In search of: murdering the winter blahs

I’ve mentioned before that I believe I suffer from mild Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is self-diagnosed, not anything I’ve seen a doctor about, but it fits everything I know about myself. In late winter it manifests as the spring madness, an overwhelming need to get out in the sunshine and enjoy a nice day—which is a big problem if the weather doesn’t cooperate, which at that time of year it usually doesn’t. As spring approaches, or rather as it should but typically doesn’t, this sets up a vicious cycle of increasing agitation. But before that we have February, an excremental month of misery; winter is still well in swing but everyone is over it and wants desperately to move on.

(I swear it’s a coincidence that this post comes on Valentine’s Day. While I’ve had reasons to loathe the holiday in the past, I don’t anymore. But if today gets you down, feel free to use the pure awfulness of February itself as a cover.)

This past week in particular I’ve been feeling the blahs a little more strongly, so today I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s anything I can do about it. The problem with these blahs isn’t that I don’t have things I want to do, but rather that they’re dragging me off-task from the things I need to do. I’m blessed that my boss is me, but my boss is yelling at me to get my crap together, and darn it, he’s right.

For a little perspective, we had some decent bouts of snow recently. This has been a weird winter where the temperatures haven’t stayed cold, but nowhere near as weird as five years ago. Over the weekend we got hammered, but today the temperature has been in the high 30s or low 40s all day and it’s been sunny, so the snow is melting slowly; my car however is still buried. In spite of the relative warmth outside it’s still felt very cold upstairs where my office is, and today I noticed that I felt a persistent inner chill, like the backs of my shoulders could not get warm.

I did a little quick research on ways of improving the winter blahs and specifically how to increase energy, and holy crap is the advice out there terrible.

The main thing I keep running across on every site is exercise. Now believe me, I get it: being in better shape will make you feel better, and when you’re in a regular routine of exercising it can actually boost your endorphins. But if you’re not in such a routine, this advice is like telling a brick to try flying. The one consistent problem with all exercise routines, and the main reason many people don’t start them and don’t stick with them once on them, is that you have to get over the hump of a low-energy state to begin with. How am I supposed to exercise as a way of gaining energy if I don’t have the energy to exercise? Duh! Fire doesn’t start on its own, except in highly energized environments; it needs enough kinetic energy to begin with to set the reaction in motion.

And I love that all the articles show a woman jogging on a treadmill or something. Right. I don’t own a treadmill nor have a place for one. Going out and running isn’t an option, because it’s frickin’ cold out, there are icy patches on the ground, and after a minute I’d have exercise-induced asthma kick in. Besides that, I twisted my ankle something nasty a few weeks ago, and even though it feels better, every now and then it still wants to turn again if I’m not vigilant with it.

I get that lethargy is largely a mental problem for most people, and that’s clearly the case for me. But knowing that doesn’t really help; I want some way to kick-start the internal fires and rev up my metabolism, so the mind can follow the body. Exercise can’t do that easily because to get there you have to talk yourself into doing it in the first place. And it takes getting into a routine and staying there to really see any serious endorphin benefits, which is another thing the health junkies don’t like to admit. In other words, it takes discipline, and the precise problem I have right now is a lack of mental discipline.

Let me put it this way: I know that I could, at this moment, get up and find a space to do a few quick jumping jacks. Never mind that it’s probably bad for the floors, or that I know I’d get tired of them pretty quick. The point is I know I could do it; nothing is physically stopping me. But there is a powerful mental “Ugh” that holds me back. It’s not unlike the force I felt when I was a teenager and faced with a zip line for the first (and so far, last) time. I looked down from that tree and calculated that the fall would probably not kill me if the rope snapped, but boy would it hurt and I’d break something; and that fear paralyzed me, for several minutes. When I finally talked myself into stepping off the ledge I choked and grabbed for the rope, and ended up with nasty rope burn on my fingers for the rest of the day. This “Ugh” is not fear, but the power behind it is the very same.

So anyway, exercise is off the table. I’m negatively inclined to do anything aerobic and that’s all that I think would help—and even then only after it became a habit. Light therapy is off the table, because it’s been a nice bright day and that isn’t the problem. Drinking tea is off the table, because I’d literally rather puke. And another thing all the articles say is to get cozy and get plenty of rest—when hibernating is the exact opposite of what I want to do!

There has to be a better way, and I’m sick and tired of the vapidity of the articles out there that all say the same things. It’s like the last time I had a cold. There are a million articles that tell you to get comfy, wait it out, and use various home remedies to at least try to feel a little better. But I said screw that, and looked high and low for a more aggressive approach. I found a little hope in some places that suggested not just vitamin C and zinc, but fresh garlic—and I decided that this time I would megadose with all of the above (although to be honest, my vitamin C dose could have been even higher). I kicked that cold right in the crotch, and the next time I get sick I’ll do the very same and more.

Why isn’t there something like that I could do for a little winter lethargy? It would seem aggression is exactly what the doctor ought to order for that kind of thing. Telling someone who can’t stay on task or find the pep to get things done that they should exercise is like telling the castaways on the island to just already have a boat—when what they should do is eat Gilligan. That mental “Ugh” is a powerful force, but it is not indomitable; there must be something, somewhere, that can do violence upon it. That is what I need, and that is something you’re not gonna find on WebMD or Livestrong or eHow or Prevention or a hundred other sites, because they don’t have the balls to think in terms of getting mean with your problems.

But someone, somewhere, must have that answer.

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About Lummox JR

Aspiring to be a beloved supervillain
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