How to

Fighting the Winter Blues

Green summer leaves are now burnt orange, covering the ground. Temperatures are dropping and people are pulling boots and coats out from the back of the closet. For some, excitement is building as they wax their skis and await the day chairlifts creep to life.

For others however, the change to winter can trigger depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects 10 to 20 percent of the population each year. SAD is a type of depression that follows the change in seasons, and the most common form of SAD begins in the winter and ends in the spring. This disorder can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms are so broad. Some call it the “winter blues,” but it’s much more than that.

SAD saps your energy, disrupts your sleep cycle, and makes you crave food, causing overeating and weight gain. Activities you once loved become chores, and you feel grumpy more frequently. It’s easy to dismiss at the start as just having a bad week or month. As the months stretch on, though, it’s important to recognize SAD as the problem it is and get help. SAD can significantly decrease your quality of life during the winter, and it affects your ability to function at a normal level.

University students can be susceptible to seasonal affective disorder because they’re already under a lot of stress dealing with November midterms, finals in December, and the start of a new semester in January.

Jarom Norris, a senior in entertainment arts and engineering and member of U Student Media, first felt the affects of SAD as a freshman. He struggled to attend classes as the weather became colder and the days grew darker. Norris recognized a drop in energy and a lack of motivation. He felt less creative, more unorganized, and all around stressed. He dropped out of an early morning physics class as he struggled to handle his class load and the depression that winter brought on.

At the time, Norris didn’t recognize what he was feeling as SAD, but year after year he saw the pattern. “It starts whenever it begins to get cloudier and tends to peak in January-February,” he says. “If we have a sunny winter, then I won’t feel it as much, but if it’s cloudy for a whole month then that feels bad. Once the green plants and the sunlight starts to come back in the spring those things begin to energize me.”

Now that he recognizes his seasonal affective disorder, he’s found ways to fight it. “I’m pretty extroverted, so being around people who like me always helps. And looking at the positives when I can — sometimes the depression that the clouds bring can be overruled if I stop to appreciate how pretty the falling snow is.”

Experts say the best way to fight SAD is to take advantage of sunny days. Get out into the light and take a nice hike or walk with a friend. For days when you’re stuck inside, sitting under a UV light can help. Exercise and taking vitamin D supplements is also beneficial.

With Utah’s snowy peaks, the best remedy to SAD is a powder day and a pair of skis. You can also hike up Diamond Fork Canyon and relax in the beautiful Fifth Water hot springs. Rent snowshoes from the U’s Outdoor Adventures and head to Big Cottonwood to trek Spruces or Guardsman Pass. Tell your close friends and family what you’re experiencing and avoid self-deprecating thoughts. If this doesn’t work, seek professional help. The one upside to suffering from SAD is that you can say for sure “this too shall pass.” Once the spring flowers bloom and the birds fly back home you can give yourself a big hug and a pat on the back, because you’ve made it through.

e.aboussou@dailyutahchronicle.com

Photo by Esther Aboussou

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How to: Survive a Winter Adventure

November is here and the cold of winter is right on its heels. For adventurers brave enough to take on the snow and ice, here are some tips to enjoy winter camping.

  1. Before you head on your tip,  tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. If you’re planning on camping at a primitive site, bring a friend with you. You never know what could happen and getting caught in a winter storm by yourself is not ideal.
  2. If you’re in a national or state park and you’re planning on going on a hike, check in at the visitor’s center and tell a park ranger where you’re going. When you’ve finished your hike, stop back in and let them know that you’re heading back to your campsite. If you end up getting lost or stranded on top of a mountain, keeping people informed of your location makes a big difference.
  3. Layer, layer, layer. Wearing the proper clothes is extremely important when spending time outdoors in the winter. Start out with a lightweight layer of clothes, choosing fabrics that are good at wicking away moisture. Next is insulation. Pile fleece sweaters and down jackets and top with a waterproof shell for both top and bottom.  Make sure you’ve got a second pair of socks to wear that will keep your toes frostbite free.

