5 Ways Seniors and Caregivers Can Mitigate Seasonal Depression

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If dark days and colder temperatures coincide with your feeling down, you may be suffering from a condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). While SAD has been shown to occur more in younger people, it can still affect seniors, who are more likely to spend more time indoors and tend to be less active.

If you are worried about yourself or a loved one, there are multiple signs to look out for.

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Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

The symptoms of SAD can be hard to spot, as they range widely in severity; however, these symptoms often include:

5 Ways Seniors Can Prevent Seasonal Depression

SAD has been linked to a lack of sunlight. With this in mind, you’ll want to embrace strategies that increase sun exposure or replace it through other means.

1. Get light exposure.

Although colder temperatures and dwindling sunlight make it more difficult to obtain sunlight in the winter, you can take a proactive approach to catching rays. Seniors should consider taking daily walks or even sitting outside to read a book.

If it’s too cold to go outside, you might even consider sitting by a window that gets ample sunlight. According to Healthline,10 to 30 minutes of sunlight per day is enough to generate healthy levels of vitamin D.

2. Exercise regularly.

Regular exercise has been consistently shown to improve mental health and stave off the symptoms of SAD. If you have access to a gym, try signing up and using the equipment or signing up for a class. Prefer staying at home? Try searching websites like YouTube for free videos and programs to keep your body healthy and mind clear.

Did You Know? Many Medicare Advantage plans include free gym memberships. To learn more, read our guide to this year’s best Medicare Advantage plans.

3. Keep socializing.

When you’re feeling down, going out and interacting with people and the world might feel like a chore. But science shows that decreased socialization makes depression worse and can even be a sign of dementia in some older adults. Continuing regular social activities or hobbies with friends and family will keep your mind active and your mood sunnier, even when the sun isn’t out! If you have trouble accessing the outdoors, consider a group activity like bingo or trivia via apps such as Zoom and Skype.

4. Try light therapy.

Bright light therapy, or phototherapy, involves sitting in front of a specially made device projecting bright light, ideally in your home. Research shows that being exposed to bright light within your first hour of waking can help lift your mood, but it may take a few weeks to feel the effects. Many companies manufacture light boxes of varying powers, but be sure to consult your doctor before purchasing one.

5. Take a vitamin D supplement.

A vitamin D deficiency is associated with multiple health issues, including asthma, migraines, and heightened risk of cancer. Because we get Vitamin D from the sun, a deficiency can make SAD symptoms even worse during winter months, when sunlight is reduced. Taking a supplement of vitamin D in pill or powder form with breakfast can ease several of these symptoms and give you the energy to have a good and healthy day. There is a wide variety of supplements available, so speak to a doctor to make sure you pick the right one for you!

When to See a Doctor

If you or your loved ones consistently experience moderate to serious symptoms of SAD and none of the above activities seem to help, then things may be more serious. Symptoms such as suicidal thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, or severe change in appetite require treatment and should always be examined by a doctor.