The bitter cold temperatures and snow piling up everywhere has many of us facing a hearty dose of “cabin fever” these days.
Cabin fever isn’t a disease. It is more a malady of the spirit characterized by sadness, lack of energy, malaise, and irritability brought on by an extended stay in a confined space with a lack of environmental and social stimulation.
Historians speculate that the term cabin fever was first used to describe early U.S. settlers who experienced long winters in their log cabins, snowed in until the spring thaw. In addition to long periods of time confined to a small space, the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) exacerbate cabin fever. Many people suffer from SAD during the winter months, when sunny days are few and far between, and they sink into a very real depression.
Children who are confined to the house during rainy, snowy or just plain cold weatherare most susceptible to cabin fever. Also, stay-at-home moms who are exposed to mostly passive entertainment from television and video games that may pass the time, but don’t provide the active, interactive entertainment that people crave.
So whether you are stuck inside days at a time on your own or with bored kids, have no fear – there are ways to help ease the depression and frustration of caused by the winter blues.
One important way is to get moving. Just because it is cold outside doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be moving your body – inside. Get online or on your cable channels and find some exercise programming that can help you and your family stay in shape and burn off some excess energy when you can’t get outside. But also do your best to get outside too for some natural daylight, whether or not the sun is out, especially in the morning. This could help uplift your mood and get better sleep.
And speaking of sleep, try to keep a normal sleep schedule. Don’t go to bed too early and don’t stay up to late. Winter is a great time to get some extra rest but over extending your time in bed is likely to perpetuate lower energy and moods.
Avoiding sugar, which has a detrimental impact on brain function, is important. The body craves starchy and sweet foods when we are bored or depressed so be sure to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of warm, nourishing foods and water. If you do end up eating too many sweets, be sure to counterbalance with healthy protein sources like organic chicken, wild caught fish and legumes.
Taking some supplements can also help ward off the winter malaise at this time of year. Vitamin D is CRUCIAL. Most of us spend living in northern climates don’t get enough direct sunlight which makes our body unable to make Vitamin D. Supplementing this vital nutrient is a necessity. Low vitamin D levels make us prone to depression and current research suggests a recommended average of 1000 – 2000 IU daily.
A good Multi-Vitamin is needed to fuel the body as well as Omega-3’s, which contain the right kind of fats for brain health. Lower blood levels of these Omega 3’s are found in people with depression symptoms and negative outlooks.
And last but not least, force yourself to make plans and stay social. Staying involved with your circle of friends and family, especially those who tend to usually be cheerful, helps resist the urge to “shut down and shut in”.