Over the past week or so, I have noticed some of my friends experiencing a bit of what might be called the blues. The cold weather makes it difficult for them to get outside and it’s starting to affect their mood. I recognize the blues happens more often when the days are cloudy. My staff in the Mental Health and Spiritual Care branch tell me that a healthy regime of self care at this time of year is especially important to manage these feelings.
Cabin fever can be worse if our mobility is limited, but there are ways to combat the blues. A little light goes a long way: keep the curtains open during the day and sit near the window; or poke your head out the front door to get a deep breath of fresh air while lifting your arms above your head.
At this time of year, it can be difficult to get fresh produce, but making healthy food choices does pay off. Junk food is a common cause of depression. I could not talk about healthy choices without talking about exercise. You don’t need a lot, but exercise relieves stress, builds energy and increases mental and physical well-being.
Older age can be portrayed as a time of rest and reflection. Actually, seniors are often busy volunteering, helping neighbours and friends and continuing to provide family care. January offers us a perfect time to acknowledge the natural ebb and flow of energy that occurs throughout the year. Reducing or postponing some of our responsibilities and getting the rest we need is not only recommended but essential for good health.
Sometimes, the natural slowing down of the season becomes something else. Have you noticed changes in your sleep, appetite, weight or behaviour that are significant or extended? It is important to know yourself. Do you just need a little more rest, or is this down mood something more serious, such as depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD)? For more information on making positive choices or on SAD, ask Mood Disorders of Manitoba for a copy of their basic needs checklist at 204-786-0987; 1-800-263-1460 or http://www.mooddisordersmanitoba.ca/files/documents/infosheet-selfcare/121.pdf. The Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health has a guide for seniors and their families on depression at http://www.ccsmh.ca.
If you have lived in Manitoba all your life you may take its wonders for granted. Our winters do offer us many real positive things. For example, newcomers are often dazzled by our beautiful sundogs—nature’s way of offering us winter rainbows. Winter also provides more time for solitude, to learn about something new in a good book from the library or to readjust our priorities to what is really important.
As always, I invite you to call the Seniors Information Line with any comments or questions at 204-945-6565 in Winnipeg; toll free 1-800-665-6565. You can also visit http://www.gov.mb.ca.healthyliving and click on the link for Manitoba Seniors and Healthy Aging Secretariat.
Hon. Jim Rondeau is Minister of Healthy Living, Seniors and Consumer Affairs.