Daylight Saving Time Is a Depression-Inducing Devil, so Here’s What I Do to Keep It From Keeping Me Down

Spencer Platt/Getty
Spencer Platt/Getty

Greetings from CrazyTown! These are dangerous times for those of us who live in CrazyTown. Let me explain.


About eight years ago, I went to pick up my kid from day care. The clocks had been adjusted the night before, so I knew it would be getting darker, earlier.

I went into her day care center at close to 4 p.m. She was having a meltdown. She needed her diaper changed. I had to go to the office to pay her tuition. It was one of those days where it took me practically an hour to get out of the place.

It was cold that day, but the sun had been bright and intense.

I flung open the door, the baby in my arms, ready to head to the car.

I was smacked in the face by complete and utter darkness. It was just after 5. And it looked like it was the middle of the night. I couldn’t catch my breath. Something had reached down to my heart and squeezed it tight. Tears came up, and although I didn’t know why, I knew I was about to start bawling.

Here’s the part I’ve tried to explain to every therapist I’ve had since that day.

I knew I was about to be severely depressed. Like, starting that day, that exact moment. There was a switch somewhere inside. On = Mostly normal. Off = There’s really no point to any of this.


My joint was officially locked and loaded into the off position, and I was severely depressed for the next three months.

And so began my hate-hate relationship with daylight saving time.

Fall and winter are not my friends. IT SHOULD NOT BE DARK AT 4:30!! Never, no, all wrong.


Here’s what I have to do. Your mileage may vary. Let me say that again. Your mileage may vary. Stay out of my DMs with your rants against modern medicine.

1. Exercise

I hate when people throw this out there as a treatment for depression. Just get up and get your blood flowing! Right. If it were that simple ...


But here’s the thing. Exercise does work. Research shows that it can work as well as some of the leading antidepressants. I can’t wait until now to get in the gym. If I haven’t been exercising, it won’t protect me immediately. And I’m less likely to keep it up if I have to exercise at night. Two years ago, I started training for a 5K in the spring. I was still running regularly in the fall, and when it got dark in the afternoon, I barely noticed. I do believe exercise works. But it has to be a part of your daily regimen—even when the sun sets late like it should.

2. Meds: Tweak Them. Yes, Meds

If you take antidepressants, you might need to tweak them during this time of year. If you are not on meds but you suspect thatyou might need to be, this could be a good time to talk to your doc. Take a questionnaire with a professional and see what happens. I think I may need a tweak this season. Tuesday’s cold, rainy and dark situation was NOT OK. I’m not gonna make changes because of one icky day. But I’m keeping my eye on how I feel. I don’t believe in under-medicating. Your mileage may vary.


3. Escape Plan

I’ve always wanted to skip town and be somewhere warm and sunny when the clock goes back. I finally did it. I put my pennies together, grabbed N.B. and spent the weekend eating conch salad in a bikini. I literally put my life on pause. Left my laptop at home. (First time in 19 years!!!) Told my kid I’d see her in a few days. Kept the whole trip on a need-to-know basis. I woke up without an alarm clock. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. (I discovered something I’d never heard of called BurgerFi. Absolutely amazing.) Even though I came home to this cold and sunless nonsense, at least I also have warm memories and a suntan.


4. Assemble the Troops

This is super important at this time of year. And this is also important to put in place before winter falls. Who is in your circle? Not just your overall family and friends. You need to have an intentionally curated group of folks who get it and get you. My friend Alex is my ground zero friend who knows how to get in touch with everyone else in the circle. If he calls and I say, “Hey,” he knows exactly how to translate it.


Then there’s N.B. I’m very grateful that this new person in my life is part of the circle. Even though I also hate it. Sometimes he stands over me and says, “I’m not leaving for work until you take your meds because you’ll forget when I leave.” I hate that. Because he’s right. Of course my doctors are in the circle, and there is an extended circle of women I’m connected to on social media who look out for me during this time of year as well. You get the point. Get your people together and keep them at the ready.

5. Everything Is Canceled

We here in CrazyTown must shut down. If you ask me to come to your wedding, bridal shower, gender reveal, whatever, the answer is no. I will get a gift. And stay put. Intermingling outside what is necessary is canceled. Get a mani-pedi instead. Steer clear of toxicity right now. Nudge some friends over that way. Avoid political conversations.


My dad passed away earlier this year, and it was around this time last year that he was in the hospital. He was a community activist, and when he passed, a local politician in our town sent a truly amazing tribute, recognizing a life of service.

My baby sister noticed that this politician won in Tuesday night’s election. So what does my sister do? She finds the message this woman sent and reads it. And rereads it. And reads it again. And is suddenly overwhelmed with grief. She calls me. We talk. And I gently remind her about the Awful Change From Day to Night. And she realizes how the time change also brought her to a dark place.


Reading wonderful things about Dad? No, ma’am. This kind of activity is canceled until Valentine’s Day!

Please cancel all the things until you feel like you’ve gotten a handle on the season.


Now what? Now we buckle down and get to work. Now we pray. (Yes, I believe in prayer. As long as it comes with my meds.) Now we breathe deep and stay in touch with our circle. Now we try to take a walk a few times a week. Even when we don’t want to do it. Now we don’t beat ourselves up if we skip the walk. Now we buy ourselves one thing we love just because.

For me, now I skip town. Again.

I started looking for fares while on the flight home Tuesday. I found a flash sale to go right back to the sunshine. And the flight cost less than my weekly Starbucks budget.


Welp. No Thanksgiving leftovers for me. I’ll be digesting my turkey on the beach.

Aliya S. King, a native of East Orange, N.J., is the author of two novels and three nonfiction books. She has written professionally since 1998.



Holy shit someone finally wrote about this. I count down the moments to my anxiety breaks as soon as October 1 comes around. It never fails.

Having a bit of a change this year though. November 1 was the birthday and something clicked inside of me, the same way the switch for my mood swings click, and I told myself I don’t have the room to be severely depressed right now. Since that day, I’ve had an amazing an amazing week. I don’t know if it will last but I’m riding this shit til the wheels fall off, because I have not, since 2004, had a good fall - winter to appreciate when this time of year come since it always reminds me of all my deceased relatives and all of the things/connections I once had a year prior that no longer exist now.

You’re here now Aliya, life totally different than it was last year. So we need new tactics. The same ones don’t work forever. But I understand doing what you got to do to hunker down in the meantime.

I’ll share this with you from my recent trip to Vermont

I plan on using this all winter long to keep me from jumping off the edge as proof no matter how bad my anxiety gets, there are things in the world to keep me at peace.