If your personal outlook has been largely shaped by the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as mine most certainly has, your expectations for spring may include the following:
- Barnyard busy in a regular tizzy,
- henfolk hatchin’,
- menfolk scratchin’
- fields wearin’ bonnets
- Spring, Spring, Spring., etc
Despite going on for a while in this vein- “Sun’s gettin’ shinery, to spotlight the finery”, etc—nowhere in this (otherwise perfect) ditty did songwriters Johnny Mercer, Saul Caplan, and Gene de Paul care to mention another hy-uuuge side effect of spring: Fatigue.
Does this resonate with you? I’m talkin’ The Sleepies. The zzzzzzzs. When your bed feels so delightful and movement so overwhelming, that you convince yourself you’d be content to let the muscles slide off your bones and just pass away in the afternoon sun. But of course, this sensation is coinciding with the outdoor world being rife with renewal! and bunnies! and pastoral scenes! There’s life to be lived and work to be done (pet a bunny, rock a shepherd’s staff, etc), and the fatigue coming between you and the world can feel uncomfortable, frustrating, and debilitating.
I was hit with a heavy bout of fatigue this spring. Afternoon followed afternoon where I felt almost operatically tired (“AhhhhriYAWN”- me, always). I was unable to focus, move, or be productive. I did some research and it turns out, there may be a scientific explanation at work here.
Aptly called Spring Fatigue (or Spring Fever, which I had always assumed was a fun thing like Saturday Night Fever), the condition refers to the physiological changes that occur as days get warmer, which cause an opposite reaction to those feelings of rejuvenation that one might normally associate with spring (see: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers or alternately, this). The origins of the term are from my current home: Germany! From the Deutsch “Frühjahrsmüdigkeit” (if you weren’t tired before saying that…) but there is also reference to the phenomena in traditional Chinese medicine: Chun Kun (春困). Both refer to the same “spring tiredness.”
According to some extensive, but by no means all-encompassing Googlin’, seasonal fatigue is thought to be brought on by a combination of circumstances—the first being an imbalance in vitamin and hormone levels. The early days of spring see our Vitamin D and seratonin levels depleted. The production of these is largely dependent on daylight, and therefore after a long winter, our bodies’ reserves may be used up, and we find ourselves quite literally exhausted.
The other potential cause of the “spring sleepies” is in the huge fluctuations in temperature. Just as I struggle to dress appropriately for the wildly oscillating temp, sporting a tank top or a parka at any given moment, so are there constant adjustments going on internally. From my understanding, our blood vessels expand and contract as our temperature fluctuates, and our blood pressure reacts accordingly. Most notably, as the weather gets warmer, our blood vessels expand, meaning our heart has to work harder to get shit done. Before our system has adapted to the change, we can become tired.
How to combat it, you (and I) ask? The answer, according to my research, seems to invoke some pretty simple and basic self-care, that nevertheless is easy to overlook. As ever, diet and proper hydration become key factors. Consuming fruits,vegetables, and fibre, as well as foods high in Vitamin D can help (a D supplement may be right for you, as well). And drinking 1.5- 2 litres of water a day, in lieu of having, say, that 4th cup of coffee, can increase focus and energy levels, as well as cure other symptoms such as headaches. Also water-related is the never-appealing but much-recommended cold shower. Although this is my personal nightmare (bury me in a hot bath, please), research indicates that having a cold shower in the morning can increase circulation as well as alertness, thereby combatting fatigue. Much more up my alley are trips to a sauna, or massages, to encourage circulation and decrease stress. And finally, especially important at this time of year is moderate exercise and fresh air. Yoga is my personal fave way to ease into an exercise routine—and there just so happen to be numerous ways to access classes in Toronto on a budget.
Essentially, Spring Fever—while perhaps not the sunny good time we were promised in many a musical penned in the 40s (I love Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, so sue me), may just be a good reminder to be gentle with ourselves and check-in with self-care regimens. Of course, if your symptoms of fatigue persist, it’s probably a good idea to check-in with your family doctor* or homeopath. And as always, if you glean any insight don’t hesitate to comment below! We can beat this, guys. Happy Spring, Spring, Spring!
* if you don’t currently have a family doctor, Women’s College Hospital offers a few resources on how to go about finding one that is right for you.