How Caregivers and Seniors Can Effectively Prevent and Manage Seasonal Depression
This period can be challenging, with the “winter blues” resulting in seasonal depression, a time when seniors and their caregivers are at their lowest mentally. In this article, we examine seasonal depression and how it can be effectively managed.
What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression caused by changes in seasons. SAD is expected during the winter season, extending to February.
It occurs because reduced sun exposure during short winter days interferes with the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which results in changes to the brain’s chemistry, such as affecting the secretion of mood-based hormones serotonin and melatonin.
Symptoms of SAD
Some of the symptoms of seasonal affective depression include:
- A persistent low mood
- Feeling unsociable
- Loss of interest in everyday activities
- Lack of energy
- Changes in appetite
- Sleeping problems
How does seasonal depression affect caregivers and seniors?
Many caregivers already experience symptoms of depression as a result of chronic stress, which gets worse when SAD kicks in.
Similarly, seniors with serious health issues suffer a downturn in physical and mental health when SAD comes, drastically reducing the quality of their lives. The CDC estimates that 15-20% of adults over 65 experience depression.
When you’re aware of and can recognize the warning signs of SAD in yourself and your older adult, you can take action to prevent depression and improve the quality of life for both of you.
When should you see a doctor?
Sometimes, the feelings don’t last long, and your mood slowly improves. However, if you’re getting progressively worse, to the point of having negative and suicidal thoughts, it’s time to seek professional help.
Tips to help you prevent and manage SAD
To prevent and manage SAD:
- Know the risks
It’s important to note that SAD is more common in women than men, so learn about your family history with clinical depression. SAD is also more common in people who live far from the equator. This knowledge helps you understand your risk levels and know when to seek professional help.
- Increase sunlight exposure
Half of the issues caused by SAD result from short winter days and reduced exposure to sunlight. So, draw those curtains open, and let your mind and body bask in the warmth and brightness of natural light whenever it’s available. It’ll do wonders for your mood!
- Exercise regularly
A simple 30-minute walk every day can boost your mood and energy levels. You can join a gym, jog, swim, or engage in other physical activities.
It’s best to fit your exercise schedule into your daylight-hour routine to maximize the limited natural light. Seniors with mobility issues can try sitting in a conservatory or near a window.
- Eat a balanced diet
Caregivers and seniors must eat a balanced diet this season to keep the winter blues at bay. Foods like fatty fish, nuts, spinach, bok choy, and nutrient-dense grains like quinoa are highly beneficial.
- Get help
Whether you’re a senior or a caregiver, don’t wallow in the self-pity and overall bad mood that SAD brings; see a doctor. With professional help, this season can be rewarding for you physically and mentally, and you’ll be better for it.
Talk to us at CarePatrol of the Lehigh Valley and Upper Bucks
Whether you are a senior or a caregiver seeking guidance on how best to support your loved one, remember that you don't have to face these challenges alone.
We offer tips, guidance, and advice tailored to your specific situation, enabling you to enjoy the brighter, happier days you deserve all year round. And if your loved one needs senior care options, we can help, too. Call us today to get started.