As the seasons change and the days grow shorter, many individuals, particularly seniors, experience a shift in mood known as seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This condition, often referred to as the “winter blues,” can have a significant impact on a senior’s mental and emotional well-being.
While many seniors struggle from increased depression and anxiety more than the average person, seasonal depression is a little different. Short, dark days, paired with the cold weather that makes it difficult to even really go outside can make seniors feel even more isolated than normal. Fortunately, the professionals at San Juan Capistrano memory care know exactly what to do to help your loved ones beat the winter blues.
If you have a loved one who’s struggling with seasonal depression, here are some ways that you can help:
Understand Seasonal Depression
Before you can best help your loved ones, it’s important to understand what seasonal depression is and why it affects seniors. Seasonal depression is a type of depression that occurs during specific seasons, most commonly in the fall and winter months when daylight is scarce. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to this condition due to various factors, including age-related physical and mental health changes, social isolation, and less exposure to natural light. Recognizing the symptoms of seasonal depression, such as low energy, changes in appetite, and persistent sadness, is the first step in addressing this issue.
The more information that you come equipped with, the easier it will be for you to understand what’s going on and how you can best help your loved one. While our professionals at San Juan Capistrano memory care are trained in these types of matters, you’re the one who knows your loved one best, and you may be able to recognize the symptoms earlier than our staff.
Prioritize Regular Exercise
One of the most effective ways to combat seasonal depression is through regular physical activity. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood boosters, and helps alleviate feelings of sadness and fatigue. Seniors can incorporate gentle exercises into their daily routine, such as walking, swimming, or yoga. These activities not only improve mental well-being but also have the added benefit of increasing physical fitness, reducing the risk of other health issues, and improving overall quality of life. Many senior living communities offer fitness classes and targeting physical exercise, so if you can find out what your senior is most interested in, there’s surely something for them to enjoy!
Seek Natural Light
Exposure to natural light is a powerful tool in fighting seasonal depression, especially in the dark winter months. Your senior loved ones should aim to spend time outdoors during daylight hours, even on overcast days. Walking in the park, sitting by a sunny window, or investing in a light therapy box can help seniors receive the necessary dose of natural light to regulate their circadian rhythms and mood. Proper exposure to natural light can help combat the feelings of fatigue and lethargy that often accompany seasonal depression.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Good nutrition plays a vital role in mental and emotional well-being. Seniors should focus on maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Foods high in vitamins and minerals, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and B vitamins, can help boost mood and energy levels. Reducing the consumption of processed and sugary foods is also essential as they can contribute to mood swings and energy crashes.
That doesn’t mean that seniors can’t enjoy a sweet treat every now and then! The most important aspect of eating a healthy diet is enjoying things in moderation. If a cookie at the end of the day helps you to feel better, then enjoy your cookie. Just don’t eat the whole pack!
Seniors are at risk of social isolation, which can exacerbate seasonal depression. Staying connected with family and friends is crucial for mental well-being. Regular phone calls, video chats, and in-person visits, when possible, can help combat loneliness and improve mood.
This is where memory care services like San Juan Capistrano memory care really shine. Because they’re senior living communities, senior residents have opportunities to spend time with the other residents, participate in activities, and have fun socializing. They’re able to connect with others who may share many of their same interests, find a new hobby, and enjoy spending quality time with other people.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Managing stress is an important aspect of combating seasonal depression. Seniors can benefit from practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation. These techniques help reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and enhance overall emotional well-being. Encouraging seniors to find activities they enjoy, whether it’s reading, gardening, or listening to music, can also help alleviate stress and boost their mood.
Consult a Healthcare Professional
If seasonal depression symptoms persist or worsen, it’s essential for seniors to seek professional help. A healthcare provider, such as a doctor or mental health specialist, can offer tailored treatment options, which may include therapy, medication, or a combination of both. It’s important for seniors and their loved ones to be vigilant about changes in mood and behavior and to seek assistance when needed.
Many people may have a negative view of therapy and other mental health professionals, but there’s no need to fear going to therapy. Trained mental health professionals will be able to support you in a different way than your friends and family. If your senior loved one is truly suffering with seasonal depression, it might be the best option for them to speak with a professional.
Making Your Home at San Juan Capistrano Memory Care
Seasonal depression can affect anyone of any age – no matter if you’re a senior or not. And our seniors, who tend to struggle with depression and anxiety more than the average person, are particularly vulnerable. Understanding the signs and being supportive is extremely important to care for your loved one, but knowing when to consult a professional is equally as important.
If you’re interested in speaking with someone at San Juan Capistrano memory care to see if we’re right for you and your family, then contact us and schedule a tour today!