Health & Wellness Senior Living - January 15, 2023

Understanding Seasonal Depression & How to Combat its Symptoms

Many of us have a favorite season, looking forward to sweater weather in the fall or getting excited about having fun in the sun during the summer. However, it is also common to dislike certain times of the year. Still, some of us are even more affected by the change of the seasons, referred to as seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder.

Seasonal depression is more common than you may realize. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “about 5% of adults in the U.S. experience [seasonal affective disorder]…About 10% to 20% of people in America may get a milder form of the winter blues.”

Our team at Rivertown Ridge, a senior living community located in Wyoming, Michigan, is explaining seasonal depression and sharing tips on how to combat its symptoms.

What is Seasonal Depression?

The American Psychiatric Association states, “seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression also known as SAD, seasonal depression, or winter depression. In the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, this disorder is identified as a type of depression – Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern.”

While similar to general depression, as the name suggests, seasonal depression is seasonal, with symptoms occurring only during certain times of the year and resolving themselves with the changing of seasons, i.e., winter to spring.

Usually, seasonal depression affects individuals during the winter months, with a milder form of this condition being referred to as the “winter blues.”

Symptoms of Seasonal Depression

Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can vary from person to person and range from mild to severe, usually progressing with the season. Many of these symptoms are similar to those of general depression and can include the following:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Losing interest in activities that you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy or feeling sluggish
  • Changes in sleep – whether it be insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite – commonly overeating and experiencing carbohydrate cravings
  • Weight gain
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Combatting the Symptoms of Seasonal Depression

There is not much you can do to change the weather. However, there are a few ways you can lessen the weight of seasonal depression and reduce some of its symptoms.

Spend Time in Natural Light

“Spending time outside or near a window can help relieve [seasonal affective disorder] symptoms (John Hopkins Medicine).” Obviously, the winter months bring colder temperatures and, depending on where you live, snow and ice. If it is possible and safe, though, spending time in natural light can go a long way in helping reduce your symptoms of seasonal depression.

If getting outside is not an option, try drawing your curtains back and allowing the natural light to come into your home. This can help brighten your space and will enable you to reap the benefits of being exposed to sunlight.

An Extra Dose of Vitamin D

One of our main sources of vitamin D comes from the sun. When the sun’s ultraviolet rays hit the skin, this triggers vitamin D synthesis. Because many of us have limited exposure to the sun during the winter months, individuals experiencing seasonal depression likely also have a vitamin D deficiency.

Taking a vitamin D supplement may help to relieve symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. However, it is important to note that you should not start taking additional supplements without consulting your doctor.

Try Light Therapy

The American Psychiatric Association states, “light therapy involves sitting in front of a light therapy box that emits a very bright light (and filters out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays). It usually requires 20 minutes or more per day, typically first thing in the morning, during the winter months.”

This exposure can simulate similar effects of the sun, helping during the months when there are limited daylight hours and more darkness.

During the winter months, it is easy to become more isolated, but the benefit of living in a senior living community like Rivertown Ridge is that it is easier to stay connected, which can also help lessen the symptoms of seasonal depression.

If you want to learn more about our community in Wyoming, Michigan, and everything we offer, visit our website or contact a member of our team.