It’s quite easy to get carried away when reflecting on the parts of fall and winter that bring you joy, such as the fun of the holidays or outdoor recreation activities. But not everyone feels this way: some seniors in Maquoketa and elsewhere, including some who may be receiving hospice care, may find the changing of the seasons challenging, and counting the days until spring.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care works with a variety of clients throughout Eastern Iowa. Some love the changing of fall and winter, some don’t particularly care for it, and some go back and forth depending on the day and weather.
Why the large range? There can be a combination of factors that can make the seasons not always pleasant.
These can include:
- Feeling overwhelmed by the obligations of the holidays, such as shopping and decorating.
- Remembering past seasons that seem better now through the power of nostalgia
- Unhappiness about this year that may restrict gatherings or at least encourage caution
- Feelings of fear about public health conditions, including COVID-19, seasonal flu and
- Unhappiness about the weather, such as cool temperatures and gray skies
- Feelings of unhappiness about health conditions, such as difficulties getting motivated to move around the house, let alone outside
The last two are fairly common and may even be connected.
There’s a health condition that’s recently been discovered called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. It has symptoms of traditional depression, such as sadness, lack of motivation, increased irritation, and even physical pain and exhaustion. SAD conditions also might affect one’s diet: they may want to eat everything – like getting ready for hibernation – or
More and more research is showing that SAD may also be connected to a lack of Vitamin D and other internal chemicals that come from sunlight. Since fall and winter have shorter periods of daylight, especially the further north you live, people who benefit from sunlight get less of it. Even worse, cloudy days also could cut down on the power of sunlight. Then, of course, if someone is feeling depressed, they may find it difficult to go out the door and get some exercise, a behavior that helps keep muscles stay strong and flexible.
So not only do gray, dreary skies contribute to depression, they can make someone feel physically worse.
If you or someone you know is dealing with different types of depression or other problems related to the weather or other seasons, be assured that there are a variety of solutions out there. You might not solve everything instantly, short of moving to the tropics where it’s always sunny, but there are some options to help people’s mental health and give them opportunities to hang on through the next few months until spring and summer.
Some options include:
- Talking to a counselor, therapist, priest or someone else with a mental health background can give you an opportunity to talk about how you feel.
- Licensed health care professionals may be able to prescribe certain pharmaceuticals that can positively help your mental health. Most antidepressants are designed to boost pleasure chemicals in the brain. They may not make you feel super but can help you feel not as bad. These professionals can also work to help you find the best option for your health, and also discuss possible side effects.
- Vitamins/supplements. In addition to items that are prescribed, consider a variety of over-the-counter items that could boost depression, such as high amounts of Vitamin C, which helps your immune system, and Vitamin D, which the sun produces.
- Health experts recommend at least 20 minutes of active exercise five days a week for optimal health. But if you’re concerned about being outside in cold, gray, or potentially hazardous conditions like icy streets or slippery sidewalks, you can consider other options such as figuring out ways to exercise indoors. Maybe videos or maybe mechanical devices like a treadmill can let you get active but stay inside.
- An especially popular tool recommended for people who may be experiencing SAD, or even just the winter blahs, is a special light that produces high-intensity light. While it might not be as good as the sun, you can still work on refreshing or improving how you’re feeling. Medical experts recommend using it a certain amount of time each day to add to the sunlight you should be getting due to weather and geographic limitations.
- Social interactions. Even if you don’t want to go outside to meet someone for coffee or lunch, there are opportunities to spend time with people. Video chat service works, as does email or texting.
- Reduce stress. Look for ways to get rid of some of the pressure to perform during the holidays. Even if family members are pushing you to stick with traditions, suggest options like giving cards or something homemade or something under $10. Maybe instead of giving actual gifts, require everyone to share a talent or tell what they love about each recipient.
Though the gray days that winter brings can make you feel crummy sometimes, there are some options to help you deal with the situation better.