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Springtime blues and how to keep them at bay

While the days stretch longer and light increases, a harsh bout of spring fatigue can wear you out. Here are a few tips to avoid the springtime blues.

Väsynyt nainen töissä työpöydän äärellä.
File photo. Image: Yevhen Rychko / AOP

Inching towards the early months of summer when the days get longer and light increases, many are affected with springtime fatigue, says Timo Partonen, research professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare.

Partonen confirms that fatigue in spring is a real condition, and perhaps one even more common than the blues felt during the autumn darkness which affect approximately 30 percent of Finns.

It is said April is the harshest month. This is also reflected in statistics which say suicides peak in spring, and many who feel depressed say their symptoms worsen in the months leading up to summer.

Springtime fatigue and depression however are two separate conditions, he said.

”Spring fatigue is only about feeling tired. Depression on the other hand has more symptoms. The more severe the depression, the more symptoms,” Timo Partonen explains.

Depression will often include mood swings, melancholy feelings and irritability. A person may feel more at home alone and perhaps pull away from other people.

However, a few tricks can be tried to alleviate springtime fatigue.

Catch up on your sleep

As days stretch longer into the evening, so can sleeping patterns. Because of the light, sleep can be irregular and too short, causing a drop in energy levels.

Typically adults need six to nine hours of sleep, although some get by with less.

“For the majority of Finns, energized feelings increase in the spring. People are pumped to get out and be social and active,” says Partonen. “In addition, appetites may dip and it can be easier to get back to a normal weight after the winter months when extra kilos may have piled on.”

Story continues after the photograph

Väsynyt nainen kotona
Image: AOP

In spring, the amounts of the sleep hormone melatonin shrink while the mood enhancing serotonin gets a boost.

“Spring fatigue can set you back two to three weeks before the body’s system adapts to the light.”

“Pull yourself together”

Every spring, tired patients turn up at occupational health psychologist Sari Valavuori’s door. Often the patient is exhausted or depressed.

“Luckily people are pretty open about their tiredness these days and people are less ashamed of being exhausted.”

Valavuori explains that often I just have to tell clients to ‘pull yourself together’. In many cases the patients themselves will have a hunch that that is the case.

Psychologists in Valavuori’s field often look towards drug-free alternatives.

“First we consider how to improve a patient’s sleep. It is important for a patient to realize that there are factors that can affect fatigue and exhaustion, and that it is possible to overcome them,” says Valavuori.

Story continues after the photograph

Väsynyt nainen kahvikuppi kädessä jumppapalloon nojaten.
Image: Rui Santos / AOP

Regular eating habits

Timo Partonen of the National Institute for Health and Welfare suggests that exercise can also be effective in countering spring fatigue.

Registered dietitian Leena Putkonen recommends sticking to regular eating habits. Keeping the gaps between meals from stretching too long will keep the alertness levels up in the body.

“It is important not to worsen your feelings by messing up your eating habits or enjoying too many intoxicants.”

Chugging coffee or downing energy drinks will not improve coping levels, either.

Putkonen also rejects the idea that the body’s alertness levels will improve by popping vitamins.

“The body can get enough vitamins from the year-round consumption of fruits and berries.”

As the outdoor light increases further, Partonen says that springtime fatigue will begin to subside.

In May, chances are you’ll feel like another person.

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