Monday, January 10, 2011

Before the Sunrise

This past weekend I ran some extra-long horseback riding lessons (camp-style) for some students. They were given by their parents as Christmas gifts in most cases, and while it does help to have this kind of activity during the winter to keep us from having to eat ramen noodles all season, I was dreading spending that kind of time out in the cold.

It ended up being pretty awesome once we got going. I had hot cocoa for the kids and aside from an occasional complain-y kid with cold fingers or toes (and one who wore riding boots instead of winter boots) everything went very smoothly and the kids had a great time. I ended up spending eight hours at the farm on Saturday and another nine on Sunday, so today was going to be my sleep in day... except all of that physical activity from the weekend has reawakened my inner-earlybird, the part of me that usually hibernates this time of year. I am pretty sorely affected by the shortened days. Whether it's "SAD" or just Gardener's withdrawl, I have no idea, but I do know that I'll spend days sitting around, depressed by the thought of anything other than just sleeping off the winter like a bad hangover.

This morning I practically sprung from my bed. It as grey, and pre-sunrise, and I found myself stretching and preparing for a run without even thinking about it. Before I knew it I was running the trail around the orchard listening to Iron & Wine with Calexico (In the Reins). I was more energetic and motivated than I have been since mid-October, and I found myself even more energized after the run. I did morning chores with a skip in my step, and split the rest of the wood in our diminishing pile (we're getting another cord+ of unsplit this evening). It wasn't until I got back up to the house that I realized the sun wasn't even peaking over the trees yet.

After all of this I thought I'd come in a relax and write up a blogpost, but I still had energy so I decided it was time to reintroduce myself to yoga, something I haven't done since early college. After an hour of yoga, I find myself curled up to a fantastic fire, un-daunted by the tasks ahead of me today and considerably more positive than I've been in weeks.

Apparently staying active is the best way for me to fight Season Affective Disorder, or Gardener's Withdrawl, or whatever it is that brings me so thoroughly down this time of year. Plus, after the yoga, my back has been in less pain than it has in months (less even than when I was adjusted by my friend-the-chiropractor).

I'm hoping to start getting some more input on my blog here. According to my blogstats I have many, many lurkers :)

How do you stay occupied during the winter? How do you cope with shorter days and less sunlight?


  1. I have a whole list of things that help me cope with SAD, and I pull them out until something works.
    1. Classical music
    2. My happy light
    3. A brisk walk outside--fresh air!
    4. A trip to Curves to work out
    5. Crystals hanging in my windows to make rainbows whenever the sun shines
    6. Baking homemade bread
    7. Taking a time for prayer/devotions/meditation
    8. A creative project: quilting, cross-stitch, or knitting
    9. A trip to a botantical garden
    10. Keeping the fire going in the fireplace
    11. Counting the days till the spring equinox! (69 as of today)
    12. Getting my girlfriends together for a Jane Austen/Elizabeth Gaskell/Charles Dickens/BBC anything movie night.
    13. Ordering seeds from the Burpee catalog.
    14. Trying a new recipe with exotic ingredients.

    I keep adding to it as I discover mood-lifters. You're on the right track in staying active, since that is a positive "I'm going to lick this" approach.

    May this be your best winter ever!

  2. How nice to see classical music on your list! I always feel a bit guilty because I suffer from mild depression year round and tend to alleviate it with hours playing the piano, mostly but not all classical music.

  3. I forgot to add that I am having one of my best winters ever (so far--February is the real test). It might have something to do with the fact that my doctor recommended vitamin D-3. I take 2000 IUs per day.

  4. Lisa, Thanks for your fantastic list! I use Classical music, BBC Classics movies (have you seen Little Dorrit?) and knitting as well! This winter hasn't been particularly bad for me thus far, but there are days. As you said, February is always the test. I love the idea of hanging things in the windows to capture the sunlight when it shows, though, and plan to do that today!

    Steve, I find with Classical music that it can either alleviate some of my depression or deepen it. That's mostly because I really prefer the solitude of Arvo Pärt or the hyper-emotion of Ralph Vaughn Williams to anybody else. I, too, am plagued by year-round mild depression (hooray for Jenkins genes!) but SAD gets me more than anything else. I can usually catch certain signs a day or so before I crash into typical depression, so I have time to plan something to keep me occupied or distracted (yoga, running, biking, some unavoidable social interaction). SAD gets me with no warning and can leave me listless for days... It's sneaky like that.

  5. Keeping livestock does help, as they require at least checking-on daily. If it weren't for the critters, my evenings in the winter would be completely wasted in front of one glowing screen or another.

    We have put some full-spectrum bulbs in the light fixtures we use most. That is supposed to help, but we haven't done any scientific tests ourselves to prove it.

    It also helps me to make dates or appointments with folks that I really want to see. That forces me to get out and be social. This is most useful when the people are not likewise afflicted, and we can do pleasant, cheerful things together.

    For me, some rousing 80s music is more likely to get me accomplishing mundane tasks. Classical is probably a better overall mood lifter on its own, but getting the dishes, laundry, or light cleaning done is a mood booster in itself.

    The only thing that gets me through February is the appearance of daffodils in the flower shops!