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Travel as Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Every winter, I try to convince myself I should be able to stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder. (You have to admit this disorder has a particularly apt acronym, SAD.)

I want to believe that just because there is another named winter storm headed our way does not mean I have to be depressed, sullen, irritable, sleepy, and so unpleasant I don’t even want to be around myself.

Weather map for Winter Storm Quinn

The pretty colors correspond to various types of winter precipitation. When a wintry mix is falling on one’s head and there are gale force winds, it’s less pretty.

(Memo to Mother Nature: Many residents of the Philadelphia region still haven’t had their electricity restored since the winter storm last week. Another winter n’oreaster five days later is just excessive, IMHO.)

Here are my suggestions to myself for strategies to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder:

As an almost recovered lawyer, baby boomer travel blogger with launched, self supporting children, I could go on the internet and try to find a way outta here by looking for last minute travel deals to warm places. But, then I’d have to find someone to take care of our dog. And my husband, Mr. Excitement, still has a day job.

A man and his dog

These guys (Mr. Excitement and Dino) make spontaneous travel more difficult to plan, but I think I’ll keep them.

  • I could sit for hours in front of a “Happy Light” a/k/a “sunshine simulator”, practicing Zentangle, a meditative art form some consider doodling on steroids, and hope I don’t burn out my retinas.

    Zentangle Inspired Art

    Zentangle Inspired Art done during a Continuing Legal Education lecture.

  • I could  show up on our son’s doorstep in Mexico City. “Surprise!” Hmm, maybe not so good for familial harmony.This particular child realized at an early age that he inherited my tendency towards a yearly bout of Seasonal Affective Disorder. He refused to look at any institution of higher learning not located in at least a subtropical climate zone. He ended up at the University of Miami—the one in Florida, not in Ohio.

    Santa Maria del Tule, Mexico

    There was plenty of sunshine the last time we visited our son in Mexico. This photo is of the gardens at Santa Maria del Tule.

  • I could count my blessings and try to shame myself out of SAD by looking at the Facebook newsfeed of my friend who lives in Helsinki, Finland. She actually deserves to have SAD as Finnish winters are brutally cold, dark and long. There is a reason Finns drink the most coffee per capita than any other country in the world.
  • I could stop whining because my beloved has agreed to arrange his schedule so we can be somewhere warm, and potentially sunny, for as big a chunk of time as possible during the winter. Last winter he snared an opportunity to confer with colleagues at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center—in February. This year we decamped to South America and spent three winter weeks traveling in Ecuador and Colombia. He’s already eyeing a joint Japanese-USA cancer immunology conference on Maui for next February. The man obviously has a strong drive for self preservation which he knows precludes spending the winter in a cave-like one bedroom apartment in Center City Philadelphia with a SAD spouse.
  • I could go to my doctor and beg for anti-depressants.
Meanwhile, it’s time to batten down the hatches (to use a strange nautical metaphor) before Winter Storm Quinn arrives.

Do you (or someone you know) have Seasonal Affective Disorder?  If so, what do you or they do to cope?

Suzanne Fluhr, Travel Editor

Suzanne Fluhr, Midlife Boulevard's travel editor, is a recovering Philadelphia lawyer, empty nester, wanderer, dog person and Zentangle® enthusiast. She also writes about Baby Boomer travels for the body and mind on her personal blog, Boomeresque. Instagram: Boomeresque2

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Suzanne Fluhr

Thursday 8th of March 2018

Thanks for sharing our solution. More and more retired people in the US and Canada are realizing they can spend cold, dark months somewhere sunny and warm and not have to spend a lot of money to do so. In fact, we're just back from Ecuador and Colombia. Especially in Cuenca, Ecuador, there are many US and Canadian expats who have decided to live there.


Tuesday 6th of March 2018

I hear ya! I'm reading your post from Loreto, MX because I had to escape the gloomy, rainy season in the Pacific Northwest. And I'd only been home from Mexico for three months! But I am blessed in that I am retired and single. (I need to be honest and say that I am a widow. I'm doing my best to look at the positive side of being single.) Hang in there! Those years from empty nest to retirement went by quickly for me.

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