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3 Ways to Manage Seasonal Affective Disorder for Seniors

senior couple in winter

Feeling down can be a normal reaction to the cold, dark winter months, but if these feelings persist, it might be a sign of seasonal affective disorder. These prevention methods can help you or your loved one combat this disorder and experience joy throughout the season!

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that cycles with the seasons where symptoms generally occur throughout the winter months. Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Feeling consistently depressed, sluggish, or agitated
  • Having low energy and less interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating
  • Changes in appetite or weight

According to the National Institutes of Health, being female, living farther from the equator, family history, and having depression or bipolar disorder are several factors that influence the likeliness of developing SAD. The following 3 preventative methods can help decrease or manage the effects of SAD.

Get Enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a large role in supporting your physical and mental health because it improves bone and heart health and increases immune function to combat SAD. People generally receive this vitamin through their diet or sun exposure.

While vitamin D is important for individuals of any age, seniors who are deficient in this nutrient are at risk of developing osteoporosis, as well as experiencing excessive fatigue and depression. Seniors’ bodies are less efficient at converting sun exposure into vitamin D, but many doctors are hesitant to prescribe more time in the sun, as this can directly impact the possibility of developing skin cancer.

Changes in diet are generally the easiest to make to give your body the nutrients it needs! Vitamin-D fortified foods are best—try items such as beef liver, egg yolks, cheese, and fatty-fish like salmon. Juices, cereals, milk, and yogurt may also be fortified to have extra vitamin D in them.

Light Therapy

As much as you’re able, get outside for some fresh air and to experience as much natural light as possible because sunlight can boost your mood and combat depression. If you have limited mobility, simply opening up the curtains or blinds and sitting by a window has similar effects.

Light therapy is another great treatment for SAD that uses exposure to natural light or an artificial light box to stimulate your senses and increase natural vitamin D production. If you’re using a light box, place it off-center in front of you and don’t stare at it directly. Use it for 20-60 minutes every day to help boost your mood.

Socialize

Getting some much needed time socializing with friends and family can have wondrous effects for your mood and health. Remaining involved in hobbies, faith centers, or social activities is a great way to reduce social isolation that seniors can be more susceptible to in the winter.

Although the winter months can be lonely, you can help your loved ones enjoy this time with some simple planning! Give our team of care professionals a call today to book your tour of our community.

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