A season of disorder


Whatever we call it, the winter blues affect almost all of us. Lack of light, lack of exercise, too much holiday food, and too many holiday bills are reasons for our seasonal disaffection, as the doctors call it. Not to forget colds and flus, sore throats and runny noses, slippery and sloppy streets, sidewalks to shovel, and plain old stress, we all suffer to varying degrees, and we had best not ignore the affliction. Whether it's severe or mild, it's there.

Yes, this is also the season of slowly increasing light levels; it is the season of skiing and skating, snowmobiling and snowshoeing, hockey, ice fishing, and snowballs. We all know we should be out there getting our exercise and our light, and we also all know the hassles of getting out and going in the great outdoors. Especially with young kids. Getting out is one of the best ways to fight the blahs, and to keep fighting them until March shows signs of spring on the way. Getting off to a beach in Cuba works, too.

Nevertheless, it is important that we remain aware of the fact that we are all suffering this season disorder. Why? Look around. Notice a little crabbiness at home, at work, at school, out on the road? Seasonal disorder can affect our spouses, partners, kids, co-workers, and our employers, and if we're not sensitive to it, we can't help these important people in our lives. We can also become targets for their frustration and moodiness. We can make statements or even decisions we later regret.

Most of all, if we are not sensitive to it, we can fail to notice it where it counts most -- in ourselves.

The symptoms vary with the individual, vary with the time of day, and with the season. Versions of depression are sure signs, but so are the lesser traits of crabbiness, withdrawal, disinterest in communication, over-eating, over-drinking, smoking, and all sorts of compulsive behaviours--or the opposite, a lack of interest in most things. These things translate into squabbles at home and at work, flare-ups, and a good deal of sulking and skulking. Knowing the source is critical.

Knowing a few responses is critical, too.

Understanding and empathy, these are the keys in dealing with our friends and loved ones. A little realism in face of our own low-grade suffering is also required. Depression makes everything look dark, including any understanding of the situation or attempt to deal with it. Taking our momentary feelings and reactions with a few grains of salt is a wise response, much better than taking them with a few too many drinks. Easy to say, difficult to do.

Long nights and cold days take their toll. Remember that.

Fred Ryan is publisher of Quebec's Aylmer Bulletin, West Quebec Post, and the Pontiac Journal. He is also a director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

Copyright © 2003 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/01.03