Cabin Fever and SAD: What Are They?
With several feet of snow and a polar vortex having swept across major portions of the U.S. and Canada, now seems like a good time to talk about those unwanted guests that visit many of us this time of year: cabin fever, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and general seasonal depression.
We’re all familiar with the signs of cabin fever—that agitated, heavy feeling we get when we glance out the window to see nothing but mountains of snow blanketing a bleak, windswept landscape; multiple school cancellations that result in kids running around with enough pent-up energy to power a football stadium; a pantry that’s fading as quickly as last year’s tan; and the nagging feeling that winter is probably here forever. Mother Nature decided she’s had enough, telling us to take this job and shove it.
Cabin fever is further accompanied by a complete lack of nerves—we only have one left, and everyone in the house is on it. Even with the internet and video games and all the other comforts of the digital age, we’re bored, agitated and even depressed. Perhaps it’s a remnant of our ancient hunter-gatherer way of life, but the fact is we just need to get out.
Warm air, bright sun and all the wonderful outdoor activities that come with them are a necessity for many of us. No amount of skiing, snowmobiling or any other winter activity revered by snow-happy popsicle people will do it for the rest of us—we need green, open spaces, warm sunshine, and holy crap we need to not shovel the driveway for the tenth time this week.
SAD is Serious
Cabin fever can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious condition: Seasonal Affective Disorder. A form of seasonal depression, SAD can have a major effect on your day-to-day life, putting a strain on relationships, work and recreation. It can often be confused with a simple case of the winter blues, so stay vigilant—it’s nothing to take lightly.
If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder or some other form of seasonal depression, the single most important thing you can do is talk to your doctor. There are a great many medications and therapies that can help, allowing you to find joy and meaning throughout the difficult winter months. Depression in any form is nothing to ignore or shrug off, and if you take anything from this article, let it be this: The only shameful thing about depression is not doing anything about it. And remember, you’re not alone—your doctor has dealt with this kind of thing a million times, they know exactly how to help. Stop reading and call your doctor. You’ll be glad you did.
Cabin Fever: What You Can Do
As for the rest of us who just want the kids to stop fighting for two minutes while we call to see if the pizza place delivers during a travel advisory, what can we do to kick this annoying cabin fever? Here are a few ways you can improve your health and save your sanity while Mother Nature decides whether or not to cross the picket line.
Also a successful treatment for SAD, light therapy—or phototherapy—uses light boxes equipped with special bulbs that mimic outdoor light. Great for home or office, they cause the brain to react as if you were outdoors on a warm, sunny day, helping elevate your mood and relieve other symptoms of cabin fever and SAD. There are many different varieties, in all shapes and sizes, and there are limits to how often and how long you should use them. Be sure to bring any questions to your doctor to see if light therapy could benefit you.
Try New Things!
Of courseyou’re not in the mood to try new things, but hear me out. The agitation, the boredom, the fighting kids, none of it will improve by doing the same old thing. It’s time to mix things up and do something different! But I won’t bore you with platitudes like “read a good book,” or “write a letter.” You want something fun, not a homework assignment.
So, consider this: Guess who has it even worse than you? Animals. Chances are, you have birds, squirrels and other wildlife in your neighborhood—and they have to live out there every day in that garbage weather. Can you imagine? Snooping around the freezing cold, looking for berries and crap. That sounds terrible, and it’s time you did something about it.
Hook those poor little devils up with a feeder—bird feeder, squirrel feeder, salt lick for deer and other wildlife, whatever you like. (Just be sure to check local laws and regulations on feeding game animals.)
Whether you build or buy, this is a great project for the family. With all the different styles and varieties out there, you’ll have great fun figuring out what feeders attract the most attention. And every time you look out the window, you won’t be focused on the awful weather. You’ll be observing the new ecosystem you helped create, with critters swinging by like it’s a new drive-thru restaurant. You can also get some binoculars and a camera set up, and see how many different kinds of birds stop by. Just think about how cool birds are for a second—they don’t even have hands, but they're still out there doing their best. That's worthy of a little love, don't you think?
Feeders are a fun, engaging way to keep the family occupied and give you some dynamic scenery that always has something new to offer. With a little ingenuity and an open mind, there’s no end to the new projects you can get into, all of which can help you break your normal routine, elevate your mood and get you out of your winter funk. Share your favorite projects and pastimes in the comments below! What are some of your favorites?
Supplements for Seasonal Affective Disorder and Cabin Fever
As I mentioned in the last section, the problem for many of us is that we’re not in the mood to do things that we know would improve our mood—it’s a cycle of self-defeat that takes over our whole season. But just like those poor critters outside, you owe it to yourself to step in and do some good. Here are a few options and how they can help you wantto break the cycle and have some fun.
Boredom and lack of energy are a major part of cabin fever. A B-12 supplement for seasonal depression is a natural energy boost with no side effects that can help motivate you, elevate your mood and actually get you excited for projects that will help you and your family kick the winter blues.
With nothing to do all day but think, the mind can home in on thoughts that are less than productive, making you focus on the negative whether you want to or not. This can increase overall anxiety and make it difficult to sleep. Ashwagandha for seasonal depression and cabin fever helps calm these intrusive thoughts, refocusing your mind while helping you get the restful sleep you need.
Cabin fever in general is a stressful thing, exacerbating the stress you’re already dealing with, elevating your agitation and anxiety. This general anxiety supplement for cabin fever and seasonal depression improves everything from mood and mental focus to stress levels and fatigue.
Consistency is Key
Incorporate a daily mix of these methods for at least a month or two to combat cabin fever and Seasonal Affective Disorder, and you’ll be sure to see improvement in how you handle the cold winter months. As with all things mental health, contact your doctor with important questions, especially if you think you or a loved one may be suffering from SAD, seasonal depression or other serious mental illness.
Whatever seasonal depression remedies you use this winter, just remember—the squirrels need us.
Walker Kornfeld is a freelance writer and editor who is most certainly not a snow-happy popsicle person. Drop him a line at Watchword Writing and Editing.
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