As we continue through the winter with colder and shorter days, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects about 5% of adults, with older adults facing the greatest risk. The increased risk of this depression, coupled with the 50% risk of loneliness seniors face, can create intense challenges for mental, social and physical health. Throughout the winter it is especially important to understand these risks and take preemptive steps to protect your mental health. Here, find some recommendations from the Aging at Home Association to help ease the burden of SAD and reduce your risk of isolation or loneliness.
Get Outside Early
SAD is caused by disruptions to our circadian rhythms due to the changing daylight hours. Taking a walk or finding a way to exercise outside in the morning can help ease mental health symptoms. If you can’t get out in the morning, try midday for a brief walk, exercising in the evening can raise your body temperature and make sleep more of a challenge.
Try winding down 30 minutes to an hour before you plan to fall asleep, avoid electronics and arguments during this time!
Try Light Therapy
Many people use light boxes or alarm clocks that mimic sunlight during the winter months. These can be useful tools to help reset and regulate your circadian rhythm during the winter.
SAD and social isolation can work cyclically as depressive symptoms can include an urge to isolate, while such isolation contributes to loneliness and worsened depression. Even building small periods of socialization into your schedule can make a world of difference. Try inviting a neighbor or friend for your daily walks, schedule phone dates with long distance friends, or set aside one day a week for a meal with a loved one. With your AAHA membership, you also have access to the BenefitHub Discount Marketplace and discounted services from Elli-Q. Consider an Elli-Q digital companions to help you combat isolation and depression, and check out BenefitHub for discounts on entertainment, travel, and other social opportunities to take advantage of throughout the year.
If you’ve found yourself struggling with your mental health throughout the winter, try to incorporate some of these tips. If your symptoms feel too overwhelming to manage at home, reach out to your doctor and consider medical help to manage loneliness and SAD.