Avoid the SAD during winter cabin fever

  • Published
  • By Col. Toby Hammer
  • 934th Airlift Wing Inspector General
Having been raised in northern Minnesota, cabin fever for me always meant that itching feeling that suggests it is time to head to the cabin for some all season fun. In the summer, that meant fishing and water skiing. In the fall, that meant hunting and relaxing around the fireplace telling stories. Wintertime, without a doubt, referred to more fishing, snowshoeing or x-country skiing, and snowmobiles. Springtime, well, that always included the dreaded clean-up but then a sauna and the question of how cold is too cold for a lake plunge. My definition of cabin fever, however, does not match with my wife's definition, who sometimes endures the length of winter from the inside of the house with a longing for the first sign of the spring season.

Cabin fever has another recognized term; it is Seasonal Affective Disorder and is defined by Mayo Clinic as follows: a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. Symptoms for the fall and winter season include depression, hopelessness, anxiety, loss of energy, social withdrawal, oversleeping, loss of interest, appetite changes, weight gain, and difficulty concentrating and processing information. During our February UTA's Wing Commander's Call, we listened to a briefing on suicide prevention and encouragement to use the resources available. These resources included our fellow Airmen wingmen, Chaplains, Airmen and Family Readiness, and an online resource called Military One Source.

Military One Source is a 24/7 resource that is available for military members, spouses and families and has a wealth of links to assist numerous situations. Just a few of the link examples include access to a suicide hotline, tax filing, online libraries, and webinar access on topics from nutrition to fitness, as well as an upcoming Feb 23 webinar on "Overcoming the Winter Blahs". I encourage everyone on the wing to take time to explore the Air Force Military One Source online and consider visiting it with your families also. Knowing what is available now will help you to be better prepared in the future when you, your family, or a wingman has a need for this exceptional resource. Take time to also set up an Air Force Military One Source contact number in your phone with the "Call and Talk Anytime" number of 1.800.341.9647.

As this Blog posts, know that I will be responding to my cabin fever itching by winter camping with my Boy Scout troop in northern Minnesota. I am hoping for continued cold to a set new personal low temperature sleeping outside in my Hennessy Hammock. Stay warm and safe.