Seasonal affective disorder impacts all populations, not just seniors. The fact that there is less sunlight during the winter months–and people are indoors much more–all makes depression and other psychiatric disorders a bit more amplified during this time of year.
This can be incredibly frustrating. And this year, COVID has already gotten a head start when it comes to making mental health issues worse than normal.
Luckily, there are a few things that you can do on your own to help fight the winter blahs. First, try and get a little bit more exercise. Exercise has so many other health benefits that you should be trying to do this anyway, but it can also help by giving you a little bit of a mood boost. On a deeper level, it helps to alter your brain chemistry. In fact, studies show that people who exercise are a lot less likely to suffer from depression in general. This is because exercise helps to create a more balanced level of neurotransmitters within the brain–something that antidepressants aim to do. But exercise does this without the need for medication.
Staying social can help fight winter loneliness, too. This is a lot easier said than done for the elderly, though. In fact, it is harder to do this than ever before because of all of the COVID restrictions that are still in place around the world. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done. Technology makes communication easier than it was ten years ago. It’s not the same as hanging out with friends and family face to face, but it’s still a form of social interaction. In person is undisputedly better, but this is often just enough to be helpful.
If you find that the loneliness and discontent lingers even when you try to fight it, don’t be afraid to get some help. A mental health professional is going to be able to give you better advice than a blog, and will even be able to help you come up with customized, targeted strategies that will help you live a happier, healthier life. If you’re not sure where to start, your physician is a good resource for getting pointed in the right direction.
Having a professional that understands these kinds of things can be invaluable. Not only can they help someone that is struggling with loneliness or depression during the winter, they can help be on the lookout if signs of psychiatric illness worsen. The vast majority of people that struggle with seasonal affective disorder will not have complications because of it, but some people do. Understanding what to look for, and what to do if issues are noticed, is an important part of keeping someone that you care about healthy.
A trained in-home caregiver is not a mental health professional. But that doesn’t mean they cannot be helpful. The companionship of a caregiver can create the interaction needed to stay mentally healthy.
As always, please let us know if we can do anything to help you and your family.