Winter, with its shorter days and colder temperatures, can often lead to negative mental and physical health symptoms collectively known as the "winter blues" (or, even more colloquially, the “winter blahs”) — especially in northern climates. This seasonal shift can be particularly challenging for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs) and their caregivers. Fortunately, there are simple ways to beat winter blahs and ensure a healthier and more enjoyable winter season for everyone.
Winter Blues Symptoms
The winter blues (a milder form of Seasonal Affective Disorder [SAD]), can affect anyone, and can cause any of the following symptoms:
Low mood (feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or irritability)
Difficulty sleeping, oversleeping, or disrupted sleep schedules
Increased cravings for carbohydrates and weight gain
A tendency to avoid social activities and "hibernate"
Strategies for Beating the Winter Blues
If you start experiencing these seasonal symptoms, you can do the following to get back on track to feeling better:
Establish a consistent routine. Consistency and structure are particularly comforting for individuals with IDDs. Maintaining a regular schedule for meals, activities, and sleep can provide a sense of security and help manage mood swings.
Maximize your exposure to natural light. Sunlight is crucial for maintaining our circadian rhythms and boosting mood. Get outside when the weather permits. Consider rearranging your living space to allow for more natural light, or invest in light therapy lamps that simulate sunlight.
Maintain physical activity. Regular exercise plays a crucial role in mental health. Aim to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly. Indoor activities like yoga, dance, or simple stretching exercises can be especially fun and beneficial for adults with IDDs.
Prioritize a healthy diet. Winter can often lead to cravings for comfort foods, which can be high in salt, sugars, and fats. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can impact mood and energy levels positively.
Embrace indoor hobbies and activities. Engaging in hobbies and activities that can be enjoyed indoors, such as arts and crafts, reading, or music, can provide a sense of accomplishment and joy.
Maintain social interactions. Isolation can exacerbate the winter blues. Yet it’s easier than ever to socialize, even if you can’t go out. Schedule regular video calls with friends and family, or engage in online platforms related to your interests and hobbies.
Seek professional support if needed. It's important to recognize when professional help is warranted. If symptoms of depression persist, consulting a healthcare provider is essential. Organizations like the American Psychiatric Association provide resources for finding mental health professionals who specialize in working with individuals with IDDs.
Enjoy Wintertime More With Progressive Lifestyles
Progressive Lifestyles, Inc. is dedicated to providing innovative support services for people with disabilities. Our mission is to provide supportive and caring residential opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Oakland County, Michigan.
A primary focus of our organization is to interact with the individuals we support through the “Culture of Gentleness” model. We seek to create a positive environment to help them feel safe and valued while maximizing praise, limiting demands, maintaining consistent structure, and reducing stress during transitions.