The "Siberian Express" has covered much of the country in snow and ice along with freezing temperatures, making this winter one for the record books! No wonder many of us are experiencing cabin fever. This term dates back to the 19th century when early US settlers spent long winters stuck in their log cabins, essentially snowed in until the spring thaw. Luckily, we are not really stuck in our houses until the spring! However, that cooped-up, irritable, lethargic, and unmotivated feeling is something we all can identify with during the short dark days of winters.
For some there is a real medical condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is a cyclical yearly condition characterized by depression brought on by the short winter days. It is caused by a disruption of our biological clock related to brain chemicals. Melatonin is a brain chemical that affects sleep patterns, and the brain neurotransmitter serotonin is responsible for maintaining mood balance; both are decreased due to the reduced sunlight hours in the wintertime. The prevalence of SAD increases in populations living farther away from the equator. The treatments for SAD can vary from antidepressants and psychotherapy to full spectrum light therapy. This is a light source used in your home that emits light wavelengths similar to sunlight. Talk with your doctor if you think your symptoms are severe.
But for the majority of us, it is not that extreme. Most of us just have a simple case of the winter blues. Aside from eating healthy and exercising regularly in the winter, chasing the sunlight is another way to beat the gloomy feeling that winter brings. And what better and easier way to do that than to plan a regular vacation to a nice sunny spot! And if you are not a beach person, hiking in some sunlit mountains can be beneficial; even a ski trip spending time outdoors on some sunny slopes during the day can do wonders. You will sleep better at night and feel more refreshed and energized during the day. And many experts feel that even people with clinically diagnosed SAD can benefit from a sunny vacation!
Planning your trip ahead of time is important, because during the winter doldrums it's hard to get motivated to do much of anything! So be proactive this year and the next; schedule regular vacations during your winter months to a sunny location and you won't be singing the winter blues anymore!