It is really mean. The sun is shining, the days are growing longer and the open-air season has begun. Spring has sprung, but not everyone feels energetic. For some, it is a season of leaden limbs and fits of yawning. While the world is waking up, they want to go to sleep. Observing the total renewal of nature after a long and cold winter is unbelievably beautiful, but it can make you behave like a sleepy fly—and not after a night out drinking. Somehow, you feel sleepier than during wintertime and that terrible feeling of fatigue and weakness coming between you and the world can feel uncomfortable, frustrating, and debilitating.
If it seems like it is just harder to roll out of bed every morning when the temperature rises and sunrise comes earlier, you are not imagining things – and you are not alone. It might not comfort you now, but spring fatigue is the common health problem of many people from all over the world. Apparently, the drowsiness is a natural symptom caused by our physical system. During the winter, our body runs low in hormones such as serotonin (the stress buster and happiness booster) due to shorter daylight hours and the body produces more of the sleep hormone melatonin. When spring comes, bringing longer and stronger hours of sunlight, the body must adjust. Body temperature rises, blood vessels dilate, blood pressure sinks. The light causes the body to release more of the “activity hormone” serotonin while the amount of melatonin is still very high. The body can’t manage the adaptation processes overnight, though. As result, some of us feel lethargic, less motivated, low in vitality, and tired toward the end of the winter season. In other words, there is a scientific reason why you are not feeling mega energized in spring, so don’t let anyone tell you it’s all in your head.
The cost of adjustment to this seasonal change is called spring fatigue. How to combat it, you (and I) ask? The answers, according to my research, seem to invoke some pretty simple and basic self-care measures—I have investigated strategies to help your body overcome that seasonable trouble for you.
When thinking of ways to wake up, most people seek out the next coffee bar to get a cup of the hot black drink and get the day started. In fact, coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. As I don’t like to start my day feeling drowsy, I reach for an espresso at Coffecult (allegedly serving the best coffee in town, which is Innsbruck). I am deeply impressed with its body, flavour, and delicious froth (crema). Amazing. Drinking coffee is a great way to wake up and stay alert. For the moment. Unfortunately, this effect does not last long. Arriving at the office, I feel tired again. How come? Well, here’s the explanation: Caffeine does increase alertness levels by acting as a stimulant on the central nervous system by prompting the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone, and it has a number of effects on your body that are quite useful when some sort of emergency is occurring, but a little less useful for the office. Once caffeine-induced adrenaline wears off, you face fatigue and exhaustion. “I need another cup of coffee!” Which, of course, can get the adrenaline flowing again, but having your body in a state of emergency, jumpy and irritable all day long, isn’t very healthy. A vicious circle, indeed.
The Bottom Line: As a stimulant—and as with most things, too much coffee is bad for you. A cup or two can help you in the mornings and through your day and should be enjoyed. But it is not an appropriate measure to combat spring fatigue.
I am definitely not up for the thrill—and I never told anyone that I would try anything! Yes, some hardy and brave ones have been known to run outdoors and plunge into the freezing Achensee Lake on December 31 during the annual New Year’s Eve Swimming Tradition. However, I’m one of those who never dip more than a toe into the chilly water—it’s going to be a quick plunge, even in the middle of summer when the sun runs hot. Nevertheless. Research indicates that having a cold shower in the morning can increase circulation as well as alertness, thereby combatting springtime fatigue. You can’t imagine how much effort it takes to overcome the resistance to showering cold. Although this is my personal nightmare (bury me in a hot bath, please), I try to finish my hot shower in the morning with a cold squirt. The result? My daughter keeps asking me why I rap in the bathroom each morning nowadays. „Uh, ah, uh, ah“. She didn’t tell me whether she liked my rap or not. Well, that’s something at least. Honestly, it’s not the best part of my morning routine but it gets the sleepy circulation going. Afterwards I am truly awake!
The Bottom Line: Beginning the day right away with contrast showers is a great way to wake up and get alert. It enormously helps the vascular system with its needed challenge of adjusting to the changed temperatures and thus helps relive springtime fatigue. Additionally, contrast showering accelerates blood circulation.
Talking about rap, I have to say that music is a way to revive, too. Provided it’s the right one. Café del Mar, Jazz and love songs won’t help that much. Schlager hits and Heavy Metal might get some going again, but they rather urge me to leave. It is all a matter of taste, actually. I like Chillout House. These are the songs I need to start dancing, no matter where I am, at home or in the car (well, honestly, I don’t actually dance in the car). And in the office? Well, typing to the beat can be fun!
The Bottom Line: Your favourite music, given the right beat, is all you need to get you dancing to music. Movement is good for circulation so this is a pretty simple measure for the treatment of spring fatigue symptoms.
No matter how you slice it, physical activity is the best doctor. And although I knew that, I have failed to start making the lifestyle changes that I said I would make next week, next month, or perhaps when winter ends, for years. I was not able to swap my cuddly home socks for running shoes. What made me change my habits, finally, was my dog. Simply put, having a dog has changed my life because my poodle crossbreed has the added benefit of needing to be walked. Each and every single day. This means that my furry companion encourages me to exercise regularly, as I just can’t resist those big dog eyes. If having a dog is not an option for you, set a goal to achieve this for yourself. The Innsbruck Alpine Trail Run Festival, for example. Taking place on April 29, 2017, this event celebrates the trail running lifestyle amid breathtaking mountain scenery. It’s just you, the trail, and the challenge of competing against like-minded athletes. I can state that the more physical exercise I do, the better I feel.
The Bottom Line: Exercise, daylight and fresh air are ideal in helping your body with the adjustment from season to season (it works all year round!). If sport is not your piece of cake, maybe you can park the car a few roads away from the office, or get off the train or the bus a couple of stops prior to your destination and walk the rest of the way? Or, take advantage of the warmer weather and swap driving with cycling. Take the stairs instead of the escalator. It’s that easy.
More and more people are using natural healing herbs for fatigue to re-energize their bodies. Leek is an effective herb for fighting fatigue, especially chives. My personal favourite pick-me-up breakfast is one or two slices of wholemeal bread with a little bit of butter and lots of fresh chives. Iron is essential when it comes to energy production, and the best way to obtain it is by eating healthy. Cress helps reduce fatigue, too. What’s best, you can easily grow these herbs on your windowsill.
The Bottom Line: Eating herbs is a good measure to combat fatigue and tiredness of the physical sort. Moreover, herbs are full of nutrients that are especially beneficial to women. They can increase your iron levels, making herbs an excellent prevention and treatment for anaemia as well as provide much needed energy and nutrition to the body.
Have you ever wanted to learn a foreign language, perhaps for travel or even just the fun of it? Try belly dancing? Joining a theater group or take up painting? Looking at things with a child’s eye helps us to be more creative, more imaginative, more innovative and open to worlds of possibilities. Here’s a few suggestions….
– Are you one of those who seek an elevated heart rate? Paragliding lets you see spectacular scenery from a bird’s eye view.
– If you’re in for something different, try your hand at Kendo, a modern Japanese martial art that descended from swordsmanship.
– Take your photography to the next level with a Photography Workshop.
– Would you like to try yodelling for yourself?
– Or, find your beat at a DJ Workshop.
– Ever tried fly fishing?
– Do you consider yourself an artistic person? So why not join a painting class?
– And finally, how about making a little girl’s dreams come true at horseback riding?
Beat that lethargy and have a frisky and vibrant spring, everyone!