January is a tough month. The holidays are over and spring seems so far away. Then there is the weather. It still gets dark early. It’s cold and snowy and icy. The gray days can give way to the blues, aka “the blahs.”
For seniors, the blahs can be especially hard as it is often more difficult to leave the house because of the weather. And family who visited for the holidays may be gone, so seniors spend more time alone.
Keep in mind that the winter “blah and down-in-the-dumps” feeling is not to be confused with seasonal affective disorder or depression.
If you experience winter blahs well into spring, contact your health care provider as depression is not a natural sign of aging, no matter how old you are, and it is treatable.
But if you are just feeling blah-like, there are things that may help. Here are some tips for surviving the winter blahs:
• Keep your mind alert by reading, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards with a friend, doing crafts and hobbies — any activity that engages your brain. If you have a box of unidentified family photos, think about organizing it. Later generations will thank you.
• Exercise. A snowy yard is no excuse to be sedentary. If you can’t get out of the house, exercise indoors. There are a variety of VHS tapes and DVDs available for every age group and activity level. There is even a walking tape, which is a lot of fun. After doing the whole tape, you will have “walked in place” the equivalent of 2 miles. Check with your doctor for more options.
• Choose healthful “comfort” food. You’ll feel better, in the long run, eating a nutritious stew rather than ice cream. OK, have a little ice cream, too.
• Increase social time with family and friends. If you have trouble getting out, invite them to your home.
• Be creative. If you love decorating for the holidays, do it for other special occasions as well. Valentine’s Day is coming up and it is hard to be depressed when surrounded by lacy red hearts. And candy.
• Make plans for fun things to do in the future, like a special dinner or a trip. It gives you something to think about and look forward to.
• If possible, volunteer for an organization you admire, such as Eastern Area Agency on Aging. There is nothing like helping someone else to make you feel better.
• Take a class or just get out of the house. Check the Calendar section of The Weekly for a listing of things to do. You might be amazed at all that is going on right outside your door.
I hope these suggestions are helpful and you find yourself in the pink in no time.
And speaking of the darkness, think about getting a reflective vest to wear when you are outside. The sun is lower and the resulting shadows decrease visibility this time of year, making it vitally important to dress with safety in mind. There have been several fatalities in the roadways lately, mostly due to the pedestrian not being seen.
If you are out shopping, be careful in parking lots as they are especially dangerous this time of year. People are in a hurry, and the cars may be snowy or fogged up, reducing the driver’s visibility.
Eastern Area Agency on Aging has vests available for a donation of $10, which helps cover our costs. Be seen, be safe. Get your vest today by calling 800-432-7812.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. E-mail Carol Higgins Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, or toll-free (800) 432-7812, e-mail email@example.com or log on www.eaaa.org. TTY 992-0150.