I am the primary caregiver for my 91-year-old mother. During the winter, weather conditions in Michigan make it unsafe for her to leave the house, so we spend most of our days indoors. I often become depressed and isolated during this time of year. How can I avoid the winter blues when caregiving keeps me at home?
Laura from Traverse City, MI
5 Tips to Avoid the Winter Blues
I’m sorry to hear you are feeling depressed. It may help to know you are not alone. The winter blues, also called cabin fever, are common during this time. It can often be attributed to shorter days and less sun exposure. Those who spend most of their time indoors, like many caregivers, may have difficulty sleeping, reduced interest in socializing, and less motivation. These feelings can make it challenging to fulfill caregiving duties. Here are a few ways caregivers can avoid the winter blues.
5 Tips to Beat Winter Blues
- Exercise every day.
Regular physical activity can alleviate sadness. Exercise reduces stress hormones and increases feel-good hormones. By working out daily, caregivers can boost their mood and energy levels. There are plenty of exercises you can perform at home with little to no equipment. You can even find exercises that you and your loved one can do together.
- Try light therapy.
Light therapy, or phototherapy, is commonly used to treat the winter blues. This method involves sitting by a lightbox immediately after waking. The lightbox mimics natural light, which triggers your brain to stop producing melatonin. This tells your body it’s time to be awake and alert.
- Check for vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency rates are higher in areas like Michigan, where the winter is cold. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to sadness and depression. If you feel down during the winter, have your vitamin D levels tested by your doctor. If you are deficient, they may be able to prescribe a supplement that can help.
- Stay connected to others.
Maintaining a healthy social life is essential for your overall health and happiness. Many caregivers struggle to feel connected to others, especially when they can’t leave the house as often as they’d like. Today, you can keep in touch without having to go anywhere. Calling or texting loved ones, joining an online chat group, or connecting on social media are great options.
- Talk to your doctor.
If you are unable to improve winter blues, talk to your doctor. You may have a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Common symptoms of SAD include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Sudden loss of interest
A doctor will be able to develop a plan to help manage your symptoms.
Caring for Yourself
It is difficult to care for others when you don’t take time to care for yourself. Going too long without tending to your needs can affect your health. If your caregiving role is preventing you from leaving your house, you may want to consider respite care. Respite care gives caregivers short-term relief from their caregiving duties. It can be especially helpful for those concerned about leaving their loved ones unattended.
Heritage Senior Communities
Heritage Senior Communities offers short-term or respite care for seniors and families throughout Michigan. If you are interested in learning more about respite care or any of our senior living options, contact us to schedule a private tour.