It’s January, here in the Pacific North West. It’s the tail end of a 3 month period of precious little sunlight, and I think it’s getting to me. I wake early, as I always do, full of optimism and ambition, and then I remember. Oh, yeah, the weather.
I hesitate, just for a moment, and then, in a band-aid ripping motion, I snap the blinds open. Just as always lately, it’s another grey, shapeless, sunless day in Victoria.
This morning, I decided to test my thesis about our lack of sunshine. My first comparison was with other cities in Canada. A few key strokes, and I had the verdict:
Aha! Just as I thought. No statistics for Victoria (it’s too small), but Vancouver, just across the Georgia Srait, has the following daylight hours:
177 hours for November, December, and January, preceded by only 2 others in Canada: Iqaluit, Baffin Island, at 80.6, and Whitehorse, in the Yukon, at 110.4
By way of comparison, our sunniest city, Calgary, has at 354 hours of sunlight during winter!
Across the world, here are others:
- Miami. USA, 656.7
- Adelaide, Australia, 893
- Delhi, India, 676.8
Well, it’s the weather, I decide—God’s plan for us. I mope around, I make coffee, I check in on my husband, sleeping soundly.
People with this condition lose steam when the days get shorter and the nights longer. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include loss of pleasure and energy, feelings of worthlessness, inability to concentrate, and uncontrollable urges to eat sugar and high-carbohydrate foods.
Although they fade with the arrival of spring, seasonal affective disorder can leave you overweight, out of shape, and with strained relationships and employment woes.
I’m sure I’ve fallen prey to all or most of these symptoms at one time or another in my long history of living in this country of dreary winters.
Meanwhile, online, I find many suggestions on how to cope:
- exercise outside
- use a lamp, (light box therapy)
- take pills. (antidepressants)
I do exercise outside (a 50-55 minute walk a day)
I already have a lamp, but it doesn’t help
And no, I won’t take pills.
I’m not alone in my feelings about this, as Michael Terman, assures me, writing for Psychology Today:
It is the “turning of the year.” The hours of daylight stop getting fewer and begin to increase. We have reached the bottom of the trough and started on the upward slope. But what about people who suffer from seasonal slowdowns and emotional slumps? That includes the 15% who plod through the winter months in a state of slowness and gloominess that they may just be able to hide from others, as well as the 5% with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, who confront major depressive episodes every winter. Together, they add up to some 60 million Americans.
I’m not part of the 5%, I decide. My responses don’t include a major depressive episode. So, I’ll take another route. There’s a coping method, not mentioned in the material I read, but worthy of note: keeping busy. It was a solution for all sorts of emotional disorders in simpler times. Our parents believed in it—it kept them afloat.
I could get a head start on my spring cleaning, plan my border garden, or maybe resort to preparing my income tax.
And I’ll distract myself with the following:
- enjoy each positive thing, no matter how small
- be grateful for what I have
- share my thoughts with others who feel as I do
Today, the air is warmer. Eventually the sun will emerge, and this misery will end. And in this country, if I remember correctly, when the sun breaks through, suddenly it feels like July!
Meanwhile, there’s this: