Winter is often a time of year that is calming. However most people, especially seniors, find themselves feeling down and sluggish during the long, cold winter months. Whether it is the end of the holiday season, bad weather, shorter days or a pandemic, seasonal depression can creep in easily for seniors who spend longs days inside with no where to go and no one to see.
If you or someone you know and love is experiencing intense sadness during this time of year, we have some suggestions to help make the most of this long winter season.
Some tips that can help brighten during the winter season:
- Have a schedule – We encourage you to have a daily schedule that encourages you to be active and socialize with others, if possible. Consider adding daily exercise into your schedule. When you exercise, endorphins are released that help pick your mood up naturally. It is also wise to make a point to schedule your sleep and make sure that you are getting the right amount of sleep to avoid insomnia.
- Brighten your space – It has been scientifically proven that Vitamin D can improve your mood naturally. Every day, make it a point to open your blinds and curtains to invite the warmth of the sun into your environment. It is also important to get screened for a Vitamin D deficiency. Most people who spend a lot of time indoors during the winter months develop a Vitamin D deficiency that can result in depression and/or muscle spasms if left untreated.
- Set goals – Although we are past the season of setting New Year’s resolutions, it is never too late to set some goals to accomplish. You would be amazed to realize the sense of achievement and purpose you feel when you can cross off tasks that you finished each day.
- Alcohol Abstinence – Many people cope with their sadness and depression with consuming alcohol. In the end, alcohol can worsen depression and negatively affect medications and quality of sleep. Find different outlets like exercising or socializing instead of consuming alcohol.
- Take a break from the news – There is typically an increase with watching the news during the winter months since most people are indoors more than normal. Minimize your stress by limiting the amount of time that you spend watching the T.V.
- Help your mood with food – Consuming more protein in your breakfast, lunch and dinner can help you with preventing carb and sugar cravings throughout the day. It is also a great chance to increase eating foods that are fortified with Vitamin D, such as fatty fish, milk, breakfast cereal and fish oil.
- Get the right kind of sleep – Your sleep is a huge influence in your mood throughout the day. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. It is best to follow a normal bedtime routine such as turning down the lights, drinking a cup o tea and decreasing the use of electronics before going to bed.
If you are a caregiver, it is important to look out for symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is a serious condition that may require professional care. SAD is caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight during the long winter months. It is vital to take your loved one to the doctor if you are concerned where they are experiencing extreme SAD or depression symptoms.
Some of those symptoms of SAD include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day
- Having thoughts of death or suicide
- Difficulty concentrating
- Problems with sleeping
- Low energy
- Change in weight or appetite
- Feeling agitated or sluggish
- Feelings of hopeless, guilt or worthless
It is important to realize that it is normal to feel emotions related to sadness and weariness during the long winter months. Always consult with your medical professionals if you are considering changing your diet or exercise routine. Reach out to your support system, including friends and family if you are overwhelmed with loneliness and isolation. Find a way to safely spend time with people who are supportive in your life.
It is also important we mention that we encourage anyone to contact their doctor if their emotions of depression or hopelessness are lasting several weeks of if the emotions are causing you from living a happy, healthy life.