Anyone can suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but certain factors can make seniors more vulnerable to the mental health issue. Read ahead to find out why that is, and what affected seniors can do to cope with the condition during the coldest time of the year.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder:
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is also known as seasonal depression. Certain people find themselves experiencing depressive symptoms during specific times of the year — the most common time for this is during the autumn and the winter. People often dismiss the condition as a case of the “winter blues.”
These are just some of the symptoms that are associated with SAD:
- Trouble focusing
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Sleep trouble
- Change in appetite
Scientists haven’t determined the exact reasons why so many people experience this seasonal mood disorder. Some theorize that the lack of sunlight has a direct impact on the natural circadian rhythm for humans, which disrupts sleep cycles and creates mood shifts. Sunlight is also a primary source for Vitamin D, and a low level of vitamin D increases someone’s risk of developing depression. So, it’s possible that reduced exposure to natural sunlight could affect someone’s mood.
Another theory is that the short days and cold weather in the winter limits the types of activities that tend to bring people joy, like going for walks in nature or socializing with friends. It’s a lot of effort just to get out the door, and often too unpleasant to stand outside for longer than a few minutes. Having those routine activities taken away can dramatically affect someone’s mood.
Why Are Seniors Vulnerable?
There are a few reasons why seniors are more vulnerable to this mood disorder. The first is that the human body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients decreases with age — this includes Vitamin D. This is why seniors are more likely to develop Vitamin D deficiency.
Another reason why seniors are more vulnerable to this seasonal issue is that they are heavily impacted by the harsh weather. As you get older, your body becomes more sensitive to cold temperatures. You have more trouble seeing in the dark. Your mobility changes, making it difficult to trek over slick ice and through heavy snow. If you slip and fall on the ice, you could get seriously injured.
As you can see, the harsh winter weather isn’t very accommodating for seniors. So, they are more likely to stay indoors and hunker down until the conditions outside their front door become a lot milder. This is the safest decision, but it’s also the most isolating one. Seniors lose their daily routine, their time outdoors and social opportunities during the winter. It’s just like when seniors suffer from untreated hearing loss. According to Blue Angels Hearing, the ability to hear others is a fundamental human need, and when it goes unmet, it can lead to social isolation and depression.
What Can Seniors Do to Cope with SAD?
Exercise is an excellent way to address the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder:
- It can help you sleep soundly at night.
- It can help you feel rested and energized in the morning.
- It can give you a boost of endorphins when you’re done working out.
- It can motivate you to socialize.
If you normally go outside to exercise, try to find a routine that works for you indoors. So, if you liked going for long walks, use a treadmill and listen to music while you walk. If you liked going for bike rides, hop on a stationary bike. If you liked going to yoga classes or Tai Chi lessons in the park, sign up for online classes and follow along in your living room.
It’s hard to motivate yourself to socialize when you’re feeling down, but you should try your best to do it. Have a date night with your significant other. Call up a friend. Set up a video chat with your family.
If you live on your own, consider moving to a senior community. A senior care home is filled with plenty of people who would love to talk, share dinner and forge genuine friendships with you. And the right home will have a staff that carefully plans activities and events that encourages even the shyest resident to socialize. Take a look at what activities and events that a senior community like Allseniorscare.com has planned for its residents over the past year. There’s always something exciting to do.
Get More Sunshine:
One of the easiest ways to get more Vitamin D is to soak up the sunshine outside. If it’s not too cold or snowy outside, you should go for a walk for at least fifteen minutes. Even standing out on a balcony for a few minutes could make you feel better.
There will be days when you can’t go for a leisurely stroll. That’s why you should consider a light therapy box — it emits a bright light that is designed to replace your daily dose of sunshine and resets your internal clock. Turn it on first thing in the morning. After half an hour, you might find that you’re energized and ready to take on the day.
Get More Vitamin D:
Sunshine isn’t the only way that you can increase your levels of Vitamin D. You can make some changes in your diet to get more of this useful vitamin. Foods that can help you are salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, eggs and mushrooms. There are also food products that are fortified with Vitamin D, including milks, cereals and oatmeal packets.
If that’s not enough, you might want to take a daily supplement to give you a boost. Talk to your doctor first.
It’s also important to get more calcium in your diet. Your body needs this mineral to properly absorb Vitamin D. Foods that contain high levels of calcium are milk, cheeses, yogurts, spinach, kale and almonds.
Get Some Sleep:
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your physical and mental health. If you’re finding that your seasonal affective disorder is ruining your sleep, you should try these tips:
- Avoid caffeinated drinks in the evening.
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Keep your bedroom’s temperature cool.
- Turn off phone and television screens at least one hour before bed.
- Do something relaxing to unwind before going to bed, like reading a book, knitting or listening to music.
Every year, you find yourself dealing with SAD. This year, you don’t have to struggle with it so much. Follow these useful tips and you’ll find it much easier to manage a long, cold winter.
To learn if you might be depressed, take this depression assessment from Mind Diagnostics: https://www.mind-diagnostics.