February blues

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The February blues affects everyone differently. I am starting to feel the effects of cabin fever from my comfortable desk chair inside my small home office. I’ve been in front of my computer for days typing during my working hours and watching TV on my off hours. My free time is spent inside the house because I am writing these days and still recovering from a nasty flu. I don’t have a wood stove as my heat comes from a gas pipeline and that means I don’t have to cut down trees or split and carry logs. My traditional harvesting is all about heading up to the grocery store once or twice a week. I can’t do any outside renovations on my house because it’s too cold and I don’t want to start anything inside because I would have no relief from the dust. I love winter but as I age the cold weather is becoming a challenge.

It wasn’t like this when I was growing up in the north. Every morning was a daily chore of stoking the flames of our wood stove. The stove heated our three-bedroom home which housed nine children and my parents. After a hot daily breakfast of oatmeal, we trudged to school in the bitter cold and when we returned in the afternoon, mom set us to our daily chores. We would have to fetch wood for the wood bin inside the house. The older siblings would have to split larger pieces of wood or make kindling.

We also had no running water so the honey bucket (our portable toilet) would have to be emptied every day before dark. One of us would be tasked with carrying the filthy bucket out into the cold and to the outhouse behind our home. You might be surprised that we were still living like this in Attawapiskat into the early 1990s.

On a weekly basis, we had to fetch snow from the land because it was the best way to collect fresh drinking water. We kept a large drum next to the wood stove where the pure crystalline snow would melt into water. Even though we kept a healthy stock of firewood, dad or my older brothers would head out every week to collect more logs, just in case we needed them.

We spent more time outdoors because we had to. Now with modern conveniences, I don’t have many reasons to step outside. I think that is one of the reasons why midwinter is a difficult time of year for many people. We are all stuck inside our homes and away from the sun, the fresh air and the elements.

To cope with the February blues and the lack of sun, we have to work at keeping ourselves positive and happy. I suggest people go out for a short walk. If you do head out, make sure you are dressed for the cold by putting on a double layer of clothes. Meet a friend for a coffee nearby or go to their house for a change to get some company. When it gets quiet in your home, put on some of your favourite music, even if it is just playing in the background, recent research indicates it will always put you in good mood.

Diet plays a big role in how healthy we feel, so take it easy on the fatty foods, salt intake, sugar and caffeine. The cold tends to make us crave fatty foods but if we are sitting and not doing a lot at home, it’s better to not eat as much.


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