Insects are buzzing and humming in the fields, birds are happily chirping their tunes, and flowers and trees are vying to produce the most beautiful blossoms. Nature is waking up from its hibernation. As lovely as it is to see this exhilarating natural spectacle, the arrival of spring is estimated to negatively impact at least half of all adults.
First of all, springtime lethargy is not a disease. It's actually the change from one season to another that impacts the body, because as the landscape changes from white to green, our biorhythms are changing. Our blood vessels expand in response to the changing temperatures, and our blood pressure falls. The longer days also play havoc with the hormones that regulate bodily processes such as metabolism, sleep, motivation, hunger, thirst and growth.
The darkness of winter leads to an imbalance in the hormones serotonin and melatonin. While production of serotonin, which keeps us awake and partly depends on sunlight, is scaled back in the winter, there is a surplus of melatonin, which promotes sleep. This is why we feel tired and listless at the end of winter. With its additional hours of daylight, the spring mixes up this hormonal balance again. The bodies of people who suffer from springtime lethargy, however, generally struggle with (excessively) high concentrations of melatonin until the end of May. Only then do serotonin and melatonin levels return to the equilibrium of "summer mode".
What to do?
The main factor required to bring hormone levels back in order is the passage of time. People's bodies take different amounts of time to adjust. Some people don't feel the changing seasons at all, while others are hit hard. There are steps that sufferers can take, however. While the following tips won't enable you to avoid springtime lethargy completely, they will make it more bearable:
- Going for a walk, jogging or riding a bike in the fresh air and sunlight will get your circulation going and inhibit the production of melatonin. Getting some exercise outdoors improves blood flow and gets more oxygen to your body and brain, which helps reduce tiredness and improve concentration. Daylight also boosts your body's production of vitamin D.
- When it comes to what you eat, consider starting now on your diet to shed excess winter weight. A few days of reduced calorie intake slows down the rate at which serotonin is broken down, which can make you more alert and improve your mood. We recommend lighter meals with a lot of seasonal fruit and vegetables as a source of vitamins, nutrients and minerals. Carbohydrates, protein and fat, on the other hand, should be consumed in smaller quantities.
- Drink a lot of water, unsweetened tea or diluted fruit juice. Coffee and other drinks containing caffeine can also raise serotonin levels, which is why enjoying a cup early in the day can bring a smile to anyone's face, even if you're not a morning person.
- Even though it may not be very pleasant in the morning, alternating hot and cold water in the shower keeps you fit and wakes you up. Always direct cold water to the feet first and move towards the heart. The last phase of the shower should be cold.
By the way: the clocks change this Sunday. Clocks will be set forwards one hour, which tends to exacerbate springtime lethargy in some people. Once your body has got used to the changing of the clocks and the feelings of lethargy are gone, apply sun cream, get out into the sun and enjoy the longer days.