In a time like this when unavoidable stressors enter our lives due to social distancing and sheltering at home, tending to mental health is paramount. These tips for maintaining good mental health for seniors will remind you to make positive thinking a major part of your everyday routine — and help you find meaningful moments and make the most of these uncertain times.
Develop Healthy Habits
The primary building block for overall well-being and mental health as you age is to consistently maintain healthy habits. Getting quality sleep is one of the most common mental health tips for seniors. Eight solid hours of sleep each night does wonders for cognitive ability, but uninterrupted sleep becomes harder to come by for many older adults. Establishing a bedtime routine, avoiding screen time for an hour before turning in, playing relaxing music, or reading before bed can help you wind down and get a better night’s rest.
Among the many other touted tips for maintaining good mental health is a focus on diet and exercise. Exercising releases mood-boosting endorphins in your brain. Staying active on a daily basis helps your brain adapt to readily releasing these endorphins. Just like proper sleep and exercise require consistency to achieve mental health benefits, a consistently healthy diet has lasting effects on senior mental health. When considering mental health tips for seniors surrounding diet, you’ll find the same guidance that comes with successful healthy aging. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates; instead load up on high-fiber fruits, vegetables and whole grains to improve energy levels. When you maintain a healthy diet, you simply feel better, which boosts your mood and raises your spirits.
Many seniors worry they aren’t properly prepared to manage the stress surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. While this is certainly an understandable source of anxiety, there are key things you can do to calm your nerves. First, make sure you have plenty of suitable face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Consult your physician about stocking up on any medications you need, and ask about home delivery so you don’t have to enter a pharmacy. Consider home delivery for groceries and other necessary items. In general, it’s truly best to avoid spending too much time in public spaces to limit your exposure to the coronavirus.
Stay Informed with the Right Information
The news has extensively covered COVID-19 since its beginning. Staying up to date on all the information can be overwhelming, especially when things change so quickly. To help avoid anxiety while staying informed, get your facts directly from trusted sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Council on Aging (NCOA), and your local health department[MA1] . One of the best mental health tips for seniors right now is to try to avoid spending too much time watching broadcast news as it tends to add to anxiety — especially before heading to bed to get that quality sleep.
Stick to a Regular Routine
Mental health can be a fickle thing. One day you’re feeling optimistic and sociable; the next you feel depressed and isolated. Structuring your days while staying close to home can help you avoid such drastic shifts in your mental state. It’s also a great way to ensure you fit exercise and healthy meal planning into your day-to-day routine. In times like this, it’s easy to feel everything is out of your hands — structuring your days can help give back your sense of control.
Stay Connected with Loved Ones
Staying connected with loved ones from a distance is easier now than it’s ever been. Video chat apps like Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype allow you to check in with family and friends anytime from anywhere on smart phones, computers and tablets. There are also many video chat features today you can use to go beyond casual conversations. For example, you can play online games, take an online class, or start a virtual book club with your loved ones. Social interaction is vital for maintaining mental and emotional health, especially right now when feelings of isolation come naturally.
Engage in Hobbies
Occupying your mind is a key part of mental health, as well as healthy aging in general. And now is the perfect time to focus on your hobbies or take up a new one. Engaging your mind in creative ways has the same effect as lifting weights for strengthening your muscles. Working with your hands is particularly effective in keeping your mind sharp. Your brain’s ability to process new information and store memories naturally declines as we age. Taking a new class or learning about an unfamiliar topic is another great brain-building exercise — and indulges the lifelong learner in us all.
Focus on the Positive
Loss is unfortunately a natural part of aging. As we grow older, we lose more. And throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all of us have faced some kind of loss, be it a sense of freedom, missing out on experiences, or diminished connections to loved ones. If you dwell on this kind of negativity, your mental health is sure to decline. Instead, try to focus on the things you’re grateful for. Use this time as an opportunity to focus on doing things that make you happy and taking stock of a life well lived. And make sure to express your feelings rather than keeping frustrations bottled up. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with those who care about you is one of the best stress relievers you’ll find.
During this difficult time, all of us at Edgemere want you to know you’re not alone. We’re doing everything in our power to support our residents’ physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. If we can do anything to help support your immediate and ongoing needs — or if you’d like more tips for maintaining good mental health — don’t hesitate to contact us through our website or call us anytime at 214.265.9100.