The clocks went back a few days ago and if your heart plummeted into your boots as the first dark evening rolled around on Sunday, then you are not alone. I dread it every year. Something about the lack of daylight and the knowledge that we’re now stuck in winter for the duration thoroughly depresses me and I find it hard to lift myself from the gloom.
If you’ve recently had a baby, the long winter nights and short, dull days can be even harder to deal with. The night time antics of your offspring leave you sleep deprived and short of humour at the best of times, but somehow it’s easier to deal with when it doesn’t get dark until 9pm and the sun starts to reappear at 4 in the morning. When it’s light, you can con yourself that everybody’s awake, that you’re all in this together (even though most baby and toddler free people are still snoozing nicely while you’re pacing the floor with a shrieking bundle for the fourth time that night). But when the dark creeps in at 5pm it can seem a very long time until dawn, and I remember so many long, lonely nights and exhausted PND days during my son’s first autumn and winter.
But there are some things that you can do to make it feel a little better. We really hope these help:
Yes, it’s cold, it’s often raining and it’s miserably grey out there, but don’t underestimate how much better you can feel just by getting outside for half an hour. You don’t have to have a purpose – grab the pram or a sling and walk for a bit. Go to the shop, pop into baby clinic, go and visit somebody, or just wander to the post box. Get some fresh air in your lungs and a shot of vitamin D – the sun is up there somewhere even when it’s hiding behind the clouds.
See your friends
New parents are all in this together, so make an effort to meet up with some at least once a week. Invite a friend from your antenatal classes over for a coffee, brave a playgroup or sling meet, try a baby massage class, or just look for local mums in the same position on Mush. Nobody has to do this alone, and a chat and a moan can lift you even on the darkest day.
Embrace the dark
Think of the positive factors of darker evenings and the colder weather. Buy some pretty fairy lights and some cosy blankets for your living room so that you can snuggle in with your baby when the sun goes down and the curtains close. Put something comforting in the oven (even if it’s a part baked baguette that takes 5 minutes to cook it will smell all cosy and comforting), light candles – out of the reach of children, obviously! These little rituals will have you looking forward to the dark evenings in no time.
Try a light box
If it’s really getting to you, consider trying a lamp that replicates daylight. These can help with symptoms of SAD and can lift your mood on dark days. My friend swore by using one whenever her daughter decided to start the day at 5am because it made her feel as though morning had arrived. It helped her to get up and dressed rather than hiding in her dressing gown for hours. You can buy light boxes fairly inexpensively or even hire them from some GP surgeries.
Decorate the buggy
It’s sometimes the little things that help, and my top winter tip when my son was little was to stitch a set of battery operated LED fairy lights around the hood of his pushchair. We switched them on when it started to get dark when we were out and about and there’s something so camp and ridiculous about it that it always made me smile. Be very careful if you try this though – it could be a strangulation hazard so never ever leave your child unattended with them, stitch them on firmly and keep a close eye on your baby at all times.
Get stuck into a box set
There’s something about dark evenings that make it feel more socially acceptable to stay in and binge watch the latest crime drama. There’s less going on which means you’re not going to miss out on anything, so allow yourself to escape into the glorious comfort of Netflix and a glass of wine. Now doesn’t that feel better?
Talk to your health visitor
If the season is really getting you down and you feel like you aren’t coping, speak to your health visitor or GP. You could be struggling with undiagnosed PND or SAD and it’s possibly that you may need extra support or antidepressants for a few months. People are always there to help you if you ask so don’t suffer in silence.
Look on the bright side
Believe it or not there are plus sides to daylight saving: the streets are less likely to be full of people noisily walking home after sitting in a beer garden all evening and gatherings in back gardens are a thing of the past, so it’s quieter and more conducive to getting fussy babies off to sleep. Likewise, it will soon be dark for longer in the mornings, so if you have an a child who wakes up the moment the first weak ray of sun sneaks into their room, you may well get an extra hour or two in bed in the near future. I know it feels like it’s going to last forever at the moment, but it will be spring before you know it, and hopefully by then you’ll all be getting a little more sleep.