My father and I “hibernate” in the Winter. There is just something about cold days, cloudy skies, and early sunsets that force us inside, onto the couch, bundled up like Eskimo’s, watching tv with the heat cranked up to 80 degrees! Yeah, not very productive at all. We also tend to over-eat during the Winter, I mean who doesn’t during the holidays, except we tend to put on weight that seems to shed immediately in the Spring without any effort at all. It is as if our bodies needed the extra weight to stay warm or something. So, we just always joked that we were hibernating; however, it turns out there is a medical name for it: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a state of depression that occurs when the seasons change; most people experience SAD during the Winter months. While some people can experience major depression, most just feel like “hibernating.” Basically, we lack energy, we over-eat, and become homebodies until the weather warms up again.
Tends to Happen To Outdoorsy People
SAD can happen to anybody, but personally, I believe it tends to happen more to people who enjoy outdoor activities.
Growing up, we were an outdoorsy kind of family. During the summer, most days were spent at the lake or playing in our pool. During the cooler months, our family spent the weekends trail blazing the dunes and mountains with off-road vehicles. Our family was always busy! Seriously, we rarely had time for video games, tv, or computers. Well, back then, our computer ran on DOS with huge floppy disks, our movies were on VHS, and the only gaming console we ever had (other than classic Nintendo) was the very first PlayStation, so we were kind of forced outside anyways. My father always had a project of some sort and spent most of his time outside working in his shed or garage. The point is, we were a busy active family.
However, every Winter, like seasonal clockwork, my father would batten down the hatches, lock up his shed and close his garage. He would then put on his sweat pants, slippers, turn up the heat, and watch tv until Spring came; well, at least find an indoor hobby or project to keep him busy until Spring. His mood never drastically changed, like never grumpy or anything, but he pretty much would “hibernate.” He would always say, “Its too cold to do anything.” My father wasn’t lazy though, if he needed to go outside and work, he would always do it without any complaints; however, he would always fire up the large propane jet heater, blasting hot air into the area of his work space. Simply, my father does not do cold weather and neither do I.
My First Winter Without SAD
Last year was my first Winter EVER without experiencing SAD and I GOT FAT! I gained a bunch of weight last winter (as usual) and surprisingly, I didn’t shed a pound of it in the Spring as my body normally does, on it own, every year without the need to exercise. I even started the Spring season by taking my girls for walks, getting back into an active routine again! Unfortunately, I think it made me fatter. I addressed my weight-gain to my doctor who assured me that nothing is wrong and gladly welcomed me to Adulthood, claiming my metabolism is shot due to my age. Apparently, 30 is the new 60! Awesome.
I really do think not having SAD last winter had some impact on my metabolism. I didn’t eat, because I was cold and depressed, I ate because it was the holidays and holiday foods are the best! Basically, I didn’t hibernate like I usually do. I know I didn’t, because I really do not recall the overwhelming feeling of disappointment with the first day of cold weather last year. I never wanted to sit in my pajamas and binge watch tv, nor did I crank the heat up to 80 degrees. We also had a mild winter, where most days were actually quite warm, sunny, with blue skies, so maybe my body didn’t even recognize it was Winter to kick in SAD. Whatever the reason, I didn’t experience SAD last Winter, I am still walking around 10lbs heavier, and I am “officially” old now.
SAD vs Just Don’t Like Cold Weather
I still hate cold weather. My husband once suggested us moving to Alaska. He woke up the next morning with divorce paperwork next to his pillow. I do not do cold climates, in which is funny, as he often reminds me, considering my ancestors were mostly from Northern Europe, with a good bunch of them from like Norway and Finland. Well, apparently, the genes that allowed my ancestors to tolerate cold weather have been largely deactivated forcing me to wear a sweater all year round. I am not even hairy!
However, I do not think SAD is going to kick in this year, because I excitedly welcomed the cold weather. I do not know why, probably, because Summer was so intensely hot. I am surprisingly looking forward to hot soup, delicious hot chocolate, ugly sweaters, cute boots, and pretty scarfs. After a few days of looking super cute holding a cup of Starbucks, I am pretty sure I will be eagerly wishing for Spring to hurry up again! Because lets face it, I still really do not like cold weather.
SAD Season Is Approaching
How do you beat Seasonal Affective Depression? Well, by engaging in healthy activities. Depression is still depression and left untreated can make depression worse. We don’t want that…so I recommend the following:
- Get dressed every morning, whether you feel like it or not, get dressed.
- Find an indoor hobby (other than zombie tv watching), like reading, painting, or even take up baking
- If you are going to eat more, eat healthy. You can have the holiday goodies, but save them for after a meal, like a dessert.
- Keep a journal. SAD can bring out some emotions, write them down.
- Don’t be lazy, if something needs to be done, get it done.
- Open the window shades, let in the light!
- Bundle up for some fresh-air. When the sun finally breaks through the winter sky, go outside and enjoy it!
- Enjoy company. You don’t have to go anywhere, but you can certainly invite friends over for some fun.
Those are just a few things that help me get through SAD every Winter. Everyone experiences SAD differently, but if SAD brings on severe depression, like, thoughts of suicide, lack of enjoyment in your favorite activities, severe moodiness, and trouble sleeping, please talk to your doctor.
Do you like Winter? What are your favorite activities to do when it is cold outside?