By James Wysong Travel columnist
updated 1/16/2008 3:45:56 PM ET 2008-01-16T20:45:56

I have always suffered a bit from the winter blues. I remain cooped up inside all day because it's too cold to go outside, while the flu makes its way through my household, and my feet feel like icebergs that never seem to thaw. This year didn't seem to be any different until I checked my flying schedule. I was signed up for a five-day trip, but I couldn't figure out where. Where the heck is airport code GIG?

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To my surprise the destination was Rio de Janeiro, and I was scheduled for a 60-hour layover. With growing enthusiasm, I thought to myself: Isn't it summertime down there right now? I looked up the weather on the Internet and saw nothing but suns and 90 degree temperatures. This was going to be fun.

It's hard to pack for summer in the middle of winter but once you get the shorts and T-shirts in your bags, you get into the swing of things and the rest falls into place. Two nights before my trip a snowstorm blanketed my home with 10 inches of fresh snow and ice. My only thought was, "Please don't let this weather cancel my flight." I did not think about trees collapsing from the weight of the ice — or even about my wife, who is seven months pregnant. Nope, I was selfishly focused on my little sunny getaway.

Luckily enough, we took off without incident and landed in sunny Rio on time. The heat didn't really register until the crew opened the cabin door and the humidity rushed inside. It was like being greeted with a warm, moist hug, and all the winter-weary passengers seemed to exhale a sigh of relief. The crew members felt likewise, and I had an ear-to-ear smile all the way through the airport. I was wearing sunglasses and sweating in January — and loving it.

We stayed at a resort hotel on the beach that had three swimming pools, live bands and a continual happy hour. I soaked up the sun, swam in the ocean, slept in a hammock and had my fair share of the local food and drink. After 60 hours of complete summer decadence, I was a new man, ready to brave the rest of winter back home.

Through the years I have done a lot of studying on the topic of the winter blues and have some tips for you if they strike.

1. Recognize the symptoms. Lethargy, lack of energy, depression, and strong feelings of uselessness are all part of the package.

2. Exercise. The last thing you want to do during wintertime is to go for a run, but that doesn't mean you can't go to your local gym and sweat it out there. Take a day off from work and hit a gym with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and/or sauna. If you have to call in sick, go ahead. You're not lying — you have a temporary mental illness and need to get your health back.

3. Let the sun shine in. Open your curtains and soak up the sun. Even through the glass, you will get a healthy dose of vitamin D and clear those cobwebs from your mind. Just 30 minutes a day can make a world of difference.

4. Get out of the house. It may be freezing outside and warm inside but if you don't get out of the house the blues will just increase. A walk or even a drive can get the blood flowing and the mind glowing.

5. Book it. An old trick someone told me was to read a book or watch a movie that takes place in the desert or some other place that is extremely warm. Don't know why it helps, just that it does. I know all there is to know about Lawrence of Arabia by now.

6. Get a sun lamp. I thought this idea was hogwash until I got one for Christmas a few years back. It's not a cure but it does alleviate some of the symptoms.

7. Sock it to you. Get some SmartWool socks to warm those icebergs you call feet. These are socks made from a fiber that utilizes your body heat. They cost a bit more than other socks, but having constantly cold feet is just miserable.

8. Talk it out with a friend. Misery loves company, and even though it seems like it, winter won't last forever. Think positively and before long you will be complaining about the summer humidity.

9. Put down that drink. Sometimes it seems like the only thing that brightens your spirits is a giant glass of Scotch or other alcoholic beverage, but overdoing it can add a hangover to your misery and decrease circulation, which means even colder extremities.

10. Look for good deals and fly south for the winter. It doesn't have to be all the way to Rio; a stay in Florida or on a Caribbean island should also do the trick.

When I got home, I was greeted by yet another snowstorm, but I had color in my cheeks, a sunnier disposition and corroboration that swimsuits and summer still exist. I was going to make it through yet another case of the winter blues.

James Wysong is a veteran flight attendant who has worked with two major international carriers. James recently released a new book, “Flying High With A Frank Steward: More Air Travel Tales From the Flight Crew.” For more information about James, visit his Web site or send him an e-mail.

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