Healthy Living: Shorter days can have big impact on mental health

Over a week since daylight savings time ended the shortening days are more and more noticeable, which can have an impact on mental health.

Posted: Nov 11, 2020 1:04 PM
Updated: Nov 12, 2020 1:50 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- More than a week since daylight saving time ended, the shortening days are more and more noticeable, which can have an impact on mental health.

According to Oregon Medical Group family physician Dr. Gary Brandt, the pandemic has already caused an increasing amount of patients to ask about mental health during their visits. Decreasing daylight hours could compound that issue, with some reporting generalized anxiety and depression, or feelings that are hard to put a finger on.

"It's a significant potential impact, and it's one we are already seeing," said Brandt. "If you allow enough time for patients to tell you why they are in the room with you, undoubtedly a piece of what we are dealing with is a mental health component. An unsettledness, an anxiety, a fear."

Brandt said that staying self-aware about your emotions and making sure your friends and family are comfortable telling you if something is off is a powerful line of defense. Additionally, scheduling a regular general wellness appointment with your doctor can help enormously.

"The most important thing you can do is maintain the rest of your health. Exercise regularly, eat well, make contact with others any way you can safely, keep that social support network up. And don't forget to see your doctor for a general wellness visit and maintain your health," he said.

According to Brandt, the pandemic has created barriers between patients and care, especially for those who already didn't see their doctor regularly.

"I think the big picture is stay healthy, stay active, stay connected," he said.

Brandt said that there isn't much data to support that vitamin D and full-spectrum lights have much of an impact on people who are experiencing difficulties in the winter months, but they don't hurt either. 

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