 

e.aboussou@dailyutahchronicle.com

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How to: Pack a backpack

It seems like an easy task — I mean, you’ve been loading up your pack and trudging off to school every day since you were four. But, stuffing your life on your back and carrying it across deserts or up mountains requires a special finesse. After basically backpacking on campus (packing three outfits, three pairs of shoes and meals for the whole day counts, right?), Wasatch editor, Carolyn Webber, shares her learned secrets of stuffing the perfect pack.

First of all, you need the right size of backpack. A too-big pack sinks below your waist and rubs, causing blisters. Too tight, and it can restrict breathing. The pack should feel snug around your natural waist, and sit on your shoulders comfortably. Adjusting straps, like the load lifter straps that connect the top of the pack to the shoulder straps, can make your pack feel like it was made to fit your body, so play around with them before purchasing. The size of the pack depends on the length of the trip. A weekend trip requires up to 50 liters while longer trips need 50-70 liters.

Now that you’ve chosen your companion for the next few days, lay out all the necessities and work up from heaviest to lightest. Start by slipping your full bladder — if you are using one — into its sleeve. If you forget, you’ll have to unpack and re-load. Sleeping bags are probably one of your heaviest items, so put it toward the bottom of your pack to create a base layer. Next, slip in medium weight items such as food and cookware. If you’re worried about fuel leaking, you can place it below your sleeping bag to avoid a total disaster.

Make sure you are utilizing every inch of space, including corners. Socks and clothes, which should be rolled and not folded, can mold into awkward-sized gaps. Check for balance by picking up the pack once the body is full. Place survival items in the brain or outside pockets so they are easy to access, as well as shells and outerwear. Bring carabiners to hook random items to the outside of the pack, like dirty boots or mugs. A rope can also come in handy, particularly for bear bags, so coil the rope around your hand or in a daisy chain then hook it onto your pack.

For winter backpacking, it’s a good idea to keep bite-sized food in a small pouch that hangs from your shoulder strap, because you’ll want that food close to you. Waterproof pack covers often come with the bag, but garbage bags work as well. Walk around with the pack and make sure everything is secure and not making obnoxious noises like clanging pots.

c.webber@dailyutahchronicle.com

@carolyn_webber

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Dress for Your Adventure

As the crisp autumn breeze blows in along the Wasatch, nature lovers will be in search of their fall layering formula. Utah’s dramatic changes in temperature throughout the day, coupled with high elevation, make layering a necessity when out adventuring.

The base layer lies next to the skin and manages the moisture of the body. It can either lock in sweat or wick it away, so the fabric of choice depends on activity level. It’s usually preferrable to find something that keeps you dry, but in extremely cold temperatures (sub-zero), a layer that holds in moisture can trick your body into sweating less, as it adjusts for the excess of sweat. The base layer should be made of merino wool, synthetic fabrics or a silky material. This layer should be tight enough to fit two to three more layers on top.

The insulating layer does just that— insulate.  This is the second layer and is the main protector from the cold. The insulator should be made up of natural fibers such as wool and goose, and the thickness is determined by the amount of activity. For an expedition with low activity levels and lower temperatures, a heavy-weight product is suggested.

Moderate activities and climates require a mid-weight material, while in mild climates with aerobic activity, a lightweight insulator is recommended. The classic fleece with a breathable but warm fabric is the most common insulator.

The shell is the outer layer with the vital function to protect from the wind and rain. This is the most important layer in rough weather conditions. It should be roomy and not constrict movement or the other layers. Fleeces do well in dry conditions, but it’s best to have a waterproof and windproof fabric to shield you from the elements. A breathable, water-resistant material is suggested for highly athletic activities and a waterproof material for damp and wet conditions.

As layers come in all shapes, sizes and materials, they can also provide a solid sense of fashion. The layer slayers additionally add vests, hoods, scarves and hats. Adding length to layers can class up an outfit, with the shortest layer on top. Layers conveniently provide quick adjustments and comfort for moisture, warmth and protection.

m.mensinger@dailyutahchronicle.com

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