Arwen Ek, Nederland. I recently asked some of the local, holistic practitioners in our area to weigh in on the phenomenon of Cabin Fever, Winter Blues, and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Aiyanah of Intuitive Evolution, in Black Hawk, has first-hand experience with SAD: “Cabin Fever is definitely a real phenomenon. I feel it creep in every January after the hustle of the holidays, and up here it seems to last until May! What always serves me best in returning to homeostasis is spending time outdoors. Luckily, in Colorado we have many ways to enjoy the great outdoors in the winter. Skiing, snowshoeing or even just an easy hike to get the blood moving and maintain warmth. My favorite is most definitely a trip to one of the many hot springs accessible to us. Sitting outside in the warm water and the sunshine always cleanses my spirit and refreshes my mind. If getting outside is too difficult, even sitting near a window where the sun shines in helps to boost one’s mood. I believe a huge part of cabin fever comes from isolation and a lack of grounding, so get outside and bring some friends!”
Loran Smith, Shamanic Reiki practitioner and master teacher, sees SAD as a disease that affects our whole being. “By any name, the winter doldrums are a prime example of a dis-‘ease’ that truly affects the body, mind, and spirit.” He shared, “While it is certainly important to address the body’s physical needs, such as spending time outdoors, increasing exposure to the sun, and consuming a healthy diet, it is also important to address the mental, emotional, and even spiritual side of the ailment.” These subtler aspects of SAD are directly addressed with energetic treatments such as reiki. “Practitioners in the energy healing modalities are trained to assist the client in reaching a more balanced state of being, thus removing any obstacles that might not be obvious by mere physical symptoms…A Reiki treatment is a gentle, non-invasive experience of healing that results in a feeling of warmth, deep relaxation, and a sense of peacefulness. It helps reduce stress, promotes balance, harmony and healing, and can also help reduce/relieve pain. For someone suffering from seasonal disorders, any one of those results would come as welcome relief.”
Did our ancestors get SAD? Surely there are historical accounts of cabin fever and profound psychological imbalance that results from living in dark and cold climates. However, the extent to which SAD exists in our society is a recent phenomenon. Kate Miller, of Alpine Botanicals (opening soon in downtown Nederland) and Dynamic Roots, points to how our culture ignores the changing seasonal rhythms, and how this affects our physiology: “We live in a society where ‘slowing down’ is not encouraged and may even be looked down upon. In winter, the earthly forces take an inhale and there is a palpable curling in of life around us. In ancient times, this was when people would build fires, tell their stories, sleep more, and connect with each other. More fats and oils were consumed to stay warm and energized, more root vegetables, and especially more fermented foods were consumed, and we now understand the complex relationships between a healthy gut micro-biome and healthy neurotransmitter production. My belief is that we should try as much as possible to embrace the slowing down, and attempt to live more intentionally with our energy in the colder months, when energy may be more scarce. This doesn’t mean stop living or doing, but if you’re feeling burnt out, that is a clue from your gut and mind that you need to invest in some self-care strategies. Everyone needs support on this!”
“Physiologically, winter time depression is caused by a combination of reduced production of vitamin D, due to our reduced exposure to sunlight, less time spent outside, and a slowing down of metabolism, all resulting in a real impact on associated nutrients affecting the nervous and immune system. For this, vitamin D supplementation may be truly necessary and working with diet, lifestyle, and herbs can help a lot…I recommended at least 5000 IU of vitamin D3 from October through March, and for some, year round supplementation may be necessary.”
“My favorite herbal remedies are calming and adaptive medicines that help us embrace the slowing down while maintaining a cheerful mind. Holy Basil Tulsi, Lemonbalm, Spearmint, fresh tips from the Douglas Fir trees that grow around us, and rose buds are some favorites.”
Finding out whether your Vitamin D levels are too low can be as easy as a trip to Dr. Camarata, where he will take a blood draw to check out the vitamin and mineral levels in your body.
Madison Cheshire, local midwife, sees a link between Seasonal Affective Disorder and Postpartum Depression: “In my practice I work with people who are pregnant, giving birth, or postpartum. Depression most commonly occurs in the first few weeks postpartum (Postpartum Depression or PPD). Depression, in my experience, is a stagnation of energy that requires direct engagement of the affected person and their loved ones, and follows the Wise Woman Steps to Healing by Susan Weed (least invasive treatment first). When someone in my care does have PPD in any form we begin a regimen that includes: getting out of the house every day; engaging in self care, i.e. 5 minutes each day of deep breathing, a shower or bath, anointing oneself with lotion or oil, and a favorite healthy meal; using essential oils of peppermint, lavender, and citrus; and taking supplements that help with mood wellness such as B Vitamins, Vitamin D, St. Johns Wort Tincture, and Passionflower tincture.”
The most important thing is to recognize the signs of Cabin Fever – anxiety, restlessness, depression, feeling in a funk, decreased productivity, agitation – and to forgive yourself. Realizing that cabin fever is your body’s response to decreased levels of Vitamin D, a slower metabolism and lower levels of certain hormones can help you embrace cabin fever as a fact of mountain living. The next step is to apply these remedies, and to seek support!
If you are interested in learning more about how holistic medicine can help you cope with the next few months of winter (yup, we’re just about half-way through), reach out to these local healers for their expert care:
Aiyanah, Intuitive Evolution, IntuitiveEvolutionNow@gmail.com
Kate Miller, Alpine Botanicals and Dynamic Roots, email@example.com
Loran Smith, Eagles Gift Reiki, firstname.lastname@example.org (603) 883 – 3037
Madison Cheshire, Wildflower Wise, email@example.com (303) 669 – 4314