It’s that time of year again, the time when the days are getting shorter and colder, and we turn our attention to indoor activities. Although I enjoy the relief of the cooler temperatures, every winter I struggle with my sagging mood and wilting energy levels. Winter is officially almost two months away, but I am already slipping into the doldrums this year.
Perhaps it’s because the past few weeks have been overcast and rainy. Perhaps it’s because my long workdays have me leaving the house when it’s dark, and arriving home to more of the same. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m only getting a day or two of outdoor exercise each week instead of the three or four I had become accustomed to. Or perhaps it’s this “Frankenstorm” of Hurricane Sandy pummeling the east coast that makes me want to pull the pillow over my head and go into a prolonged hibernation.
Actually, it’s all of those things and then some that add up to what is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as the Winter Blues. The malaise I experience each winter is unfortunately common here in the Northeast, but knowing I’m in good company does little to stop its debilitating effects.
Take last winter for example. Going into it, I was about 90 pounds overweight, and hadn’t done anything that resembled exercise in close to four years. I was also coming off a positive, but stressful year that involved a job change as well as a return to college. I couldn’t wait for the winter break to get in some much-needed relaxation, and also to write the short story I had been planning for several months. I had also hoped to catch up on my reading, and to tackle a stack of video games that had been tempting me all year.
In the six weeks I was off from school, I got some reading done, but I never touched the video games. To this day, the short story remains just a figment of my imagination. So what did I do? I slept . . . A LOT. And I ate . . . A LOT. I did need to catch up on my sleep, but the winter blues had me sleeping an excessive 12-14 hours a day.
To my credit, I did start walking along the river trail about 3 times a week from early December on. They say exercise is one of the best ways to boost your mood at any time of the year, but I was so out-of-shape that it left me feeling worse than when I started. There was also the further despair that came with the mental thrashing I gave myself for letting my body reach such a loathsome state.
When my next class started in January, I was feeling very angry at myself for wasting my six weeks off. I kept exercising, but it took another two months before I got over the hurdle and actually began to feel energized by it.
To help myself brace for the onset of SAD this year, I have located some good resources that offer up advice on overcoming the winter blues. There’s a good chance that you or someone you love is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I wanted to share them with you as well. Please use these resources to help yourself or them through this tough time, and know that the longer days of spring will be here before we know it.
Despite my current sinking mood, I have vowed to myself that this year will be different. I have reaped the rewards of a better diet and frequent exercise, so I am going into this winter more prepared physically. I am going to invest in some winter exercise gear so that I can Trikke, bike or walk as long as the trails are dry and free of ice. I also need to find and commit to an indoor exercise regime that will keep me going through the bad weather. I still have my kettlebells, although I regretfully haven’t used them in over a month. I might get back into these, or I might look into some other options instead.
I plan to further investigate the light therapy and air ionizers that have been talked about in the above articles. I also need to pick out an enjoyable winter project that will motivate me to get out of bed and moving each day. Writing this blog will help, but I think reconnecting with some of my other hobbies would serve me well too. Or maybe I’ll finally write that short story . . .