Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Depressing Holiday Winter Blues -- SAD, Heart Attacks, Stress, and Viewpoint

I read a lot of news, perhaps too much. Perhaps that's why I've been a little depressed lately, to the extent that not even the "Today's Comedy" channel on Pandora, or Thirty Rock can sufficiently pull me up from its wintry depths. Or...maybe it's just the season. That wonderful holiday season. Make no mistake. I do think it is a wonderful season. When else can you binge on tv viewings of Charlie Brown and the sound of Vince Guaraldi's wonderful Peanuts music bouncing off the walls?

But...think about it: a time when everyone can feel good simply because it is fully accepted and socially promoted time for everyone to feel good. No pressure there, right? Or maybe its just something else.

Today, I read in one of my daily news sources (McPaper, affectionately known as USA Today) two related articles. The first was titled "Winter got you feelin' blue?".

Apparently, 15 percent of Americans experience, to some level, seasonal affective disorder, a.k.a. SAD. Symptoms include: weight gain (this, in itself, could be causal); irritability; depression (over all the weight that's been gained from holiday eating), and hopelessness.

I'm not making light of SAD, of course. It's just interesting to note that the holidays blues are experienced by a significant percentage of the population. And added to the physical factors involved, such as cold and lower levels of natural light, we have our wonderful economic outlook to help brighten the day when we're not entirely sure if we're seasonally depressed or not.

The second article was titled "Winter Holidays are peak time for Heart Attacks". Many factors are implicated for the spike in myocardial infarctions. However, the article's last note focuses on stress.

The stoics of Rome (this will sound tangential, but it's really not) believed that to change one's reality, one should only change one's viewpoint or attitude.

Obviously, of course, I can't will myself into the ranks of the wealthy, or otherwise alter reality simply by imagining it. But there's no reason why we can't make more of a determined effort to keep the "feeling good" gauge up (I won't call it the happiness gaugue--what is "happiness" after, aside from half a bourbon pecan pie and the 1800 calories that go with it) and the "feeling bad" gauge down. Here's a short list of tips that may assist:

1. Get out of the house. If you work from home, this is particularly important and you should try to shower and get into real clothes sometime before noon, especially with dusk approaching much sooner than at other times of the year. If you work out of the home, still, try to get out of the house now and then. See a movie, do an activity. And do it with people. Depending on your life's circumstances, this may involve a spouse, children, in-laws, a neighbor (less likely in today's times), or a friend.

2. See friends more often. This would seem to be a rehash of point number one, but it should be iterated that time is the one thing that you don't get enough of. And time spent with other people is time well spent. Passing up a dinner or event with friends in favor of working late may seem like the right thing to do, but the tradeoff is bigger than you might know, and will become, like good or bad investments, more apparent over the years.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff. This is a catch all for item three, particularly since I am tired of writing. But, seriously, put on "Don't worry, be happy" and follow the advice in those lyrics. Life is short, and worrying, and the stress that comes with it, is always something that can be deferred.

Note: forgot to mention that, perhaps, you can change your reality by simply thinking about it, but the process involves interaction with the world and denies disengagement. Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment, usually described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935

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