As the days get shorter and colder, the impacts of the winter season are upon us. The seasonal patterns of dreary and dark winter days can make us feel more lethargic and less motivated, as well as less interested in physical activity and socialization. Sometimes we classify this as “the winter blues,” but in more serious cases where depression is evident, we identify this as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
According to the Mayo Clinic, seasonal affective disorder likely impacts millions of Americans, including those in senior living, and is “defined as a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons – SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with this condition, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel “moody.” Generally, the symptoms of SAD resolve when the spring months arrive, but other individuals can still see the effects into the spring and summer months as well.
The following are the most commons signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder:
- Increased sleep and daytime drowsiness
- Loss of interest and pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed
- Social withdrawal and increased sensitivity to rejection
- Irritability and anxiety
- Feelings of guilt and hopelessness
- Fatigue, or low energy level
- Decreased ability to focus or concentrate
- Trouble thinking clearly
- Increased appetite, especially for sweets and carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Physical problems, such as headaches
The most important thing to do if you’re concerned about depression or seasonal affective disorder is to make an appointment with a medical professional. A diagnosis of SAD may be made after a careful mental health exam and medical history done by a psychiatrist or other mental health professional.
Similar to the symptoms of depression, the symptoms of SAD can start out mild, but they can sometimes get progressively worse if left untreated. For older adults, we are focused on addressing this potential struggle with winter depression before it begins.
Below, we’ve outlined four ways to help you or a loved one with reducing the symptoms commonly associated with seasonal affective disorder. There are things you can start doing today to help boost your mood, improve your circadian rhythm, and build a good foundation of support to get you through the dark, cold winter months.
It’s believed that seasonal depression is partially caused by the dwindling daylight hours present in the winter months. Make sure that your circadian rhythm is properly set by getting a good dose of natural light during the day. This also helps address a potential vitamin D deficiency.
If weather permits, a short walk around the block can be enough to charge you up. You can also sit near a sunny window for similar benefits. Another option is light therapy, where sitting in front of a light box can simulate natural bright light and has no adverse side effects.
Regular physical activity and a healthy diet will do wonders for your mood, especially if you pack your plate with healthy fats, whole grains, and nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits. As for exercise, aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week.
Group exercise or working with a personal trainer are both great options for physical activity, and both are offered at Waterstone of Westchester. Our partnership with professional trainers and our state-of-the-art fitness center come together to provide our residents with the opportunity to enjoy unique fitness programs as well as access to one-on-one personal training sessions.
The power of friendships and community is unparalleled. Ensure you set aside time each day to connect with a friend or family member, and identify things you want to share or discuss. Send a text, make a call, or walk over to a friend’s apartment, and keep connecting. Waterstone of Westchester provides a community where socialization with others is effortless and meaningful.
Here, residents can enjoy a meal with friends in the dining room, participate in a group art class, play a round of cards in the game room, or simply catch up during cocktail hour in the bistro. Opportunities to nurture connections and create new friendships is just outside your door at Waterstone.
With an array of activities and events, a focus on a robust lifestyle, and a commitment to wellness, life at Waterstone of Westchester takes the idea of home to an entirely new level.
Learn more about our premier independent living community where you’ll thrive in a beautifully appointed apartment with designer finishes and enjoy connecting with friends in our stunning common areas. Come home to Waterstone of Westchester.