Dear Donna:

My mom has always looked forward to the holiday season, but this year, she doesn’t seem to have her usual enthusiasm.

 She is sleeping more and is less interested in her favorite holiday activities. What can I do to help her prevent the winter blues?

Kelly in Traverse City


Take Steps to Prevent the Winter Blues


Dear Kelly,

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or the “winter blues,” is a common form of depression among people in colder climates. Symptoms include low energy, overeating, sleeping more, and less interest in social activities.

There are many ways to help your mother feel better this season.

Eat a balanced diet to improve mood.


Many people with SAD indulge in carbohydrates and other “comfort” foods. This can cause weight gain, blood sugar spikes, and cardiovascular risks.

Help your mom choose more vegetables, fruits, and lean protein, and avoid snacks with refined sugars or sodium. Look for sources of vitamin D, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, which may help with symptoms of SAD.

Physical activity improves overall well-being.


Research shows that staying active can improve cardiovascular health, maintain weight, and keep blood sugar levels stable. Physical activity has also been found to improve mood and memory among seniors.

If your mom has trouble getting around, she can start small. Just walking around the house, lifting light weights, or doing easy stretches can help.

Fitness centers and YMCAs have many low-impact options like walking tracks, treadmills, or swimming pools. An active video game, such as Wii bowling, is another way to get moving.

Try light therapy to reduce the winter blues.


Many people experience SAD because limited exposure to natural daylight during winter months can cause sleep disruptions and changes in brain chemicals. Special “light boxes” that imitate outdoor light may help.


Do some research to determine which type of light box is best for you. You may wish to speak to your doctor, especially an eye doctor, before making a purchase.

Stay connected to stay happy this winter.


Even if your mom doesn’t feel like socializing – a common symptom of depression – a small get-together with friends or family can make a big difference.

Encourage her to have coffee with a neighbor or invite family members over for the holidays. Joining a local group, such as a book club, also can prevent feelings of isolation.


Talk to a health care professional about seasonal depression.


If your mom is showing symptoms of SAD, it can help to see a doctor.

A healthcare provider may order tests to rule out problems such as anemia or hypothyroidism. He or she can also help determine the best treatment and prescribe medication if necessary.

As a caregiver, help is available to you!


Overwhelmed with the responsibilities of caregiving? Heritage Senior Communities offers short-term options for seniors who need some type of assistance.

We provide a variety of lifestyle options that help our residents ward off the winter blues. Communal dining, physical activities, and medication assistance are just a few of the amenities we offer. Contact us today to learn more about our senior living options!


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