December brings darker days and colder weather, making it more difficult to comfortably enjoy the outdoors. It’s only natural that with less sunlight, fresh air, and fewer opportunities to socialize or partake in activities, comes a feeling of melancholy. This common sensation of despair has come to be known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression. This is especially exacerbated by the restrictions of the pandemic, preventing immunocompromised individuals from interacting with their friends and family. As a home health care worker, you may be one of the few people your sick clients can depend on for support and companionship. That’s why we came up with a list of ways you can help your clients overcome seasonal depression and stay positive this winter!
- Get Social
Now more than ever there are so many ways to socialize with others online. Find out what your client’s interests or hobbies are and help them join an online club or community. Country Living cited six different online groups anyone can join, including a book club and choir group. It’s important to your mental health to feel connected and engaged with other people.
- Move Your Body
Physical activity increases endorphins, which will help your client feel happier and more positive. Many platforms, apps, and websites are offering virtual exercise classes; some of them are even free! FITON app, for example, can be downloaded for free and allows you to select your workout based on how long of a class you want to take. Options start at 5-10 minutes and continue up to 30+. You can also select what muscle groups you’d like to work, and the intensity level.
- Let There Be Light
Encourage your client to get outside and enjoy the daylight, when possible. Make sure they’re bundled up and go for a brisk walk when the sun is at its brightest, to soak up some Vitamin D. Open all of the blinds throughout their house and encourage them to sit in a sunny area as much as possible.
- Eat the Rainbow
The foods we eat directly affect our mood and energy level. Certain foods, such as processed foods and simple carbs, provide a quick rush of energy and then a drop, leaving you feeling even worse than before. Encourage your client to seek out recipes or meals that feature brightly colored vegetables, fruits, and beans. Tell them to record their favorites and share them with you, to help give them a new goal and interest.
- Bright Light Therapy
Bright light therapy has been thought to improve sleep, boost your mood, increase your energy level, enhance your focus, and more. You can purchase a lightbox online, and most are very affordable. In most cases, you simply sit about 12 inches in front of a 10,000-lux lightbox for 15-30 minutes each morning. The lightbox emits a controlled amount of white light, with harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays filtered out. Most people notice an improvement in their SAD symptoms after a few days and experience the full antidepressant effect in about two weeks. You can purchase from a variety of options on Amazon, and many other online retailers.
- Focus on the Good
It’s hard to feel down when you’re focused on all the great things in your life. Have your client write down three things they’re grateful for each day in a journal. Perhaps you can both discuss things you’re grateful for during visits.