Feeling cooped up by the long, tough winter weather? Starting to feel down in the dumps, now that the holiday season has come to a close? If you’re experiencing a little bit of cabin fever this winter, you’re certainly not alone.
Winter depression is a very real condition. Sometimes, people experience an acute version of the wintertime blues known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. For others — particularly seniors and older adults — the winter weather may cause a more moderate case of “cabin fever.” As WebMD explains, cabin fever can cause people of all ages to feel “irritable, unmotivated, and lethargic,” and can lead to symptoms including “inactivity, crankiness, sleep loss, and simply feeling down.”
Cabin fever and the winter blues are quite common at this time of year, for both older adults and the family caregivers who love and support them. Fortunately, there are many small changes you can make to help make the winter feel brighter for those feeling depressed or anxious.
Here are 10 practical steps caregivers and seniors can take to ward off cabin fever, all season long:
- Practice focused breathing and other relaxation techniques. On days when the stress starts to seem overwhelming, WebMD recommends trying out a relaxation technique. You could try stress-relieving exercises such as yoga, try out meditation, or even take on some simple breathing exercises, such as inhaling deeply through the nose for four seconds, then exhaling through your mouth for eight.
- Create an exercise schedule — and stick to it. A little bit of physical activity can go a long way in helping older adults feel energized and mobile. Working closely with the senior’s healthcare team, find exercises that they can do indoors, such as chair stretches or simple resistance training. If you do go outdoors for a walk, remember to take safety into account by dressing for the weather and heading inside when it gets too cold.
- Focus on eating well. Malnutrition is incredibly common among seniors. During the winter months, take steps to make mealtimes easier and more social, and emphasize healthy portions of nutrient-dense foods.
- Start a new activity or hobby. There’s nothing like learning or doing something new to keep yourself engaged and mentally sharp, and help minimize the lethargy caused by cabin fever! Encourage your loved one to take up a new hobby, from painting, to crafting, to playing music, to baking, to building an indoor garden.
- Cut back on alcohol. On top of causing other health problems, consuming too much alcohol “may disrupt sound sleep, making it harder for you to concentrate the next day” and leading to more stress, as WebMD explains.
- Take steps to be more social. It’s hard to overstate the positive impact that remaining socially connected can have for seniors. Over time, older adults who maintain active friendships or receive regular companionship tend to experience increased longevity, increased satisfaction and happiness, and lower rates of chronic illness. Bringing on a professional senior companion can help give your loved one the social support they need to enjoy the winter months. There are also lots of ways for active seniors to make new friends, from volunteering in the community to enrolling in a continuing education class.
- Do something new. Bake a recipe you’ve never made before. Listen to a song you haven’t put on in years. Play a new game with the family. Variety is the spice of life, and the winter months are a great time to try something invigorating and fresh.
- Set practical goals and focus on accomplishing a special task. One way to make the winter months more powerful — and more productive — is to focus on completing some long-standing projects or goals. Help your senior loved one enjoy a sense of purpose by assisting them in updating their estate plan, organizing their home, rearranging their furniture to create a more safe environment, or looking into long-term care options in their community.
- Bring a little bit of nature indoors. There are some proven and remarkable health benefits to going out and enjoying the Great Outdoors. During the winter, why not focus on bringing a little bit of nature inside, by purchasing some new houseplants, flowers, or fresh herbs? You could also introduce lovely scents with candles or essential oils, or start prepping now for a springtime activity, like hiking or birdwatching.
- Make time for a cultural experience. Museums, theaters, art galleries, and other cultural institutions keep the fun going all winter long! To beat the winter doldrums, make a plan to go out and see a show or take in a new experience in the community.
Make the Most of Winter, With Companions for Seniors
The long, cold winter can be challenging for everyone – and that goes double for seniors and their loving caregivers. Looking for support in giving your senior loved one the personalized care they need to truly thrive during the frostiest, darkest days of the year? Search for someone to help encourage and empower your senior loved one to enjoy themselves, and cope with seasonal cabin fever? We’re here to help!
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home, by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
Our companions are trained and bonded, and can help provide a variety of services designed to help your loved one remain in the comfort of their own home, including:
If you have any questions about helping your parents enjoy themselves while they age in place, don’t hesitate to get in touch online or give us a call at 866-910-9020 to get the conversation started. We’re here to offer guidance and provide support, in whatever way we can!