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Beating Caregiver Depression during the Indiana Winter

January 14, 2016

Beating Caregiver Depression during the Indiana Winter

According to a study published in Psychiatry, an estimated 6% of our population suffers from “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” also referred to as SAD.

For people with SAD, a lack of sunlight in the winter affects their body’s release of serotonin – one of the brain’s “feel-good” chemicals. This can cause changes in sleep patterns and other general feelings of depression. Because caregivers are often stuck indoors during Indiana’s long, cold winters, they may be at increased risk for it.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help beat SAD.

Managing and Preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder

These five tips may help you beat seasonal depression this winter:

  1. Spend Time Outdoors. Soaking up whatever natural sunlight you can might help boost your mood. Just be sure to bundle up before you head out!
  2. Exercise. If you can’t get outdoors to walk during winter months, try to get regular exercise indoors. Work out with the senior you’re caring for, whether it is by becoming mall walkers, swimming at the local YMCA or attending a Chair Yoga class at the local senior center. Exercise can improve your spirits when you are feeling blue.
  3. Volunteer. There are many charitable organizations in need of help all year around. Seniors and caregivers can volunteer together. Contact your local United Way for a list of organizations that could use your help. You can also find volunteer opportunities near you by visiting
  4. Socialize. Caregivers should consider taking advantage of respite programs at local Indiana assisted living communities. It will provide the senior with a change of scenery and an opportunity to join in on life enrichment activities with peers while the caregiver takes a break.
  5. Get Some Rest. While it’s important for your emotional well-being to stay active and engaged with life, caregiving can be overwhelming. Prioritize and decide what activities will bring you true joy. Give yourself permission to say no to the rest.

    Seasonal Affective Disorder or Depression

    If these techniques don’t seem to do the trick, perhaps what you’re feeling is a more serious form of depression. It is not unusual for caregivers to develop the illness.

    The National Institute of Mental Health offers the following recommendations for dealing with depression:

    • Set realistic goals and don’t be hard on yourself.
    • Break large tasks into small ones.
    • Spend time with loved ones and share how you are feeling.
    • Participate in activities that make you feel physically better like exercise.
    • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not overnight.
    • Try to replace negative thoughts with positive self-talk.
    • Make an appointment with your physician for a physical exam, and be honest with him or her about your symptoms.

    Finally, look for classes and support groups available through caregiver support organizations like the Family Caregiver Alliance National Center on Caregiving. It can help you learn the coping strategies you need for caregiving.

    The Five Star Senior Living communities all across the state of Indiana are on Facebook! To get an inside look at the events and activities that happen every day, visit the community nearest you on Facebook.