Daylight Savings has come and gone. While an extra hour of sleep is always much appreciated, we all know the consequences that follow autumn after autumn… shorter days and darker nights. Maybe you’ve glanced out your window a time or two around 5:00 pm and done a double take. I know I have! Less exposure to daylight (not to mention more exposure to cold weather) can be a shock to the system and a mood reducer. But perhaps you’re coping with an unexpected pregnancy on top of these normal seasonal changes. If so, you may be feeling especially low right now. You may be particularly in need of some extra support.
Does the decrease in your daily sunlight exposure feel like a metaphor for your life? Maybe, since you first discovered this pregnancy, it seems like you’ve entered a long period of dark, wintry days. Don’t give up hope! Your circumstances may be difficult, but it’s possible to press on toward a bright future and discover an outcome you feel confident in. Avenue Women’s Center is available to partner with you in this journey. We’re a limited medical clinic that offers free first-step pregnancy services to help women facing situations like yours move forward confidently.
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Understanding the Effects
Fewer hours of sunshine can feel like a letdown for several reasons. According to CNN Health, the end of Daylight Savings disrupts our circadian rhythms, or body clocks. This can negatively impact mood and lower energy, while reminding us that winter is right around the corner. For some individuals, symptoms are severe enough to be classified as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Aptly named SAD is a kind of depression that generally appears in late fall or winter, and is triggered by the decrease in sunlight exposure that most of us experience this time of year. People who struggle with seasonal affective disorder are prone to isolate themselves (CNN Health). This behavior can naturally be reinforced by unpleasant weather conditions and can increase feelings of sadness, becoming a vicious cycle.
Understanding How to Cope
If you think you may be dealing with SAD, or you’ve just been feeling down since Daylight Savings ended, there are practical steps you can take to stay strong and encouraged. It’s important (though often challenging) to maintain a positive mindset during any season of life, but especially during a really stressful time like an unexpected pregnancy. Consider some of these tips from CNN Health!
Engage in light therapy.
Seasonal affective disorder can be treated by exposure to a lightbox, which produces a specific measurement of light, for a set amount of time per day. A lightbox can increase serotonin (a feel-good chemical in the brain) while correcting circadian rhythm.
Try a dawn simulator.
A dawn simulator is a type of alarm clock that imitates the rising sun by producing light that builds little by little. This can be a comforting way to start the day, and can offer similar benefits to a lightbox with more gradual exposure.
Develop healthy sleep habits.
When your body clock is disrupted, this makes you more vulnerable to insomnia and daytime fatigue. Experts recommend creating a bedtime routine that helps you ease into a good night’s rest. Try turning down the lights, using the bathroom, letting your emotions settle, avoiding electronics, and maintaining a consistent sleep-wake schedule.
Spend time outdoors.
Walking and exercising can improve mood by stimulating the release of chemicals like serotonin and endorphins. Engaging in these activities outside offers the added bonus of sunlight exposure.
Connect with people.
We humans are built for social connection, so much so that isolation is bad for our physical health. Staying connected is bound to increase your mood and remind you that you’re not alone.
Seek additional help if needed.
Some people who have SAD benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, a branch of therapy that helps individuals focus on their present experiences and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Antidepressants may be an appropriate option for some people as well. These forms of medical assistance can be provided by a qualified professional.
Caring for your physical and emotional health during the change of seasons is bound to have a positive impact on your pregnancy journey. The better supported you feel in these areas, the better equipped you’ll be to make a pregnancy decision that’s grounded in your strengths. Our compassionate staff at Avenue Women’s Center is here for you during this challenging time. We can provide the accurate information and caring support you need to take informed and empowered next steps.
CNN Health. (2023, November). Seasonal affective disorder doesn’t mean you have to be SAD. Here are 6 ways to fight the blues. Retrieved from: https://www.cnn.com/2023/11/12/health/seasonal-affective-disorder-self-care-wellness/index.html
The information provided here is general in nature. It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention. Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.