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Seasonal Affective Disorder and Seniors

We have heard it called "the winter blues" or the "doldrums of winter", but Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real condition that affects millions of people every year. Brought on by the changes in the seasons, SAD most often begins in late fall as the skies get darker earlier and continue into winter as the excitement of the holidays wind down.

The staff at Evergreen Senior Living is committed to ensuring our residents and all senior citizens live happy, healthy lives. We are here to provide resources and support to anyone affected by SAD.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression, so if the symptoms persist for more than a week or two, the feelings should not be dismissed. Symptoms will include a loss of energy and a disinterest in doing activities that a person normally enjoys. Appetite loss, a change is sleeping habits and a general feeling of malaise or sluggishness is a common red flag that indicate SAD. For some people, especially seniors who can often be more at risk for depression, SAD can progress to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem or self-worth and bring about thoughts of death or suicide.

Seniors may be experiencing depression for many reasons, and the change in seasons can exacerbate this. Loss of a beloved spouse or cherished friend can make seniors feel lonely, and we all know the weeks following the hubbub of the holidays can be a sad time for many people. Older persons living alone are especially at risk. A lack of mobility can make it problematic for them to get out of their homes, leaving them alone for extended periods of time. Without human contact and interaction, the symptoms of SAD can intensify. If you have elderly neighbors or loved ones who live alone, you should make time to regularly check in on them. Giving them a few minutes of your time can help the days be a little bit brighter for them.

There are lots of other ways that you can lift your spirits to ease the symptoms of SAD:

Eat Healthy. A balanced diet that provides your body with the proper nutrients will make you feel physically better and you will have more energy. While comfort foods may be what we want to reach for this time of year, keeping those healthy eating habits at the forefront will make a difference in how you feel both physically and mentally.

The sun provides us with Vitamin D, but not enough to give our bodies what we need. This is truer during the winter months when the sunshine can be scarce and gray skies dominate. We need Vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth, and it is also important in treating diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, flu and yes – depression. Choosing foods high in Vitamin D will provide a wealth of benefits. Find Vitamin D in wild-caught fish (salmon, mackerel), shiitake mushrooms, egg yolks, milk, yogurt, orange juice and oatmeal. Chocolate is a food known to relieve anxiety and improve your mood, so that is one indulgence you can continue (in moderation, of course).

Ask the culinary team at Evergreen Senior Living if any of these options can be part of your dining experience!

Make Your Own Sunshine. You can simulate the mental effects of sunlight by sitting next to an artificial light, often known as lightbox, or even just sitting under a bright lamp for 30 minutes a day. Open up the shades and the blinds and let in as much light as possible to provide a brightness boost. It will help your mood.

Get Your Exercise. It can be very tempting to snuggle down with a blanket, a cup of tea and a good book, but making the effort to get your body moving is an important defense against SAD. Walking for even just 35 minutes a day can help abate symptoms of SAD. Try yoga or Pilates as a low impact way to keep your body moving and increase the mind/body connection. Many Evergreen communities have Senior Flex fitness centers that provide opportunities for exercising, even when the weather outside is frightful.

Crank of the Tunes! Happy, cheerful music can improve your mood and get your body moving.

Volunteer. You can improve your mental health by donating your time or talents at a local shelter or other organization you are interested in.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any symptoms of SAD, please talk to the wellness team at Evergreen Senior Living. While the winter blues can affect anyone, if the feelings persist, there may be something more going on that should be addressed. Our mission is to provide our residents and their families with peace of mind and a healthy lifestyle. Learn more by visiting our website.

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