Looking after yourself as the days get darker

It’s that time of the year again where the clocks move an hour backwards. On Sunday morning we gained an hour, but simultaneously that means that in the evenings, it gets darker an hour earlier too.

Especially after the long light days of Summer, this is something that can be very hard to grow accustomed to and it can have tremendous effects on health, both physically and mentally.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)*, also known as ‘winter blues’ was something that never really bothered me before, until I moved to London. On the continent it doesn’t get dark until 5:00 PM, and that is only around the winter equinox, at the end of December.

In London, it already gets dark around 5:00 PM in October, and around midwinter, it gets dark around 3:00 or 4:00 PM. Even after 3 years of living here, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this!

Here’s a few things I’ve learned to do when I moved here in order to look after myself in these dark days.

Vitamin D supplements

The human body needs about 8.5 to 10 micrograms of Vitamin D. This amount is hard to get from food alone, but usually we can get most of our daily recommended amount from sunlight. However, now the hours of sunlight we used to get during the summer, are decreasing significantly!

It is no wonder that Vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common in the UK! Especially people – like myself – who need a lot of sunscreen and people with a darker skin tone (melanin is basically the body’s own sunscreen) need to be extra mindful. More info can be found on this page by the NHS.

Therefore, I usually need a little help from supplements. Vitamin D supplements can be bought over the counter in every supermarket or pharmacy, but I personally really like the ones from Holland & Barrett in the yellow jars. Around this time of the year, there are often discounts. I now take a multivitamin every morning that already contains about 10 micrograms of vitamin D, so I’m fine all year. But if you’re not at risk or don’t fancy taking them all year: a good rule of thumb is taking them daily during every month with the letter R in the name (so basically from SeptembeR to ApRil).

Festive lights

I usually find my spirits lifted by putting some extra lights around the house – fairy lights or candles. Light can have an enormous influence on our moods and especially in dark times it’s so important! In the winter, I usually hang some fairy lights on my balcony. And, as it’s too early for Christmas decorations now, I have found a way to get away with putting up my twinkling fairy lights in October! I just stuffed them all in a pumpkin for now and it looks pretty appropriate.

Also curling up by the fireplace with a good book might be quite a nice way to take in some light. However, a lot of people in London don’t have working fireplaces (probably due to flat sharing and strict fire safety regulations). Therefore, Netflix has a couple of great crackling fires you can put on your telly so you can at least fake it till you make it.

If you still prefer the real thing, you can visit a cosy pub in London that has an actual open fire! One of my favourite pubs is the Holly Bush in Hampstead, about which I already wrote in this post.

Exercise

Ok, I get it: when it already feels like midnight around 5:00 PM, heading out to the gym would probably be the last thing on your mind! But in fact, it’s the best thing to do! First of all exercise helps you cope with that lethargic and tired feeling and boosts your energy levels. Secondly it helps against stiffness of your muscles when it gets colder and you’re feeling so energised after!

I started taking group classes during the week in order to motivate myself to actually go. After having been to the gym, I feel so much more alive! Also it’s a good way to meet like minded people, which makes it a much better way to spend my evening than to sit in my dark flat with a bag of crisps and feeling sorry for myself.

Savour time outdoors

When the sun is out, make the most of it! Autumn is beautiful. Go for a walk. Take in those beautiful colours. Perhaps take a couple of photos to truly savour it’s beauty, and don’t forget to have fun!

For example, last week my friend and I went for a long stroll around Kensington. We stopped at this beautiful ivy covered arch in the Kynance Mews, as I couldn’t get enough of this beautiful arch! I think I must have photographed it from every possible angle!

Self care

Just do something nice for yourself: make a cup of tea, have a hot bath or shower, cook your favourite meal and book that spa weekend with your friend! Just get cosy and remember that it’ll be spring again before you know it.

If you want to know where I got the beautiful burgundy wrap I’m wearing in the photos. My mum made it for me! For more info on the crochet design, visit Pinterest.

* All the info I have given in this post is based on my personal experience. Although it does work for me, and I happen to work in mental healthcare, I am not a doctor. You can follow my advice at your own risk, but for further support please contact your GP first or call NHS 111 for non urgent enquiries (or 999 in case of an emergency)