gratefully and joyfully co-authored with Gail Margolis of Peak to Peak Counseling in Nederland, CO
Cabin fever is a very real phenomena especially for residents of northern climates where they experience longer and colder winters. It usually sets in around February… or mid-March, when we get our most snow and experience some of our coldest, pipe-busting days. Typified by low-energy and apathy, people who suffer from cabin fever may experience mild to severe depression, restlessness, anxiety and frustration. These symptoms are often compounded by catching a cold or the flu. Seasonal affective disorder (or SAD), perhaps the more proper term for cabin fever, is experienced by degrees (literally and figuratively) ranging from mild to severe.
No matter how a person experiences the winter doldrums, there are highly effective and completely natural solutions to protect against SAD. Think of it as a recipe for self-winterizing. We winterize our cars with anti-freeze and snow tires, we winterize our homes by stacking wood and insulating our pipes…so why not winterize ourselves, too?
Here is a unique approach to self-care in wintertime called “Naturally Nourished.” This philosophy combines physical, emotional and spiritual tactics to ward off seasonal depression, to relieve fatigue and anxiety, and to boost the immune system.
Eat your way to health! It might be cold outside, but there are many ways to warm up your internal world with grounding, satisfying and warming foods. Onions, garlic, scallions, chives, leeks, broccoli, cabbage and kale are all high in anti-oxidants and will boost your immune system. Add flavor with warming herbs and spices such as cayenne, coriander, cumin and black pepper. To ward off colds and flu, indulge in immune-boosting garlic, ginger, cloves, cardamom and horseradish. One can use teas, tinctures, baths, and culinary dishes to get the warming benefits of these herbs and spices.
Protect your skin! Massage your skin with naturally hydrating oils (like safflower and almond) and shea or coconut butter to nourish the skin and stimulate circulation. Add a few drops of Thieves Oil – a blend of antimicrobial essential oils – to protect against the cold and flu.
Lighten up! The light that comes from the sun is the best source of Vitamin D, a major factor in balanced and happy mood. We need about 20 minutes of sunshine every day to get the proper amount of Vitamin D. Sit by a window, soak up all the sun you can find. If that’s not enough, sit under a “full-spectrum” light bulb or buy a specially designed “light box”. These provide the physical necessity of Vitamin D as well as the emotional associations of light and warmth.
Get active! Increasing your heart-rate with exercise is proven to boost mood by stimulating the secretion of endorphins. Movement also releases opioids and endorphins, improves circulation, and stimulates serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (neurotransmitters in the body that regulate mood and overall sense of wellbeing and happiness) production. On the days you choose to brave the cold, we are lucky to have an abundance of winter sports available to us. In addition, yoga, t\’ai chi, chi gong, stretching, and dancing can easily be done indoors, all which generate endorphins and increase circulation giving you more energy and joy.
Embrace the call of winter. When we think of winter, we intuitively think of hibernation, slowing down, going within. Winter asks you to get cozy- drink tea, make stew, cuddle with a friend (oxytocin, the feel-good love chemical in our bodies, will make you feel better), light some candles, and relax in a warm bath. We can use this time to examine, reevaluate, and consciously transform ourselves – body, mind and spirit.
Gail Margolis is a CO registered psychotherapist, intern at Peak to Peak Counseling, and creator of Naturally Nourished. You can find more information about Gail in the “Meet Us” section. Arwen Greer is an herbalist, homeopath, and founder of The Holistic Homestead. For more information about Arwen and the Holisitic Homestead visit theholistichomestead.org.
The opinions expressed herein should never substitute for the qualified guidance of a licensed therapist and/or physician. None of the products recommended herein are intended to prevent, treat or cure any disease. The Holistic Homestead disclaims any responsibility for the advice contained in this article. Consult your doctor if you recognize the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and before trying any ‘alternative’ therapies including herbs, essential oils, exercise programs or supplements.