It’s fucking freezing outside. I don’t like it. Most people don’t. I don’t know anyone who has thought to themselves, hey, I want to live and a really, really cold climate and freeze my ass off for 6 months of the year. Most people tolerate it because of their life circumstances. For me, the cold winters in Toronto drive my anxiety into overdrive. I suffer from SAD, and it exacerbates my anxiety.
I was never a big fan of winter, but it progressively got worse around the time one of my dogs died while walking through a park on a cold day in February. I was alone with my two dogs, it was a cloudy day. It also happened to be the day of the 10th year since my father’s death. My Siberian Husky began to lag behind on the walk. I noticed he was panting pretty hard. Within seconds he wobbled on all fours and hit the ground. He had stopped breathing. I can only assume he had a heart attack. He was only seven years old. I had no idea what to do, and I was alone in the park with my other dog. I actually dialed 911. They told me they couldn’t help. My panic went into overdrive as I ran my other dog back to the house. I couldn’t reach my husband at the time. I was at a loss as to how I was going to carry my 60 pound dead dog out of the park and up to my car. I spotted another dog walker heading into the park, and he was incredibly kind enough to help me carry the my baby up the hill and put him into the back seat of the car. I still had no idea what to do. This was the first time a dog had died on me. I waited for my husband to return, and then shared the news. He and his father took him to the vet to arrange to have him cremated. I still have no idea what happened. I do know that I couldn’t get out of bed for four days after that. I took extra doses of Xanax and slept and cried for those days. I was beating myself up for not knowing what to do, and I was afraid to leave the house for fear it might happen again with my other dog. I was never able to do that full walk again, instead I stayed close to the house so that if anything happened I was close enough to get help. And there was the start of a pattern that I continue to follow.
When the weather changes, so does my anxiety level. During the spring, summer and fall I love to take my dogs on long walks. I love to spend time outdoors in the sun getting fresh air. As soon as the winter hits, I can barely get the dogs around the small block I live on. We do a different kind of walk that takes me back and forth past my house. I am afraid. I’ve never been able to beat that fear. It simply amazes me that I can go to the airport and board a plane for a completely different country, yet I can’t go 500 feet from my house during the winter without the fight or flight kicking in.
I’ve had a tough few weeks with three panic attacks. The first three I’ve had in a long time. I’m attributing them to the fact that winter has set in, and I’m battling the SAD to some degree. Also to the business of the holiday season taking me off my normal routine. The end of this week marks the end of the holiday season, and I’ll have the opportunity to get back onto a normal schedule. I’ll also be utilizing my sun light in the mornings to combat the sadness. And most importantly, I’ll be back to the usual exercise routine. I know that I go through phases where anxiety is much more prevalent, and I know that it will ebb and flow as it usually does, and so I will not allow it to control my days these next few months.
Tip #4 – If you have any of the symptoms of SAD – lack of energy, weakened immune system, reduced libido, lack of concentration, over eating and weight gain, alcohol or drug abuse, panic attacks, feeling worried, sleeping issues, and irritability you may want to add some Vitamin D to your water, tea or juice in the morning. I also find that the sun light (Verilux Vitamin D lamp) used in the first hour when I wake up helps. And again, getting some exercise so that you get a better night’s sleep is always helpful.