One of the suggestion I received this past week was to write something about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Since we are just now starting to come out of the darkest days of winter, it’s an appropriate topic for today’s Friday Depression post, which I’m going to start categorizing simply as “Counseling Issues.”
I remember my parents mentioning someone being “shack happy” or having “cabin fever.” We’ve all heard of “being in the Doldrums,” which relates back to the days of sailing ships that would be caught sometimes for weeks in a completely still part of the tropics–not a wisp of a breeze, like being caught in an endless moment of time. Hot sun, no clouds, no rain, no wind, and a ship that wasn’t nearly large enough to keep men from grinding on each other’s last nerve.
The other two terms, cabin fever and shack happy, derive from a time in our history when people endured long, lonely, cold and dark winters in the confines of a small cabin–and I use the word cabin quite loosely. Often, their dwellings were a single room used for everything, with perhaps a curtain of some sort concealing a small bed. Close quarters, unbearable cold, tons of snow–we’re talking about the Great Plains here–wind howling day and night, the necessity of caring for livestock, and using a chamber pot or an outdoor privy, made those long winter months a time to dread. Travel between pioneer homes was restricted, so often there was no companionship other than the husband, wife, and the children they had.
We read often about the incredible strength of the pioneer women, and it’s all absolutely true. They were incredible, in my opinion, and often did the work of the husband while he traveled to a place where he could find a job to tide his family over until the next planting and harvest. These women were tough, strong, and dedicated.
However, they also suffered terribly from what we now recognize as SAD. They got through it most of the time, but some of them did not. Some died. Some packed up and went back East. Some simply retreated into their own minds and never came back out.
Here’s an article you can read about SAD. I found it informative and I hope you will, too.
So what can be done? Several things, actually. There are lamps you can buy that simulate sunlight. I’ve never used one, but I have clients who say they’re very helpful. Here’s a link to help you with that:
Exercise outdoors whenever you can. Even a short walk will help, even if it’s a cloudy day. Sunlight does penetrate cloud cover, and it will help you.
Take vitamin D3. Talk with your doctor about this if you have any questions. I take 2000 IU’s daily with my calcium supplement. We’re learning that D3 is very helpful with a lot of things, including fibromyalgia.
Keep your drapes/shades/curtains open as long as there is any light coming into the house.
Stay warm. Wear thermal underwear. Bundle up when you go out. Wear sunglasses if your eyes are light sensitive–if there is snow on the ground, it hurts my eyes. Sunglasses are a year-round necessity for me.
Exercise. I have a mini trampoline, a stationary bike, and a cable weight machine in my basement. I need to use them more. Exercise is helpful for ALL types of depression, and especially weight resistance because it helps the body produce its own endorphins.
Eat lots of fruits and veggies. In this incredible era of year-round availability, there is no excuse for us to suffer nutritionally. Look for the deep, dark-colored and bright-colored produce. Avoid preserved foods as much as is reasonable.
Medication may be indicated, depending on the severity of your depression. Talk with your doctor.
And remember, the sun will shine again. It will be warm, and the days are already getting longer. And here’s something to make you smile: