Cabin Fever

Illustration by Sam Rhoden Illustration by Sam Rhoden

DCP writers’ confessions on Seasonal Affective Disorder

Sweaty palms, dizziness, heart beating out of my chest, nausea, but yet I’m shivering. I need to run, get away, get away from wherever I am. I need to walk, feel the cool air on my face, tell myself everything is going to be OK and hope this passes soon.

For me, these symptoms often come out of nowhere. I will be out with my friends, at home watching Mary Tyler Moore, or studying for an exam in the library, and BAM all at once, a rush of energy and tingling pulses through my body. Instant panic fills my mind and I feel like I can’t control it.

What I described is an anxiety attack, and it’s something that I am not alone in experiencing. Everyone has anxiety and worry. That is something no one can escape. It’s life. But when it comes out of nowhere and you feel like you may pass out or stop breathing, it becomes more of an issue than your normal anxiety. It can even become bigger than you.

My anxiety attacks are always the strongest around early November, when the weather gets cold and the time changes. Many people feel a bit low in the winter, when there is lack of sunshine and it isn’t so easy to take a walk or ride a bike. But for some, winter causes much more than just feeling down and having low energy.

For years, I have been battling anxiety and anxiety attacks. They come and go in the spring and summer, but when the cold hits, they hit. I have realized this throughout my life and try every year to prepare myself, still some winters are worse than others. In my opinion, the best thing I can do through these times is to recognize this and learn from it with each and every attack I have.

You would think that by now I would be an expert at how to get rid of them, but getting rid of them is not the solution; dealing with them is, and there have been many things about winter that I have grown to love. These are the things I hold onto when the weather is not so forgiving.

For instance, enjoying a hot cup of tea at night isn’t as appreciated in the summer as it is in the winter. Neither are cozy blankets and slippers. Every year, I make sure I am stocked with tomato soup, fleece blankets and plenty of herbal tea. Most people tend to stay inside during the colder weather, but I find that fresh air does a body good, no matter what the temperature. Take a short walk during the day, especially if the sun is out. Walks have always helped me clear my mind and breath deeply. Do your body another favor and break a good sweat. Go to the gym and get energized with some cardio. You may be surprised how energized you feel after. And always, always keep busy. Don’t concentrate on the weather and how you may feel down.

Now, I am far from a doctor, but I am someone who has a lot of experience. I don’t know if I will ever live my life fully without anxiety, but I do know that I can and will be able to handle it. Besides, for every bad day, there are two good days.

Reach DCP freelance writer Emily Kaiser at


Working for a park district, I get to spend a lot of time outdoors, which can be a little depressing when it turns gray and cold. I beat my winter blues by checking out some of the warmer indoor park spaces, such as the Nature Center at Germantown MetroPark and the PNC 2nd Street Market. But I still take time for a winter hike or a visit to MetroParks Ice Rink at RiverScape MetroPark!

– Reach Val Beerbower at


S.A.D., as in Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka Seasonal Depression, is something most of us can suffer from regardless the season. Winter, however, seems to get the most votes as the season of choice. Why’s that?  Duh! Finnish composer Jean Sibelius suffered from S.A.D. and seriously considered suicide. Didn’t happen, although he stopped composing for the last 25 years of his life, which – by the way – ended at age 91! So, how bad can S.A.D. be? The cure seems to be time: wait long enough, and it will go away. My advice? Get over it. How? Florida’s always worked for me …

– Reach Joe Aiello at


One of my extra rooms has a big window that lets all the sunshine in during the day. The room, which my husband and I have named “California,” gets nice and toasty by noon, so we lay in the spare bed and pretend we are in California for at least a few minutes every winter weekend. Even pretending I’m in California, where I grew up, really helps me get through the long Ohio winter!

–Reach Rana Odeh at


Never been a victim of S.A.D., and I think I know why. The elementsthat negatively affect people in winter months all work to my advantage. Cold and dark suit me. The frizz component to my hair goes into hibernation. Mulled wine, spiced cider and hot toddies start to show up on every menu that I care about. The wolf spider population is down and the number of day-drinkers in the bar I work at is up. I get to break out my cute coat and my cute gloves and my cute scarf and my cute boots. And there’s cuddling. Cuddling is much more fun in January than in June.

– Reach Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin at


Few things piss me off more than being in a foul mood and the weather not matching it, so winter is my favorite season. I enjoy dressing in layers and wearing coats, scarves, mittens and boots. Sunny days are boring and too many in a row depress me, but I still get excited like a child when I peek out the window in the morning and see fresh snow. So curl up in a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate – or whiskey, or wine – and enjoy this respite from thighs sticking to chairs and awkward cleavage sweat.

– Reach Natasha Habib at


All one needs to beat the “winter blues” is a bottle of claret, a cheerful hooker and a tuba. Instant springtime in Paris.

-Reach Benjamin Smith at


I have discovered that it is absolutely impossible to suffer from S.A.D. when my head cannot see those unendingly dreary grey days that underlie this condition from deep inside an Esther Price two-pound box of dark chocolate pecan caramels and peanut butter creams! Unless, and until, they install a mirror on the lid of those candies, I am firmly committed to this pragmatic practice as a deliriously delightful way to banish the blues during our long Dayton winters. What could be better than the immunity-boosting power of dark chocolate combined with unfettered gluttony? Welcome, winter!

– Reach Marianne Stanley at


It might be cold, and the days might be short, but my favorite cure for seasonal affective disorder is embracing the season. I still try to get out for a hike – the trees are bare, but there is still a lot to see in the woods. And the best part of being outside is coming back inside for a big bowl of chili or hearty soup. It’s great to finish the evening by putting on my favorite album, settling into a comfortable chair under a warm blanket and sipping away at a favorite barleywine, porter or stout.

-Reach Kevin J. Gray at


During winter, there are really only two things that can comfort me: music and food. As far as music, I don’t really know why but I always catch myself listening to more Sonic Youth in those cold, dark days than I do any other time of the year. Check out EVOL, Sister or Daydream Nation to cure those winter blues, or at least feel a little bit better about them. When it comes to food, nothing is more soothing than a warm cup of soup. Obvious choice, but there’s something about them bowls of chicken noodle and broccoli cheddar that just hit the spot. Vegetable beef sometimes, but not always. And chili. Chili for sure. Yummm.

-Reach Zach Rogers at


Let me tell you how I wash away those cold, dark, blustery blues … it’s easy my friends, it’s quite simply the booze. For the summer a Pale Ale may brighten your day, but dark beers and big wines chase my chills away. Porters and Stouts, Cabernet and Syrah, the bigger the better, high ABVs, huzzah! So perhaps I come off as a bit of a boozer, but I assure you that this cure doesn’t make you a loser. Instead find some friends and remember these rhymes, and proceed to responsibly raise your glass to good times.

-Reach Tom Baker at


Daylight savings time has wreaked havoc upon us once again. Sunshine is limited and the cold winds and rain are upon the horizon. So how do I cope with this yearly phenomenon? Hot herbal tea and listening to lots of metal. Nothing warms my cold, grim, frostbitten heart like new tuneage by the likes of Behexen, Krallice, The Secret, Dragged Into Sunlight, Mutilation Rites and so many others. I also get a lot of help from Italian Wedding soup and generous helpings of red wine and Maker’s Mark. Cuddles are also welcomed, though I know spooning with just anyone isn’t always comfortable. But hey, it’s the thought that counts, right???

– Reach Gary Spencer at


While unqualified to give medical advice, I will say that substantial doses (high individual units) of Vitamin D and light therapy are simple, effective methods for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) As always, exercise, a balanced diet and good community lend themselves to wellness. Personally, as a Daytonian, I like to draw inspiration from my surroundings – the landscape, weather patterns, particular buildings, etc. The thought that phenomenal historical figures (The Wright Brothers, Erma Bombeck, Paul Laurence Dunbar, etc.) drew inspiration from this same locale consistently fills me with enthusiasm.

 -Reach Leo DeLuca at LeoDeLuca


As a film critic, I should be used to spending time in the dark – and after logging in multiple five-movie days at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, I know I’ve got what it takes – but that’s nothing compared to the silent call of the winter months to stay indoors under tons of blankets with my special someone. My wife and I fight the urge to hibernate by making sure that we plan as many activities outside the house as possible. And we don’t schedule home pit stops in-between because once we’re home, we end up staying home for good. Stay away from the home front, my children!

-Reach T.T. Stern-Enzi at



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