Peanut Gallery; Cabin fever hits town in epidemic proportions | SierraSun.com
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Peanut Gallery; Cabin fever hits town in epidemic proportions

Sherry Mays

I used to laugh at the idea of cabin fever. When I lived in Squaw Valley, I thought cabin fever was only being able to make it to 7-Eleven for all of my grocery shopping.

I would leave for work in the dark and return home in the dark. I’d wake up seeing my breath in the “meat locker” of a house my housemates and I lived in and would feel the pain in my toes when I got into the shower because my feet were one step from being ice blocks. If I would have stubbed a toe, I’m sure it would have shattered into a million pieces never to be found in the shag rug. (Tahoe environmental green, I think is the name of the 1970s rug color.)

So, I never really had cabin fever – until this year, and I know I’m not alone. I’ve been hearing similar stories about wishing for summer and wanting more sun. Not too large a request, right?

My sister-in-law Kathy called me Sunday and asked for help motivating her to begin a fast.

“I’m just not motivated to do anything,” she said. “Sherry, let’s think of some motivational things to do to boost our energy and our spirits.”

By the end of the conversation, we had talked each other out of every motivational idea.

“Well, it’s almost Lent,” she said. “What can we give up to get us motivated for summer?”

You know, the pre-summer fear of having to someday wear a bikini again.

Kathy gave me until Tuesday to think of motivational things that we could do together, just to get motivated. I told her I wasn’t motivated to think of anything, but she persisted.

I finally figured out that I was officially in a state of cabin fever. I can’t run or ride my bike in the snow, which depresses me enough to not want to drive the 10 miles to Squaw Valley to ski. Go figure.

One thing we did motivate ourselves to do was to go for the one last binge before giving up chocolate for Lent. We went on a sort of chocolate hopping expedition in Reno (something like a bachelor party bar-hopping extravaganza, but instead of dreaming about undressing scantily-clad dancers, it was more like stripping a chunk of nougat from its robe of dark chocolate.)

Now I’m motivated, I guess, to buck the effects of cold, cloudy days and to embrace the hope of sunny spring skiing days. I know they will come.

So, if you can relate to the feeling of not being motivated to do anything but eat, sleep and wear turtlenecks, or you find yourself running outside to stare into the sun with your mouth hanging open, or you’ve forgotten what it’s like to drive your vehicle in two-wheel drive … YOU’RE NOT ALONE.

If you feel like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” you may be alone, but there’s help. There are local psychologists who are there for you.

Dr. Anita Spencer, one of those psychologists, said cabin fever is running rampant in the community.

“But don’t worry,” she said. “The bluejays are back and spring is right around the corner.”

Exhaustion, snow-covered windows and tourist-related stress are to blame for the “winter blahs” and Spencer said the feeling is common.

Irritability and isolation are some of the symptoms of cabin fever and getting out in the sun or talking with neighbors can help shed the depression, Spencer said.

“Validate your feelings by talking with others,” she said. “Bring a little sunshine into your home by renting (summer-like) videos, or by buying flowers for yourself.”

Spencer said one of the easiest things to do is to shovel the snow from in front of house windows.

“Let the light in,” she said. “Or get out and just take a drive and admire the scenic beauty after a big storm. It’s been a big winter and we all need to get out.”

I’m feeling better already, but I have a feeling I’m still working off the sugar high from Tuesday night’s chocolate feast.

Sherry Mays is a Sierra Sun reporter.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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