Although the up and down temperatures lately may not seem to be winter, it is definitely winter. The cold temperatures and bad weather bring less desire, and sometimes less ability, to go outside, get exercise, socialize with friends, go to church, or just get out of the house. This isolation can lead to depression that is referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the winter blues. The winter blues can have a devastating effect on people of all ages, but can be particularly difficult for older adults. Older individuals that experience the winter blues may not be able to easily recover when winter ends and often need the assistance of prescription medication to overcome this depression.
Symptoms of SAD include an array of emotions including feeling sad, grumpy, moody, or even anxious, showing less interest in normal activities, eating more carbohydrates (resulting in weight gain), and sleeping more but feeling tired during the day. One key factor that is noted with the winter blues is sunlight. The change in the amount of sunlight received is believed to interfere with sleep-wake cycles. This, in turn, can affect serotonin levels in the brain contributing to mood. Sunlight is also important for assisting in the transport of vitamins thoughout the body.
The most important steps that can be taken is those of prevention. It is important to continue to go outside and get sunlight. This seems to be most effective when one goes outside early in the morning. For those unable to venture outside, opening shades and sitting near a window can be helpful. Resist the urge to eat a lot of pasta and bread. Don’t increase the amount of coffee or alcohol because you are inside more and don’t have anything else to do. Caffeine may provide a boost, but it is only temporary and alcohol is actually a depressant. If you regularly exercise, keep the same schedule. You may need to adapt your exercise routine to inside, but make every effort to keep the intensity and amount the same. Make every attempt to keep your routine the same or assist your loved ones you may be helping in keeping their routines the same. Stay warm and stay healthy!