by Maggie Miles
October 2, 2020
It is officially fall on the Outer Banks, and with the recent spate of cold, blustery days, locals are feeling the shift.
This is the time of year people start discussing their winter plans. Will they escape to some tropical country or will they stay to endure the long, dark days of winter here on the island? And this year, thanks to COVID-19, it will most likely be the latter.
Winters can be a hard time on the Outer Banks for locals. Work dries up, restaurants and bars close, the bright, sunny beach turns gray and windy. People get bored, cold, and a little stir crazy, and for many, the winter blues start to kick in. And this year, that could be made worse by restrictions related to the global pandemic.
According to counselor Stephanie Ryder, seasonal affective disorder impacts mood, energy, sleep and appetite. It may also affect personal, social and work relationships.
“It is important to be aware of these changes when they occur, and act accordingly by making sure that you’re not hibernating, but instead getting plenty of physical exercise, great self-care, a balanced and healthy diet, and a good night’s sleep,” says Ryder.
Getting out and enjoying hobbies and activities is another way to make it through the cold, blustery months, she says. “It’s important to do what you love, do what brings you joy and reflect daily about those things/people, etc. that you’re grateful for. Gratitude is key to our mental health.”
I think it’s safe to say we have all experienced the winter blues at some point or another. But after spending lots of winters on the Outer Banks, many locals have found ways to stave off the doldrums and embrace the beauty of the season.
“Winter has never been my forte, but the Outer Banks is part of my soul, so I’ve found out ways to make the dark, cold days less depressing,” says Skyla Lamberto-Egan, a massage therapist at Laughing Sky Massage in Manteo. “I still get emotional, bored and go stir-crazy, but the following seem to make it better: I take pottery classes through (College of The Albemarle), force myself to bundle up and walk the beach, ride bikes with Manteo Cyclery, read lots of good books, cook intricate meals or baked goods, and see friends that I don’t see all summer.”
Health Coach Lindsey Herring focuses on good food and good laughs. “I take a Vitamin D3. I rest and go to bed early. I eat warm foods, soups, crock pots, and I watch funny movies — humor and laughter strengthen our immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from damaging effects of stress,” Herring says.
And then there are the artists and musicians, like Barry Wells, who use the winter to channel their creative energy. “I seclude myself in my music: practicing, writing, producing. I strive to keep the creative mind busy and at ease with purposeful desolation from society I have created for myself,” Wells says.
To avoid her winter blues, Lisa Cooper of Buxton takes advantage of winter gardening. “I grow kale, broccoli, cabbage, turnips, garlic and other things. People don’t realize how great the gardening is here in the winter. I just love working out there, digging, moving around,” Cooper says.
And then there’s the popular social activities of the fall, like the beloved oyster roasts and bonfires, something locals cherish in these cold months and look forward to every year. For locals, there’s nothing like a good oyster roast with good friends to stave off winter depression.
“Oyster roasts are the culmination of everything good: chilly nights, twinkling lights over the oyster table, the smell of the bonfire, the sound of friends laughing and talking, and of course, the taste of those tasty oysters,” says Beth Storie, of Manteo.
Fall and winter can be a great time to rebalance, restore, and refocus your energy. Things have slowed down and now we get to decide how to fill that new time. If we change our mindset to see that as a gift, and follow the advice of these locals, we can all have a great winter season on the Outer Banks.
Please seek therapy from a professional if you’re not seeing changes in your mood or behavior.