The Remains of the Day

 

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“Then summer fades and passes and Fall comes.  We’ll smell smoke then, and feel the unexpected sharpness, a thrill of nervousness, swift elation, a sense of sadness and departure.”  –  Thomas Wolfe

I felt like a tortilla a few days ago; you know, flat and doughy.  There’s a realization that summer’s really gone, and that the chilling zaps of winter are on the horizon.

When I wake up now, it’s dark.  While driving to get my coffee, the whole murkinessof the morning is compounded by the cold rain hitting my windshield.  Long gone are the summer showers that can feel so refreshing.  These drops are brooding; they cover everything like oatmeal coming out of the sky.

I’m looking out the window at my regular coffee haunt – Starbucks.  I like the regularity of it as the seasons change in front of me.  Everybody there knows my name – sort of like Norm from Cheers.  I like this easy familiarity; especially the witty banter about the work day about to begin.

I start to read a book, but throw it back in my brief case.  The shortening of our days and sunlight, in my experience, seems to make depression a bit worse.  The dark dank seems to reflect our inner landscape.  I know winter’s coming – sort of like I felt when I knew the Bar Exam was coming.  Emily Dickinson captures the sense of the melancholic days of winter:

“There’s a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons – That oppresses, like the weight – Of cathedral tunes.  Heavenly hurt, it gives us; we can find no scar – But internal difference – Where the meanings are.”

For those of you who don’t know – but I’m sure most of you do – science has chimed in and concluded that the lack of sunshine makes some of us feel pretty crummy.  It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (“SAD”).  The reduced level of sunlight seems to cause a disruption in our biological clock which let’s you know when you should sleep or be awake.  It also can lower the levels of serotonin (a known culprit in depression) and melotonin which affects our sleep patterns.  Click here to see a list of symptoms compiled by The Mayo Clinic to see if you suffer from SAD. 

According to expert, Norman Rosenthal, author of the book, Winter Blues, there’s an estimated fourteen million Americans who suffer from SAD and another fourteen percent of the adult U.S. population estimated to suffer from the winter blues.  Dr. Rosenthal states: “Though these people are not usually affected severely enough to seek medical attention they nevertheless feel less cheerful, energetic, creative, and productive during the dark winter days than at other times of the year.”

The Mayo Clinic lists a number of remedies to treat SAD including medication, lifestyle and home remedies and alternative medicine.  Things that I’ve felt helpful are as follows:

The first is the purchase and use of a bright light.  It’s a box that throws off a high concentration of light.  You sit in front of it for thirty minutes to a hour and let these simulated sun rays soak into your brain.  For more information about how these devices work and places to buy them, check out the companies Sun Box, Inc. and Full Spectrum Solutions, Inc.

Second, I’ve found that it’s very important to schedule my vacations in the winter.  My family and I go to sunny locales and bask in the sun like tortoises.

Third, get warm anyway you can.  I do this in two ways.  I make regular trips to the sauna at my gym. There’s nothing like sitting around with a bunch of naked guys that you don’t know –some of them are pretty hairy – to work up a rejuvenating sweat. The only thing missing are feathered head dresses and peyote.  This can also be accomplished with using the old hot tub.  I also change to a “warming diet” when the cold winds blow.  Click here to check out a series of great articles (just click again on the “Healthy Tips” button located on left side tool bar) from Dr Elson Hass, author of the best-selling book, Staying Healthy with the Seasons.

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2 thoughts on “The Remains of the Day

  1. You know, fall can give me the blues, but not for the same reason.

    I love the fall, and I love the winter too, but sort for a primitive reason. When I was young I always managed to get out in the country all fall and winter long. Now, the snow comes down, as it is today, and I’m stuck here in my office.

    Today I am indeed having one of those days. I have far too much work to do. I have some really horrific problems I must handle today. And next week I’ll be traveling on the highways, in potentially bad weather, which I absolutely hate.

    How on earth did we create such a horrific modern environment? How did we go from a rural people and a rural nation to an urban one, with these terrible indoor jobs, which make us so disconnected from nature?

    Well, clearly I need to do something to get out of the blahs today.

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