Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How S.A.D. Are You Right Now?

We still have a month and a half left of winter.  And really two more months until it's what I would call "comfortable" outside. 

Winter is coming. No, wait! It's here.
I'm not winter's biggest fan. It's so damn cold outside and add to that the daily duty of dealing with a chronic illness.  It was two years ago, in January, that I started the process of getting a new kidney.  I wrote depressing essays like this and this during what seemed like the longest winter ever!  Gosh...what a time.  

It was only a few years ago that I realized that I may be borderline S.A.D.  Not just sad as in "I'm so SAD it's winter."  But I was showing some symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's a type of depression that's related to the changes in the seasons, most commonly the shift from lighter, brighter happier seasons like spring and summer to the darker, colder, bleaker seasons like autumn and winter.  When this happens, some S.A.D. people start to feel tired, irritable, low-energy, and withdraw from most if not all social interaction.   Combine this with wintertime kidney failure and you basically have an emotional train wreck/hermit.

So what can we do about this?!  You can take medicine which isn't bad, unless you're already taking 19 pills a day like me.  So that's probably out.  Some people have found that these S.A.D. lights work for them, giving them the extra "sunlight" that they're missing out on because of winter.  Also not a bad idea.  But if you're not interested in either of those, here's a list of what I've been trying to do every winter to ward off my S.A.D. symptoms:

1.  Cooking
One of the symptoms of S.A.D. is changes in appetite, and a craving for foods HIGH IN CARBOHYDRATES.  I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing unless it's leading to some really unhealthy behaviors, like eating Oreos for lunch instead of actual food.  Cooking is one of my hobbies. Something that brings me to my happy place.  And cooking during the winter and fall, even though the in-season produce isn't as great, has become one of my favorite pastimes.  Winter is the perfect time to crank up that oven, and in our apartment it adds an extra layer of warmth because our heating system is just OK.  Roasts, braises, baked pastas, cozy soups and stews...I'll take it all!! 

Lasagna and wine in a Mason jar.   Classy.

2.  Exercise
However, if you're going to cook as much as I do and eat as much as I do, you have to make some time for being active. And supposedly exercising boost your mood and make you feel better about yourself, which is the opposite of S.A.D.

3.  Going Out
Have you never been deterred to cancel an outing all because the temperature dipped a few degrees, or 20?  Or because it started raining or snowing?? Yeah I've been there and done that.  Winter takes away all of our outdoor film festivals, beach trips, baseball basically drains life of all its fun.  But last year, when I really set out to beat this S.A.D. thing, I said NO MORE!   No more cancellations!  No more winter hibernation! Now, when I make plans with friends during this season, although it's a struggle for me, I push myself to keep them. I also try to make sure I'm doing something fun outside of my apartment at least 2-3 times each week.  This gives me right amount of outings to keep me from feeling like a sad little hermit, and the right amount of time at home to get chores done, sit still, and catch up on my Netflix shows.

Ski trip with my gurlz.

4.  Taking a bubble bath and other cold,weather faves.
The other day, I felt like I was SO cold at work that I was going to need to soak in a hot bath once I got home.  So I purchased a new bottle of bubble bath, went home and did just that. And it was amazing.  Taking bubble baths and running the oven for two hours to roast something are not things that I typically do during my Virginia summers. It's just too damn hot.  I'm not complaining. Just sayin.  So it's nice to take advantage of these little "cold weather activities."  Right before my bubble bath, I made some hot chocolate using this recipe. Doing things like that and going to a ski resort, even when I don't ski, help me to embrace the season a little.  My thoughts suddenly shift from "F--K Winter!" to "Wow...isn't this nice?  Isn't winter nice?  Seasons!  What a blessing."  
5.  Soaking up the hot sun in the cold air.
Sometimes, when it's not crazy windy and crazy cold, I go outside for a walk and I lift my face toward the sun to soak up some Vitamin D. I haven't had the chance to do this much this winter. It's just too freaking cold for me.  But eventually, one day, at the end of February probably, it won't be.