With all the fun of the holidays now over and as people return to their regular activities, it’s no wonder some people get a little bit down this time of year. It can be particularly tough on some older adults who may be avoiding the outdoors as the winter months can make sidewalks and roads treacherous. This self-imposed winter isolation is bad for your health; not only can it intensify the effects of the winter blues, it can also lead to depression.
The third Monday of January (the 21st in 2019) has been given the title “Blue Monday” as it has often been described as the most depressing day of the year. There is no clinical evidence that this is true. What is true is that many people suffer from clinical depression and seasonal affective disorder.
How do you know if you’re depressed or just having a bad day? Well, depression lasts longer than one day and it’s more than just feeling sad. Here are some of the common symptoms of depression:
- Loss of interest in the things you used to enjoy
- Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
- Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope
- Feeling bad about yourself
- Thoughts about dying, suicide or hurting yourself
- Loss of concentration
- Irritability and anger or unexplained crying
- Changes in appetite (eating too much or too little)
- Changes in your sleep (difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, sleeping too much or not feeling refreshed in the morning)
- Low energy, fatigue, feeling weak
- Physical symptoms like headaches, muscle pains, nausea, constipation
Depression is not a normal part of aging, and it can lead to social isolation and worsening mental and physical health. If you have symptoms like these that last more than two weeks, please talk to your doctor. There are several medical conditions (like low vitamin B12 or an underactive thyroid gland) that are associated with depression and can be treated relatively easily. There are also medications (like certain blood pressure medications or sedatives) that are associated with depression and can be discontinued or changed. It is important to recognize these symptoms and seek treatment because more than 80% of people with depression respond well to treatment.
The good news is that Canadian Seniors are living longer, healthier, happier and more productive lives. In fact, a Statistics Canada survey from 2016 showed that men and women in their 60s, 70s and 80s had higher than average life satisfaction scores than men and women between the ages of 20 and 59. So stay active, do the things you enjoy and spend time with people who make you happy.