Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that causes symptoms such as lack of energy and feelings of sadness or melancholy. It tends to be triggered by the onset of the fall and winter months. Experts aren’t sure what causes SAD. Some theorize that the change of seasons disrupts a person’s circadian rhythms. Others believe that changes in the production of hormones like serotonin and melatonin play a role. Either way, we know that it can impact residents at our Northern Colorado skilled nursing facility.
How to Manage SAD
It is important to keep in mind that SAD is a form of depression. As such, we encourage residents at our skilled nursing facility to discuss it with their doctor.
Below are some steps elders can take, in consultation with their physician, to combat SAD:
- Stick to a schedule. SAD can make it difficult to sleep and therefore harder to get out of bed in the morning. However, it is best if you continue to go to bed and get up at the same time even as the seasons change.
- Use light therapy. Light therapy boxes produce light that is similar to sunshine and may help keep your circadian rhythms on track. Light therapy may be most effective when used first thing in the morning.
- Try a dawn simulator. These devices produce light that gradually increases in intensity to mimic the rising of the sun. They may make it easier for you to get up in the morning.
- Get or stay active. Regular exercise can help protect against SAD.
- Take a vitamin D supplement. Your doctor can perform tests to determine if your level of vitamin D is low. If it is, it can be helpful to take a vitamin D supplement.
- Try aromatherapy. Some researchers believe that the areas of the brain that control mood can be influenced by essential oils.
- Spend time outside. While the light provided by a light box or dawn simulator is helpful, nothing beats getting a healthy dose of natural sunlight each day.
- Consider antidepressant medication. For more serious cases of SAD that don’t respond to other therapies, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant. If that is the case, be sure to take it as directed and do not stop taking it without consulting your physician.
Be Proactive in Dealing with SAD
We encourage residents at our skilled nursing facility to be proactive about all aspects of their physical, mental and emotional health. This includes SAD. Too often people think the only option for dealing with seasonal depression is to “grin and bear it,” but there are many treatment options that can make the fall and winter months much more enjoyable.
November/20/2018 | News