How to Protect Your Mental Health as Daylight Savings Time Ends

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As the clocks fall back an hour on Sunday, most of us are probably excited about the extra hour of sleep!  However, the shorter days and lack of daylight, as well as the change in sleep schedule can have an impact on your mood, motivation, and energy levels.  If you're already prone to dealing with these things, incorporating the follow suggestions can help you transition through the time change as best as possible.

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#1: Increase Light Exposure

As the days get shorter, this leaves less time at the end of the day to get outside and get some sunlight, which can reduce energy and impact your mood, especially if you're prone to developing Seasonal Affective Disorder. If possible, try to head outside midday to get 10-15 minutes of sunlight.  If you tend to walk in the evening, try to switch things up to a morning walk so you get more daylight exposure.  Getting this light exposure can help with energy levels, and can also be helpful for managing insomnia at night as your circadian rhythm resets itself.

If you're not able to get enough daylight exposure or you feel that your mood and energy levels are really impacted by a lack of light, consider getting a little extra help. A light therapy lamp can be helpful for resetting your circadian rhythm and boosting mood.  If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, be sure to check with your doctor before using a light therapy lamp for specific guidelines for the best time to use light therapy.  

If you're having trouble waking up in the morning due to a lack of light, a sunrise simulation alarm clock can help you wake up more gradually so you feel less drowsy.

#2: Up Your Self-Care

If you're dealing with insomnia due to the time change, this lack of sleep can make you feel irritable or more anxious, which means that this is a super important time to add a little extra self-care into your life.  Slowing down and concentrating on mindful activities is a great idea for this time.  Plan a self-care Sunday spa day, or enjoy a movie or Netflix evening.  Incorporating mindfulness activities like meditation or colouring is great, too.

#3: Exercise

Though it may feel like the last thing you want to do, exercise is a great way to boost feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, which can help in managing any depression symptoms you might be dealing with.  It's also great for helping to burn off extra anxiety, and exercising earlier in the day can help you sleep at night. Taking a walk, dancing to some feel-good music, or practicing yoga are all good places to start.

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#4: Practice Good Sleep Habits

The time change switches up your schedule, meaning that it can really interfere with your sleep and can cause insomnia.  Ensuring that you are practicing good sleep habits can help get you back on track to catching some Zzz's.  Try:

  • Keeping your room cool and dark at bedtime
  • Avoid bright light right before bed
  • Practice a calming activity an hour before bed to help prepare you for sleep.  Reading, taking a warm shower or bath, or meditation are all good options
  • If you are unable to sleep, get up and do a relaxing activity until you feel tired

#5: Add Extra Mood Boosters

Incorporating foods with essential nutrients can help to boost your mood during this time.  Some Fall favourites include:

  • Pumpkin seeds (High in zinc and magnesium to help with calming)
  • Dark chocolate (contains antioxidants that are believed to help reduce stress hormones)
  • Sweet potato (a great source of carbs which supports the production of feel-good neurotransmitters)
  • Butternut squash and pumpkin (a great source of Folate, a B vitamin that is important for brain health)
  • Cinnamon (helps to regulate attention and boost focus)

With the lack of sunlight, vitamin D levels can also drop.  Consider seeing your doctor to see if your vitamin D levels are low, which may require supplementation.

Scent is another wonderful way to help boost your mood and promote energy.  Consider diffusing one of these essential oils (or create a blend!), creating your own aromatherapy spray, or using a favourite product that contains one of these scents:

  • Lemon (boosts concentration while also being clarifying and calming)
  • Jasmine (helps to encourage confidence and optimism)
  • Rosemary (helps to stimulate memory and reduce fatigue)
  • Peppermint (boosts energy and promotes clearer thinking)
  • Bergamot (promotes joy and energy while also being calming)
  • Frankincense (helps to balance emotions and ease irritability)