The Time Traveler’s Guide

Twice a year we get to participate in the mystical journey of time travel, springing forward or falling backward in space, also known as Daylight Saving.

For all you grammar geeks, here’s a logophile’s take on those semi-annual time shifts:

“The official spelling is Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight SavingS Time.

Saving is used here as a verbal adjective (a participle). It modifies time and tells us more about its nature; namely, that it is characterized by the activity of saving daylight. It is a saving daylight kind of time. Because of this, it would be more accurate to refer to DST as daylight-saving time. Similar examples would be a mind-expanding book or a man-eating tiger. Saving is used in the same way as saving a ball game, rather than as a savings account.

Nevertheless, many people feel the word savings (with an ‘s’) flows more mellifluously off the tongue. Daylight Savings Time is also in common usage, and can be found in dictionaries.

Adding to the confusion is that the phrase Daylight Saving Time is inaccurate, since no daylight is actually saved. Daylight Shifting Time would be better, and Daylight Time Shifting more accurate, but neither is politically desirable.”  (source)

Apparently Counting Crows got it right; maybe we should take a cue from their playbook and refer to the fall backward phenomenon not errantly as Daylight Saving Time, but as musician-inspired Daylight Fading Time (DFT?).

For many, in spite of the ribbon-wrapped extra hour of sleep, daylight fading brings an unfortunate down side: Seasonal Affective Disorder.  As the darkness creeps in earlier and earlier through the winter months, many are plagued with depressive symptoms including lack of motivation or loss of interest, fatigue, tearful affect, irritability, and sadness.  See NAMI’s description for more.

You may already know seasonal mood changes have been linked to vitamin D deficiencies and are often treated with light exposure therapy and/or vitamins.  What you may not be aware of is some of the changes in “activities of daily living” (as we say in counselor speak) that accompany daylight-fading time.  These scheduling changes come with the natural rhythms of the winter season and couple with plummeting moods.  The combination of winter and the holidays creates the perfect storm for depression.

Let’s look at a typical scenario.  Margaret is a 55 year-old mother of three.  She glances at the calendar this morning, mug in hand, and almost spills coffee all over herself when she sees Nov. 1st.  Her initial association is accompanied by swirling thoughts and frantic internal checklists.  She’ll run to the mall later to find Macys already lit with Christmas lights and red-toned boxes, taunting her about unchecked items.  If we observe her life from November through February, we’ll find a common theme.  The chaos, cold, darkness, and disruption leave her primed for depression.

There are the obligations: parties, school events, and family gatherings.  And there are the accompanying details: what to bring, who to call, and booking travel dates.  There are the physiological changes: less exercise (due to cold weather and time commitments), a diet higher in sugars and fats, and less exposure to sunlight, along with stress carried in the body.  There are increased financial pressures and disrupted routines with extra hours at the office and schedules ubiquitously wrapped around vacation time.

During winter we may have to work doubly hard to avoid plummeting emotions.  Like swimming upstream, the winter months leave us swimming against a current of emotions furiously attempting to sweep us into depression.

Every year I find myself setting goals to counteract this.  Every year there are sneaky stressors that threaten to pull me down anyway.  I would prefer to avoid the work of planning for the winter months.  And yet, the work of planning is easier than the inevitable emotional and physical fallout when I don’t.

As daylight fades, at the very moment I’m posting this, consider the work that will go into preventing a slope into depression.  And consider the work that will go into counteracting it if you don’t.  If it’s inevitable that you’ll face the fading sunlight, how can you prevent the darkness from becoming internal?


Your fellow time traveler.