Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that occurs in fall and winter when it’s colder and daylight hours are shorter. Some people, especially those in their golden years, experience symptoms of SAD during these months because they are more sensitive to changes in sunlight than the younger generation. Although SAD is common among seniors, they shouldn’t have to suffer on their own. There are many things you can do to help your loved one get through the cold, dark season. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and how you can help your senior loved one deal with seasonal affective disorder.
Watch Your Diet
The seasonal affective disorder is often accompanied by depression and weight gain, and people who struggle with SAD should make sure they’re eating a healthy diet. Diet doesn’t necessarily mean foods that are good for you, though. Some of our favorite foods (cake, cookies, chocolate) actually might exacerbate seasonal affective disorder symptoms because they contain sugar. A healthier way to eat for seasonal affective disorder sufferers is to avoid sugary foods and eat healthy fats like avocados, nuts, or seeds.
Many seniors suffering from SAD often turn to alcohol to cope with their depression and lack of energy. However, although alcohol help masks some of your symptoms, it can also exacerbate them short-term and long-term. If you’re suffering from SAD, it’s best to avoid alcohol altogether and any other mood-altering substances such as prescription drugs (including anti-depressants). If you have a history of substance abuse or have been advised by your doctor against drinking, then doing so is dangerous. Instead of going for a drink, try sticking to naturally caffeinated beverages such as green tea instead – a study conducted at The Australian National University found that green tea helped reduce depression and fatigue.
While often overlooked as a treatment, research shows that exercise and movement can help seniors overcome SAD. Studies show that those who exercise regularly experience fewer symptoms of depression during season changes. Research also indicates that those who engage in regular physical activity experience higher moods and better sleep. While it is good to encourage older adults to get out there and move around, it’s important to remember that many have mobility issues.
Spend Time with Others
Isolation can lead to depression, so you must try to engage others in activities that will help alleviate any feeling of isolation. Consider joining a book club or taking up a new hobby. Even if you prefer to socialize with people online instead of in person, that’s fine too—make sure that you seek out opportunities for interaction regularly.
Don’t Forget Your Vitamin D Supplements
Without adequate vitamin D levels in your system, seasonal affective disorder can become even more problematic for adults in their golden years. Although sunlight exposure helps maintain healthy vitamin D levels naturally, not everyone has access to quality outdoor light all year round.
Use Light Therapy
A popular way to treat the seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is by using light therapy. Try out a bright light therapy box or lamp. You can find sad lamps at most local hardware stores and drugstores, and they’re easy to use. As with any medical treatment, consult your doctor before attempting any new remedy—and be sure to read all instructions for each item you purchase!