Monday, January 19, 2015

Beating Those Gray Winter Days

I don’t know about you, but these gray gloomy days of winter are really kicking my butt.  Sun, please come out!

I, like as many as 20% of Americans, have Seasonal Affective Disorder, with the apt acronym SAD.  It’s winter depression caused by the shorter days and lack of sunlight, and according to the American Academy of Family Physicians affects women four times as often as men.  It can cause fatigue, low energy, weight gain, and other symptoms including not wanting to go out as much as usual. 

So what to do besides power through the inevitable yearly darkening?  I beat back my SAD with light therapy.  There are a number of companies selling special full spectrum bright light boxes, everything from standing ones to table ones, from ones that look like iPads to visors you wear on your head. We are lucky to have the original light box company, Sun Box (sunbox.com), right here in our area, in Gaithersburg, Md.  I’ve got two of their boxes, one a kind of utilitarian tubular thing I use at home when I’m eating breakfast, another a clever one that looks like a regular gooseneck desk lamp for the office. You only have to use a light box for a half hour a day. I know light therapy works because of the difference in the way I feel in September if I forget and haven’t started using the light by then. 

My light boxes met their match when I lived in Tianjin, China more than a decade ago.  It was one of the top three most polluted cities in the world at the time, so even when the sun was out, the days were gray and you couldn’t get any sunlight.  My SAD became entrenched and year-round and ultimately it was part of the reason I came home early from our Tianjin stint.  I know I could never live in a part of the US with more gray days than where I live now in the mid-Atlantic.  (I’d probably do well in the southern states, but I like my four-season climate.) 


Now my Sun Boxes keep my energy level up and my spirits, too, in winter, though I won’t lie to you, it’s still not my favorite season. I also toss back some extra vitamin D in the winter.  If you think you suffer from SAD don’t blow it off or just tough it out; you can get help.  You should see your doctor, and definitely consider light therapy. It can make a significant difference.    

Friday, January 2, 2015

Wild

I went to see a movie at a theater for the first time in about a year over the holidays.  Wild is based on a book by Cheryl Strayed that was launched to fame by attention from Oprah Winfrey.  The movie, pretty faithful to the book, starred Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, a woman walking the Pacific Crest Trail for three months as a road to redemption from some hard living following the death of her mother.

I liked the movie well enough; it was just ok—the same way I felt about the book.  I have to give Strayed credit for her unflinching exposure of some very bad behavior that among other things led to the dissolution of her marriage.  But, well, I didn’t really get what all the fuss was about with the book’s and now the movie’s popularity.


Until, that is, the middle of the night as I tossed and turned myself to sleep, which is when I do some of my best thinking.  The reason Wild resonates with women is that it’s the classic hero’s journey à la  Joseph Campbell.  Though books and tales with men at the center are many, there are really not all that many books about women’s adventuring in the wild or unknown, facing down various foes and adversity, contemplating their lives, and returning home better for the journey.  This is why Eat, Pray, Love was such a hit, again an Oprah phenom. Now I get it, and can appreciate both books more on that level. (Thanks, Oprah, for keeping an eye out for women’s heroic outward and inward journeys for us.)