As I poured my first cup of coffee this morning, I smiled to myself at the light in the window. Sunrise. It was 7:30am. The Alaska Winter Blues & Cabin Fever would be retreating again soon. Earlier in the week, we had passed the 10 hour (10 hours of daylight) mark and we will be gaining light fast now.
Winter Blues & Cabin Fever
Cabin Fever is a term first used in 1918. Not in the funny way, of being home alone and bored. It describes the feelings and emotionally based illness on aspects of isolation. Isolation caused by weather, cold-cold days and endless nights of Alaska, distance and the claustrophobia of being shut-in or secluded from other people.
Today, even if we do find ourselves isolated, most of us usually have access to a telephone or the internet and that provides that link to other people. Other people and social stimulation are never more than a click away.
This emotionally based illness is not so prevalent now and the phrase “Cabin Fever” is used as a humorous phrase rather than to describe someone who has been driven mentally unstable by lack of stimulation.
The symptoms of Cabin Fever may include:
- Excessive sleeping
- Sleep Loss
- Sudden bursts of laughter or tears
- Distrust of other people
Someone suffering from Winter Blues & Cabin Fever will feel a desperate need to escape, to get outside, even in the rain, snow or dark. They may act in a completely irrational manner to “get away.”
There is relief.
Although Winter Blues & Cabin Fever are not technical psychiatric diagnoses, they are well recognized illnesses. Winter depression and the symptoms that afflict the victim are very real to millions of people.
For those people suffering from Cabin Fever, the fastest relief is to get out of the isolated situation and to interact with other people. People have a strong need to socialize. Simple interactions, like sitting in a restaurant with other people around you, can help and allow a slow reintroduction back into the mainstream way of living again.
It can be as simple as getting outdoors and interacting with nature. Usually, most sufferers of Cabin Fever experience relief if they start spending more time outdoors.
There is certainly an link between the winter months and symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
Winter Blues, Seasonal Depression and SAD
The Winter Blues or Seasonal Depression, or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a depression that occurs each year at the same time. Usually starting in the Fall and ending in the Spring or early Summer.
It is a serious condition and should not be taken lightly.
Seasonal Depression or SAD is a condition in which a person experiences symptoms of mood disruption, including depressive symptoms and sometimes anxiety due to decreased sunlight during the dark winter months.
Often, it does result in a pretty significant social function disturbance and does require, quite often, light therapy or anti depressant medications prescribed by a doctor.
The cycle of sunlight and darkness has always set the rhythm of human life. Cold temperatures, snow, and limited daylight can make it challenging to maintain emotional balance.
Research on SAD in the United States began in 1970 when Herb Kern, a research engineer, had also noticed that he felt depressed during the winter months.
Lack of natural light affects different people in different ways. The dark has strong natural energetic influence in all climates, especially the cold.
As the natural light of Winter decreases, our bodies begin to ‘hibernate,’ our glandular system responds by slowing down. Fatigue, or lack of energy, can set in.
Unfortunately, this energy shortage affects our immune system, causing it to slow down and thus not do its job as effectively. This is why the cold and flu season always happens in the winter, in the dark!
Dark and overcast days can intensify depression or make our bodies sluggish. Alcoholism, drug addiction and family violence often increase from the pressure of the dark. Thoughts and attitudes can become negative. Our bodies change as the summer tan fades and we begin to look pale. Some of us gain weight in the winter, and our mood can go down hill as we stay indoors more often.
People who suffer from Winter Blues, Seasonal Depression and SAD have many common signs and symptoms.
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Inability to concentrate
- Extreme Fatigue
- Craving carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Increased desire to be alone
- Decreased sex drive
Between 4 and 6 percent of the U.S. population suffers from SAD, while 10 to 20 percent may suffer from a more mild form of winter blues. Three-quarters of the sufferers are women, most of whom are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.
This illness is more commonly seen in people who live at high latitudes, where seasonal changes are more extreme. It is estimated that 1 percent of Florida residents, 4 percent of Washington, D.C. residents, and nearly 10 percent of Alaska residents suffer from SAD.
Our health, mood, and behavior are affected when the quality and quantity of sunlight is lessened.
As light enters the eye, it hits the retina and is transmitted by nerve impulses to the pineal gland. The pineal gland controls melatonin and serotonin secretions. These set the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm.
We can easily overcome the influence of the dark. Two basic remedies that balance out the dark are light and exercise.
A SAD light is a very bright light created for the treatment of seasonal depression. These lights are available through medical prescription or for sale at stores. Studies have proven that the influence of this artificial light stimulates the pineal gland and keeps the body running efficiently.
Light therapy can raise the level of serotonin in the day and melatonin at night. Serotonin keeps us alert and full of energy during the day while melatonin helps us rest and recuperate at night. Both promote optimum health.
There are few more things you can do to help effectively deal with SAD or wintertime blues.
- Don’t overdose on the news. (Let’s face it, the news is depressing.)
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Maintain contact with friends and family.
- Exercise regularly.
- Happy thoughts!
Happy thoughts produce brain chemicals that make you happy, for emotions are side effects of thoughts. Happy thoughts will help you get through the months of Winter Blues & Cabin Fever as well as Seasonal Depression.
♥And always, remember to see your doctor. Tell him or her what you are feeling. Ask for help dealing with it.
Stay in touch and remember to book your Excursion or Adventure here!