Surviving Daylight Savings Time

Have you been yawning all day? Do your eyes sting a bit? Have you felt like you are walking in a fog? Are you feeling a bit sad or cranky? If you have answered “Yes!” to any (or all) of those questions, you may be one of the many people who struggle with the change to Daylight Savings Time.

Since the 1900s, there has been much discussion and debate about the “benefits” of this one-hour time shift in the spring. Forty-eight of the United States and several other countries around the world observe Daylight Savings Time. Unlike most areas in Arizona, all the islands of Hawaii, and many other countries who choose to keep a consistent time throughout the year.

“Spring ahead, fall back,” is the old adage reminding people which way to spin the dial or press the digital buttons each year. For me, and many others, the return to Standard Time in the autumn is most welcome, because we “gain an hour” as we “fall back.” Having an extra hour of sleep doesn’t effect me. The “spring ahead” change is a completely different matter!

Logically, I realize that I am only talking about a mere sixty minutes, but I might just as well be suffering the jet-lag experienced during a trip to Europe. This first week of Daylight Savings Time causes me to feel groggy and like I could use a nap, even after I’ve taken a nap!

I decided that when I retired, I would allow my body’s circadian rhythm to determine my sleep cycle. So now, I go to sleep when I am tired and (most days) wake up without an alarm clock. I have found that cycle to be very regular, though it is very different from the schedule I had to keep for over 58 years of my life.  I empathize with all those who are still in school or part of the working world, who are not able to follow their natural cycles!

However, I have found it strangely fascinating that I am STILL experiencing the “Daylight Savings Blahs.” Extra sleep does not necessarily prevent the imbalance and lethargy! As I understand it, the shift in daylight exposure is the cause for the spring malaise. The quick shift to early morning darkness, and the late-night brightness confuses natural rhythms. The good news is there are actions we can take to perk our spirits at this time of year (and whenever we feel a bit tired or off-center).

First off, do not deny the feelings. Generally, burying physical, psychological, and emotional sensations will only come back to bite you when you least expect it. I repeat to myself, as often as necessary, “I have the choice to remain positive, even though I’m not feeling at my best right now.” I just admit that I am being influenced by something outside myself, and I choose to look inwardly and make a concerted effort to remain in balance.

Secondly, be gentle with yourself.  Admit that you are tired, sad, or cranky and assure yourself that it is a temporary situation. Adjust your workload, as best as you can, to accommodate the few days of decreased productivity. Do what is necessary, but don’t add extra chores until your body reaches its new equilibrium. Of course, if your boss imposes a new task, do the best you can to reprioritize your day. Do the tasks with the closest deadlines first, and evaluate any other deadlines that can be extended.

During the next few days, drink more water, do some gentle exercise (outside if possible), and spend some time in a quiet atmosphere to help your body adjust.  This is the perfect time to take that quiet bubble bath. After exercise, a leisurely shower can also be very soothing. Listen to some music. The scents of lavender and spearmint have been proven to improve mood. Along with those prudent life practices, I find it helpful to be more attentive to my breathing, taking several deep belly-breaths whenever I notice that I am sighing, chest-breathing, or yawning.

The most difficult task of the next few days is to resist the temptation to boost your mood with energy drinks, caffeine, or sugar, because they can cause dramatic swings in internal chemistry that only make it tougher for your body to adjust.

There may be many of us wishing that Daylight Savings Time would just go away, because it is beyond our control and can make the week following very challenging. Just keep repeating, “This, too, shall pass!” Before you know it, the flowers will be blooming, the world will once again be green and you’ll be feeling like you are back on track. If all else fails, remind yourself that you’ll get your hour back when Standard Time returns on November 6th!


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