The Spring Slump

The last Sunday in September is the start of daylight savings and the beginning of the slide towards summer. This year has been pretty unpredictable so it’s good to have something to look forward to that isn’t subject to cancellation. However, around September it’s common for people to feel worse before they feel better.

It can be helpful to understand why this time lag exists. If you’re aware of the factors around the Spring Slump you can manage your expectations and activities accordingly.

The first reason for the Spring Slump is the time change. The move to daylight saving can throw out your circadian rhythm, the 24 hour internal clock that’s running in your brain’s hypothalamus. This clock is very reliant on light for cues. A sudden change, even just an hour, can disrupt healthy hormone production, particularly when combined with the sleep deprivation associated with moving into daylight saving. Many people experience challenges to mood, appetite and metabolic rate following the shift. It’s common to feel tired, demotivated and prone to overeating.

The second reason for the Spring Slump is seasonal allergies. Pollen counts tend to be particularly high on breezy days and this can send your body’s defences into overdrive. This can create itchy, watery nose and eyes. It can also cause headaches and fatigue. Many people with minor allergies don’t give their symptoms much thought initially, possibly blaming a cold or being generally run down. If you suspect you might be suffering spring allergies there are apps you can use to check the allergy forecast and track your symptoms against the environment.

The third reason for the Spring Slump is the change in routine. Many people are very reliant on daily routines, particularly in the Covid climate where daily routine is constantly under threat. An extra hour of daylight can be great if you’re eating al fresco in January. But in early October the extra hour is often just an additional imposition to adjust to. When the clocks change we tend to close up the house for the day a bit later, so there’s more time doing jobs. Children expect to stay up later. It’s very easy for the admin part of the evening to lengthen and the hibernating part of the evening to shorten. This can be demoralising.

When you’re in a Spring Slump it can be challenging to find the motivation to exercise. But when you feel like it least, you need it most. Exercise helps with the mental grogginess associated with the shift to daylight saving. It helps regulate your confused clock by supporting the appropriate release of the hormones needed for settled sleep. It also promotes the production of the happy hormones that improve your mood. You can’t exercise away your seasonal allergies but getting your heart rate up promotes blood circulation, improving the removal of allergens. Blood circulation promotes general immunity which is more important than ever in the Covid climate.

The first nine months of 2020 have been pretty difficult for most people. But there’s still a quarter of a year to go and plenty that can be accomplished. Focus hard on your health to push through the Spring Slump. Everything will seem easier when the sun comes out.

By: , Claire Bellingham of Les Mills Takapuna.

Issue 113 September 2020