If you’re feeling a surge in energy with the coming of spring, you’re not alone.
Our body is conditioned to react to the subtle increase in daylight at this time of year. For some people this makes us feel quite elated. For others, it’s more akin to jet lag.
Much of this upswing in energy and mood is caused by a shift in hormone levels. Throughout winter, our body reacts to less natural light by producing more melatonin. This drop can trigger feeling flat or even full-blown depression.
With the days lengthening, the body starts to dial back its melatonin production, causing a natural high and sometimes decreased sleep. In extreme cases, people with bipolar disorder may be more likely to experience a manic episode at this time of year.
The increased daylight also causes a tiny increase in basal body temperature and blood vessel dilation, which makes our body produce more of the “happy hormone” serotonin. The increase in this neurotransmitter, as well as changes in melatonin, are all part of the spring fever surge.
How to deal with seasonal jet lag
This springtime change in energy is sometimes called seasonal jet lag. A time when your body clock is a little out of whack and you feel more or less awake at odd times. This tends to happen in two peaks: at the end of winter/early spring with increasing light and again when we put the clocks forward at the beginning of daylight saving time.
While the biological adjustments triggered by increasing light are minute, it can take a few weeks to normalise. This may lead to both a burst of energy and at times some fatigue, as our body tries to get used to these changes.
Here are some natural ways to help moderate seasonal jet lag:
Sleep: if you’re feeling a surge in energy, try not to not skimp on your sleep. If your sleep is disrupted, it’s important to wake up at the same time each morning as this is crucial for adjusting sleep patterns.
Blue light: prolonged screen time can decrease the body’s melatonin production, which in turn causes us to feel more alert. Not what you need when wanting to sleep! If you’re suffering from seasonal jet lag, it’s more important than ever to not use devices or computers at least an hour before bed.
Exercise: keep it up! But if the warmer weather is tempting you exercise more, increase the time spent exercising in small increments. For those coming out of a winter hibernation, start with brisk walking or a short jog during daylight.
Get some natural light every day: this means leaving the office at lunchtime (if you’ve become accustomed to staying inside all day in winter). Be conscious of getting outside in the sunshine and feeling the warmth on your skin.
Vitamin D: just because there’s a little more daylight it doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily be making more vitamin D. You still need to expose your arms and legs for more than 20 minutes a day, which many people still don’t achieve on a daily basis in spring. If you’ve been on supplements all winter, keep taking them until summer (or year-round if you wear sunblock, or your blood test shows no significant increase). If you’ve been supplementing but your D is still low, it might be a magnesium deficiency.
Simple hydrotherapy to help manage changes in energy
Feeling sluggish? Stimulating your circulation can help wake you up, regardless of the season. The easiest hydrotherapy technique is to simply finish your shower with a blast of cold water. If possible stay under the flow for at least a minute. The increased blood flow will actually make your body feel warmer after the cold blast, so that lets you know that you’ve done it correctly.
While that rush of spring fever can feel exhilarating, if an energy surge is stopping you from sleeping or making you feel uncomfortable, wind down with a hot foot bath.
How to take a foot bath
Get a bucket wide enough to fit comfortably fit both feet. Fill with tolerably hot water (if you have peripheral neuropathy or can’t feel your feet, you could burn yourself so either skip the foot bath or get someone to test the water for you first). Keep some hot water (eg in a kettle) near you to top up the foot bath, as the water cools. Remember to take your feet out first to avoid scalding.
Enjoy your footbath for about 20 minutes. Also keep a towel nearby and a pair of socks to dry off and slip on after you finish.
You can add a drop of your favourite relaxing essential oil such as lavender or chamomile or a heaped tablespoon of Epsom salts, to enhance the effect.
Need help adjusting to the seasons? A wellbeing plan can help you get on track.
If you have a history of mood disorders, see your mental health professional if you notice an obvious change in mood. Give a close friend or family member permission to keep an eye out for any symptoms of mania. Don’t go off any prescribed medication unless directed to by your doctor.