Senior Scene March 21,2016

Today is the first full day of spring due to an unusually early equinox that began yesterday at 12:30 a.m. EDT. Astronomically speaking, the equinox marks spring’s beginning in the Northern Hemisphere (whereas it announces fall’s arrival in the Southern Hemisphere). Apparently 2016 brought the earliest arrival of spring of our lifetime (thus far) in the Northern Hemisphere due to the fact that it is a leap year.

One cannot think about “spring” without thinking about spring fever. I always thought that spring fever was just a fictitious ailment used to account for the silly behaviour that is often displayed as the temperatures rise and the earth comes to life.  It is however a real term that is applied to several sets of physical and psychological symptoms associated with the arrival of spring.

In general it refers to an increase in energy, vitality and sexual appetite, often particularly noticeable in those suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and thus experiencing extreme lows during the winter months. In some cases however it refers to the opposite – an unexpected loss of energy with the onset of spring.

In the northern hemisphere the symptoms of “spring fever” usually arise from mid-March to mid-April, and depending on the person may be more or less pronounced. Weariness (despite an adequate amount of sleep), sensitivity to changes in the weather, dizziness, irritability, headaches, and sometimes aching joints and a lack of drive are the most common complaints.

Although the causes of spring fever have not yet been fully resolved, hormone balance may play a role. According to this hypothesis the body’s reserves of the “happiness hormone” serotonin, whose production depends on daylight, become exhausted over the winter, making it especially easy for the “sleep hormone” melatonin to have its effect. When the days become longer in springtime, the body readjusts its hormone levels, and more endorphin, testosterone and estrogen are released. This changeover puts a heavy strain on the body, which responds with a feeling of tiredness.

In addition, temperatures usually fluctuate greatly in springtime. As the temperatures rise, a person’s blood pressure drops, because the blood vessels expand. The expansion of blood vessels is called vasodilation. Food choices also play a role. In the winter one tends to consume more calories, fat and carbohydrates than in the summer, but during the hormone adjustment period the body requires more vitamins and proteins instead.

Spring is one of the most awaited seasons out there. During spring, it appears as if “Mother Nature” is graduating to a whole new level of beauty. In fact, there is something special about this season that affects human beings to a great degree. While most of us might get scared by the word “fever”, there is nothing to be bothered about spring fever as it does not refer to any kind of medical illness.

And speaking of spring – twice a year, we change the clocks for daylight-savings time, and twice a year, my normally punctual office manager arrives late to work the Monday after we do so. I finally had to find out why. “Do you have a problem remembering to spring forward or fall back?” I asked.  “Oh, no,” she said, pouring herself a cup of coffee.  “What gets to me is staying up until 2 a.m. to change my clock.”