27 December 2010

Cabin Fever aka Winter Blues: How I Deal With It.

Cabin fever has been a part of the American lexicon for as long as I can remember. Even if you don’t live in a cabin you can get it. Since everything today has to be a serious medical condition with a fancy name it’s called seasonal affective disorder or SAD. And, because it has this fancy name it must be frightful serious so you’d best be hotfooting it into the doctors office for some prescription medication. You wouldn’t want those pharmaceutical companies getting sad would you?

Winter is the most likely time to be SAD. Me I love winter but I too can fall victim to cabin fever if I’m not careful. I don’t live in a cabin exactly but I am certainly isolated. (SEE: Montana Winter at the Sanctuary).  I have isolation to the max, days that are shorter than a Twitter Tweet, a sun that is loathe to make an appearance more than a few days each month and cold that will frost your fanny before you can sit on it. Gads, I’m SAD just writing this.

A classic case of cabin fever would be Jack Nicholson in the Shining. When I start prowling around the house with an axe over my shoulder and baring my teeth at Koty I know I’m in trouble. Other sure signs; I start photographing insanely stupid things like my TV screen .....

My TV Screen

myself in winter hiking gear ....

Myself looking like the Uni-Bomber

 or icicles hanging from my house. Icicles.

I’m pretty sure loss of light notwithstanding the biggest contributor to the fever is diet and nutrition. The warmer six-months of the year Koty and I are out hiking like souls obsessed. As a result I am able to eat like a truck driver with reckless abandon. But, during the winter outside activities are limited by the climate. If it’s less than twenty degrees I don’t venture far from the “cabin”. Between twenty and thirty I go a little further. Those temps are pretty much what I have to work with in winter so walking doesn’t give me anywhere near what my body needs in order to pursue my gluttonous ways without becoming and a Texaco Tanker.

I purchased exercise videos but have the darndest time following them. I’m forever exhaling when I should be inhaling, using my right leg instead of my left, going up when I should be going down. And, heaven help me when I’m supposed to be doing one thing with my arms and another with my legs and feet, it's a fiasco. I must look like a spastic octopus. Out of sync would be the kindest thing you could say. Still, I religiously flounder through at least thirty minutes a day. I need a little structure in my life.

By far my favorite exercise is dancing. I’ve never been much good at dancing with partners because it’s like those exercise videos you have to concentrate on what you are doing and follow someone else’s lead, not my forte. Loss of concentration is another sign of the blues and I already have the attention span of a gnat. No, I’m more the Isadora Duncan kind of dancer. I just dance what I feel and never give it a thought. I’m actually quite good at it. More than one time in my life I was actually asked if I had considered dancing professionally. Not that being good has anything to do with it. It’s the doing that matters.

My current dance inspiration is a CD by Brule  that’s pronounced like crème brulee. See there, I’m always thinking good food. Anyway, the CD is called Star People. It’s contemporary Native American music and it is awesome. When I crank up the stereo and dance to it I truly enter another galaxy far, far away. Thank heavens it’s highly unlikely that anyone would ever be looking in my window but if they could they would surely think a crazy woman was inside as they watched me fly around my living room. Koty just lies down out of range and covers his eyes with his paws. Huh, just shows what he knows! But, what fabulous aerobic exercise. For me dancing to this music is a total workout for the body and soul.

If I had to say what the single best thing you can do to ward off winter blues it would be exercise. Diet is important also but I find my carb and sweets cravings naturally diminish in direct proportion to the amount of exercise I get. I often tell people I am a drug addict. I love to do it because I get this instant raised eyebrow and slight drawing away effect. But, in a way I am quite serious. The fact is the more exercise you get the more endorphins you produce and endorphins react with the brain’s opiate receptors which gives a general sense of well being. Get that “opiate” receptors? Half the time I’m so happy I annoy myself.

Conventional wisdom says isolation is a killer-diller. I say baloney. I’m by myself most of the time. Not really, Koty is always with me and is a much more pleasant companion than a lot of people I have met. Convention is why I became unconventional. I think everyone could really benefit from experiencing a lot more alone time but “convention” and Madison Avenue are not keen on that happening. If you just go to the park and savor the moment (you don’t have to move to the middle of nowhere like I did) that is away time from all the junk they want to sell you to keep you distracted, addicted and brain dead.

I am told people don’t like to be alone because they don’t want to risk the chance of running into themselves. I guess the assumption is most people don’t actually like themselves. Well, I’ve got a news flash people. You are the best friend you are ever going to have. My advice is; get to know yourself. If there is something you don’t like work on it. We are all works in progress and nobody is perfect. Time by yourself will make your time in the company of others better spent.

Reality check: We are all living alone in our own little cabins in the wilderness of our minds. So I say get up, get out and get those endorphins pumping. Get addicted to loving life regardless of the season. If you’re happy you’ll have no time to be SAD. Like the pistachio people say Get Crackin’.

Hmmm, this piece has given me an idea for next week’s article. I think I'll expound on my take as to why the healthcare system is in terminal shape. I guarantee you it will be a different take than "conventional" pap you read. Won’t you be glad when winter is over and I can get back out on the trail with my camera?

If you’d like to look at some photography you can pop over to either one of my websites “Kinsey Barnard’s Fine Art of Photography" or "Kinsey Barnard’s Outdoor Photography" and poke around.

©Kinsey Barnard

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Holly Days Closet said...

I know how you feel only my SAD is in the summer I can't tolerate the heat or the sun light. I live for winter.
I would agree about being alone I think everyone could benefit from some time by themselves I love being alone cause I really do like myself. I have always seen it if you can't stand being by yourself how can you expect others to be around you.

Walker said...


Obviously, I agree. I'm not a big fan of the summer heat either but blessedly the evenings are always cool here in Montana and the days are long. I'm actually allergic to the sun so I pretty much look like the Uni-Bomber year round! :)