Fight off winter blues with activity

Posted: Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Alas. Winter is here.

Although long, cold snowy nights are an inevitability of life in Alaska, it still requires some effort and thought to avoid becoming a big ball of depression and bad feelings. Since Alaskans are a hearty and resourceful lot, this isn't hard to do. But some guidelines are still in order.

Here are some dos and don'ts that can help abate the snowed-in, winter blues:

Do get involved in community activities. There is a wealth of opportunities on the Kenai Peninsula that can either enhance the community or help people improve themselves, from volunteering for the Red Cross to taking classes at the Soldotna Community School or participating in community theater, there is enough to do to keep one active.

Don't drink too much alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, and could send a person with a troubled mental attitude into a tailspin of misery. If one must drink, keep it in moderation, and do so in the company of friends and in an atmosphere that fosters cheerful spirits.

Do make plans to travel. Whether it's a jet-set escape to warmer climes or just a quick jaunt in the car to a different part of the state, a change of scenery keeps the mind fresh and can open the door to fond memories. If flying away to tropical destinations is an option, by all means, take advantage of the opportunity. Just be aware that friends and colleagues might be jealous. If a trip outside isn't possible, pull out the state map and pick a new place to go and discover. Alaska's diverse climate offers even more adventure when there's snow on the ground.

 

Clarion file photo

Cross country skiers will find tracks and trails behind Skyview High School, at the Kenai Golf Course and at the Kenai National Refuge headquarters.

Clarion File Photo

Don't overeat. This will only lead to more bad feelings when New Year's Day comes around and people are swearing off food for resolutions and trying to lose those pounds gained from sitting around the house in fleece inactive wear and gorging on high-calorie treats. Cooking can be cathartic, so grab a cookbook and do it. But look for the healthy recipes and invite friends over to share in the tasty dishes that result.

Do get out of the house and do things that require some physical activity. Go cross-country skiing, or learn to ice skate. Travel to Girdwood or Homer for some downhill skiing. Snowshoeing or snowmachining are ways to keep those muscles that were going all summer from atrophying during the cold months.

Take a walk on the beach or through one of the trails at the Kenai National Wildlife Preserve. With the right equipment, one can even ride a bike on winter roads. If going out in the cold isn't favorable, join a fitness center and take exercise classes, or swim laps at one of the many pools in the area that offer lap swimming. Take martial arts or yoga lessons. There are many classes offered that can give the body something to do to remain vital and strong for next summer's activities.

Don't become a couch potato. There's nothing wrong with watching a little TV every once and a while. The West Wing and E.R. are among the great prime time programming available on the boob tube, but this should not be the highlight of any Alaska winter. Exercise the mind -- check out a book from the Kenai or Soldotna libraries and massage the mental with some well-placed words. Try writing a poem. Invite friends over to share thoughts, ideas, opinions and just good fun. Rent movies and watch them with friends and talk about what was so great or not so great about the movie. Play board games -- chess, Parcheesi, Backgammon, Scrabble, dominoes, gin rummy, whatever. Just do something, and don't do it alone.

Do seek professional help if you feel you cannot cope with the winter blues. Central Peninsula Counseling Services and private therapists will be happy to help maintain a positive mood. For those affected by winter depression, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, light-box therapy is a proven treatment.

Don't give up hope. Don't count the days until spring or just lock up in the house and shut down until warmer weather arrives. Living though an Alaska winter isn't for the weak of heart, but it also isn't something that has to be hard. Different people require different things to make them happy and to keep them happy and healthy. With the right attitude and the right combination of activity and mental stimulation, anybody can make it through the seemingly endless months of cold and darkness.



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