Caregiver, Have You Got the Winter Blues? Five Tips to Beat SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

January 12, 2010 at 6:18 pm Leave a comment

It’s January and just about the entire country has experienced bitter temps. That means most caregivers and their loved ones tend to stay inside and hunker down. They’re trying to stay warm, avoid falls, and not kill each other. Let’s face it, that’s a whole lotta togetherness. On top of that, there’s SAD (seasonal affective disorder). It’s real, and if you’re dragging, can’t sleep, or sleeping too much, achy, weepy and apathetic, you may have what many people call “the winter blues.”

According to Mayo Clinic SAD is:

“A type of depression that occurs at the same time every year…your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, seasonal affective disorder causes depression in the spring or early summer.”

It a lot to do with the amount of light and Vitamin D you’re getting–which in the winter is a whole lot less.

Five Tips to Beat SAD and Jump-Start Your Brain and Body:

Move! I know you’re cold, but doing some gentle stretches, yoga (you can buy a DVD or even go online and find a video), walk vigorously around your house, get a start on your spring cleaning, or dance to music are easy ways to get those muscles warm right at home. The warmest I feel all day is after a 20 minute walk on my treadmill.

Get outside. Even if you have to hire respite care (many areas have volunteers so check with your elder resources and ask) it’s worth the effort to go to the library, have coffee with a friend, and do some light shopping. You need to get out. There’s no need to hide for 3 whole months a year.

Up your Vitamin D and C dosage and eat your fruits and veggies. It’s easy to carbo-load in the winter (pasta, potatoes, etc.) but that not only packs on pounds, it also makes you sleepy. Try to never have a carb without a protein–even a few nuts helps to create balance.

Consider light therapy. It mimics sunlight and can help set your circadian rhythms. Here’s some online light therapy options. They’re inexpensive and really do help. You and your care buddy can read the morning paper under the light (about 20 minutes) and get all you need for the day.

Laugh and Learn. Your brain needs to exercise as well as your body. Pick up an old hobby–quilting, crocheting, woodworking. Pick up a new hobby–Sudoku, computer game, or conversational spanish (for that spring cruise you’re planning!) Doing something new for 10 minutes a day fires those neurons and gets your brain lighting up prettier than a Christmas tree.

Winter Blues can turn serious, so if you’re “self-medicating” with too much alcohol or sleeping pills, or if you’re having suicidal thoughts, call someone–a hotline, a dear friend, a clergy or a therapist. Ask for help. People care. They’re not going to judge you. All of us have sad and scary times and reaching out is the very best way to get help and strengthen relationships. Caregiving takes a village. We all need each other.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , .

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Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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