daylight Savings Time (DST) shifts our routines by an hour which can disrupt our bodily clock.
Specifically, our circadian rhythms, defined as “physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle.”, are disrupted by the DST time shift. This change can impact our sleep quantity and quality, influence our mental health and overall energy levels. As we navigate lockdown, new routines and the usual winter blues, it is important that we try to counter the effects of this disruption and take steps to look after ourselves. Here’s what you can do:
Get Some Daylight
It’s likely that work or studies take up most, if not all, of our daylight hours. By the time we finish, the sun is setting. Lockdown has limited the amount of places we work or study in, and given us less reason to venture outside of our homes. You can get in some daylight hours by:
Getting outside during your breaks for a short walk or, even just a visit to the garden if you have access to one.
If your timetable is flexible, start your work/study day a little later and dedicate those extra hours to getting some outside time in.
Move your workspace to somewhere with more natural lighting.
Check Your Sleep Routine
Alternatively, if lockdown has sent your sleeping pattern awry, by the time you get into the swing of the day, the sun might be beginning to set. It’s a good idea to try to ease into a sleep routine that allows you to see more daylight hours. You can make sleeping easier by:
Limiting caffeine throughout the day so you are better able to sleep.
Reducing blue light exposure before bed - there are now glasses and screen protectors that help us to reduce the blue light coming from our devices.
Getting some exercise, even regular walks, can help the body adjust and sleep better.
Improve Your Energy and Mood
You feel tired, gloomy and unable to keep up with your commitments. You can’t go out or see your friends. And everything feels uncertain. It’s understandable that you might not be engaging in activities that do make you feel good and energised, it’s easy to get stuck in a cycle. But it can really help! You can:
Boost your energy by eating healthy snacks during your breaks.
Feel better and energised by cooking and eating your favourite meals.
Improve your mood by doing something that makes you feel good, including:
Watching a tv show.
Reaching out to a friend for a Zoom games night or chat.
Discovering a new hobby or interest.
Reconnecting with your spirituality.
Talk to Someone
While making these changes and taking care of our overall well-being is so important, so is addressing those low moods and difficult feelings. Try to talk to someone, a friend, family member, or reach out to us here at the Muslim Youth Helpline. Being able to discuss our problems and clear some of our worries can lighten the weight on our shoulders. It can give you the mental space to consider making changes that may improve how you feel over time.
Finally, be kind to yourself. Don’t rush to implement everything if it’s overwhelming, start with a single step.
Amirah is a psychology graduate, interested in improving perceptions of mental health conditions and promoting positive wellbeing.