Sunday, February 01, 2009

February Blues

I’m depressed. I just admitted it to myself yesterday. I know that sounds odd, but as someone who is normally so in tune with the ups and downs of her emotional spectrum, I’m often oblivious to the onset of my yearly bout of the “February Blues”. I’m cranky, sleep deprived, frustrated, annoyed, achy, unable to focus, unsocial and craving carbohydrates like a fiend. Yes, sounds exactly like the symptoms of PMS, but unfortunately this lasts a lot longer. I have suffered from the seasonal melancholy that my step-dad labeled “The February Blues” since I was a teenager. Today Doctors would probably suggest that I have a mild case of Winter Depression or SAD. Basically it is a depression related to changes in the amount of daylight the body consumes during different times of the year. Symptoms of SAD keep coming back year after year and tend to come and go at about the same time every year. Winter-onset SAD is most likely caused by the body's reaction to the lack of sunlight and is more common in northern regions, where the winter season is typically longer and more harsh.

What does one do to combat SAD without medication?

Most importantly one has to increase their consumption of natural sunlight and get more exercise. Sufferers of SAD need to develop a mental set that they are going to enjoy the winter (through imagery); and imagine the best things of winter and see themselves enjoying these things. If it is going to happen, it makes sense to try to enjoy it. Laughter is also said to help, if it is done in large quantities. Laughter and jogging are said to release the brain chemical dopamine that counteracts SAD. Overall, the best ways to combat SAD is to maintain a healthy and positive mental and physical lifestyle.

I’ve been doing my best, focusing on upcoming art events, working on the new long term project, eating lots of fruit and vegetables and jumping on the treadmill 5 times a week. But unfortunately I have not been as diligent in obtaining the correct amount of fresh air and sunshine. I absolutely hate the cold and most winters my exposure to the outdoors is limited to trips to the car and back (seriously). However, this year I have been taking brief walks up and down our very long and steep driveway (mostly out of necessity) and there were a few snow storms that forced me to walk Caden the .5 mile trip to and from pre-school, but overall, not a lot of outdoor has been had. Now that I think back, I did notice a significant difference in mood on the days I spent more time outside.

The Mr. bought me some snow shoes last month in the hopes of making me more enthusiastic about the prescribed “outdoor time”. I had my first go on the new snow shoes yesterday and they were a lot of fun. We went for a hike and I took many photos in my attempt to discover some beauty in this frozen tundra. As a result, instead of hibernating and feeling depressed, I’m consciously forcing myself to enjoy this wretched season and plan to share the moments of Mother Nature’s cold majesty here on the blog. Maybe my efforts will help you through your February Blues? Stay warm, make the best of now and know that Spring will come! Stay tuned for some winter beauty! :)

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