Cooped up

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  • Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun via AP Snowshoers climb a hill on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Wash., on Jan. 22. Snowshoeing is a great winter activity to stave off cabin fever.

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    Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant via AP Larry Habermehl shovels his driveway on King Street in Enfield, Conn., on Feb. 9. Those who are physically fit are able to gain some health benefits from shoveling and maintaining their property during winter months.

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    Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily via AP Dave Lopez and Hilda Leyva of Denver, Colo., snowshoe in McCoy Park on Jan. 19 in Beaver Creek, Colo.

  • Tristan Baurick/Kitsap Sun via AP Snowshoers climb a hill on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Wash., on Jan. 22. Snowshoeing is a great winter activity to stave off cabin fever.

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    Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant via AP Larry Habermehl shovels his driveway on King Street in Enfield, Conn., on Feb. 9. Those who are physically fit are able to gain some health benefits from shoveling and maintaining their property during winter months.

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    Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily via AP Dave Lopez and Hilda Leyva of Denver, Colo., snowshoe in McCoy Park on Jan. 19 in Beaver Creek, Colo.

By JERRY HITCHCOCK

Staff Writer

Anyone who spends a great deal of time outdoors during the glorious North Idaho summers can have a hard time dealing with a prolonged and severe winter season.

Many just remain at home and hope for an early spring, like we have had the last two years.

Unfortunately, it was our turn for a hearty helping of snow, ice, low temperatures and slick road surfaces these last couple of months.

It’s all too much for many, who just can’t see the sense in heading out the door when it’s oh-so-comfy by the fire (or in from of that 60-inch high definition TV).

But there comes a time when the juices of activity boil to the surface, and the urge to break free and get outside becomes all-consuming. And the name describing this phenomenon harkens back to the log-home and trapper days.

Cabin fever.

I decided to utilize Merriam Webster for a solid definition of cabin fever. Here’s what they offer: “Cabin fever is extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time.”

Some of the people I know have all the symptoms of cabin fever. Others, who have basically remained indoors all winter long, are past the extreme irritability and restlessness stage and have entered the realm of mania, literally bouncing off the walls as the snow melts, the rains come down and their dwelling has morphed from home to prison.

While cabin fever in itself is not a recognized medical condition, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) does have that designation.

SAD is defined as a depression that occurs during the same season each year. A person might develop SAD if they become depressed during consecutive winters, but consistently felt better during the spring and summer seasons — although there are occasions a person may have SAD during the summer months.

There are ways around SAD (and cabin fever). Aside from moving south to somewhere with lots of warm sunshine, the best way to combat the winter lull begins with diet.

Making sure you consume plenty of lean protein with Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins B12 and D will get you on your way to an improved mood and consistent emotions.

Secondly, taking up an indoor hobby will take your mind off what’s happening (or not happening) outside.

The range of indoor hobbies runs the gamut, and really boils down to your budget as well as your interests. Drawing, painting and other craft-type activities have the added effect of easing the restlessness, increasing relaxation and aiding in better sleeping cycles.

Another big factor in winter-at-home-happiness is exercise. Keeping yourself busy and burning calories is not only physically healthy, but also mentally healthy. And once again, a regular routine will have you enjoying many nights of blissful winter slumber.

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Research has shown that those who venture outside on a repetitive schedule are more healthy than the winter shut-ins as a whole. They are receiving more natural vitamin D, their bodies are building up immunity to the colder weather and their circulation improves greatly, even if they are staying inside on those very chilly and windy days.

Outerwear these days will combat most of winter’s bite for you. Just be sure not to over-layer, to the point you’re actually sweating inside your clothing, which leads to a chilly core quite quickly.

There are fewer and fewer reasons these days to be susceptible to cabin fever. In addition to downhill and cross-country skiing, there’s snowboarding to give you a variety of ways to get around our plentiful mountains.

Snowshoeing also provides a good way to get out and make your way through the snowpack. If you’ve never tried it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to get used to having contraptions attached to your feet. Most modern-day snowshoes do a great job of allowing you not only a great workout, but the ability to view the wonders of winter nature scenes at your own pace. We are blessed with many days each season with favorable temperates and no wind, which helps the enjoyment factor tenfold.

While fatbikes (essentially mountain bikes with wider, baloon-like tires) have exploded in popularity for use during the winter months, many cyclists are using these new machines as their sole mode of exercise all yearlong. The high-volume, low-air-pressure tires provide a smooth, easy ride, with the ability to traverse almost all obstacles with a minimum of impact to your momentum.

I guess the best news of all is spring (you know, those days of sun and a light coat) is almost upon us. But now at least you have some insight on what to do late next fall when North Idaho transforms once again into a winter wonderland.

Pretty soon you’ll be enjoying all the seasons equally, and you might even save some money on that energy bill, with that 60-inch TV seeing much less use.

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Jerry Hitchcock can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2017, via email at jhitchcock@cdapress.com, or follow him on Twitter at HitchTheWriter.

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