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ARE YOU LOST IN THE DEEP-FREEZE BLUES?

If you ever thought we Saskatchewanians  might get through the whole December-to February period without at some point temperatures plunging like Harvey Weinstein’s  reputation into the  -30s and perhaps even  the -40s,  you haven’t lived  here long.

And it’s not just that  cold physical feeling.  Psychologists tell us there’s an annual midwinter increase in marital strife, nervous breakdowns, suicide and crimes of violence. Apparently this is because residents of northern climes  tend to experience varying degrees of depression at this time of year. We become, in Waylon Jenning’s words, Lonesome, Ornery and Mean.

Why the sour mood? Well, I found in a column I wrote many years ago the following possible answers suggested by a psychologist:

(1) There is a slowdown in activities. People are confined indoors where they become bored and irritable. (Esther and I when living on our acreage always kept busy in winter with outdoor activities.  But this is our first winter in a city condo. No marital strife or breakdown yet, but there are still a couple months to go. And we have started  cross-country skiing  here.)

Some people cope with this period by copying the bears and semi-hibernating. That won’t work for me. Insomnia by night is  bad enough; by day it’s hell.

(2) There is a post-Christmas letdown. Expectations of holiday fun are often too high to be fulfilled. Families that get together for Christmas are apart again.

It’s my theory however that  what really hurts is the fact that now you have time to view the pitiful ruins of your finances after the Yuletide celebrations that swept through them like a hurricane.

(3) It’s cold and flu time. A cheerful outlook is hard to come by when your throat burns, your nose runs like a leaky tap, your chest rattles, your eyes are red and watery and your bed becomes buried under mountains of used Kleenex. It’s enough to turn some of the toughest people I know into sneezing, wheezing, whiney petulant wrecks. (I am suffering all those things right now as I write, so badly I almost think death would be a relief. And I suspect Esther, catering to my constant needs, is thinking , “Yeah, for me too.”)

There is a difference, by the way, between a cold and flu. What you have when you are getting ready for a party you have long looked forward to is a common cold, or maybe just “the sniffles”. What you have when you phone the boss to say you won’t be in to work is the flu, or better yet, “influenza”--sounds much more serious.

Canadians spend hundreds of millions of bucks every winter on cold pills, nose drops, cough syrups, medicinal rubs and the like. As well they try scores of home remedies, including a dirty sock tied around the neck. (I guess the theory is that the little bugs will pack up and leave in search of someone who smells better.)

The most interesting treatment I’ve come across is from William Osler, world-famous medical doctor many years ago: Hang your hat on the foot of the bed, then lie down with a bottle of whiskey. Drink whiskey until you see two hats, then go to sleep; you will wake up cured. I haven’t summoned the nerve to try that one yet, but if it works for you let me know.

Add to the above problems those of stalled cars, frozen water pipes, malfunctioning furnaces and snow-choked roads. So many reasons for winter misery.

But cheer up. The problems brought on by prairie winters are small compared with those of poverty, war and oppression that plague many nations. And consider: You have survived every winter thus far, haven’t you?

Of course that doesn’t mean you’ll survive this one. There, you see, I’ve caught the mood of midwinter negativity too.


Contact Esther or me to comment on columns. Our new address: 110 201 Cree Place Saskatoon, SK  S7K 7Z3. Phone 306 384 8657. Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Wednesday January 12, 2022