5 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health as You or Your Loved One Age
July 09 2020
How to Care for Yourself as You Deal with the Changes Life Throws at You
Growing old can be hard for many and not everyone considers it the golden years. Not to mention it can be difficult for those around you as well.The reason it can be so challenging is that there are a lot of changes, some difficult, that occur as you age. There is dealing with feelings of isolation, a loss of independence or even just coming to terms with the passage of time. And for those around you, they may see changes in you both mentally and physically that are hard to come to terms with that may affect your relationship.
Depression and poor mental health can be an effect of dealing with aging. This is the case whether you are the one aging or the one caring for a family member who is. You may even experience grief over the loss of who you, or your loved one, once were. This is completely normal to experience. However it is important that you guard your mental health to avoid falling into severe depression. This is because depression not only affects your mental health but your physical health as well.
5 Mental Health Tips For Those Who Are Aging
As you age, it is important to continually reinvent yourself as you pass through landmark ages. By doing this, you will be able to better handle the emotions that come with aging. Not to mention it gives you a sense of control over your life and allows you to experience new and exciting things!
1 | Find new things to enjoy. If you can’t do something that you once loved, such as knitting or gardening, now is a great time to try new things and find something else that you love to do.
2 | Stay active and eat healthy. Exercise has a lot of proven benefits. It keeps you more flexible and can help prevent serious injuries from falls. It also can relieve chronic pain. But did you know that exercise also has mental health benefits? As you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, which make you feel happier. Don’t forget to also eat nutritious food as part of a healthy lifestyle. Eating nutrient dense foods help both your mind and body.
3 | Challenge your mind. Do something that challenges your mind every day, such as a crossword puzzle or a game of chess or Scrabble. The exercises for your mind will keep you sharp and help stave off dementia.
4 | Be social. Social interaction decreases the feelings of isolation and thus, depression. Continue to find a way to be social, even if you have mobility limitations. This may mean hiring a caregiver that can offer companionship themselves or even take you to social engagements. Or, have your more mobile friends come to you!
5 | Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Your friends, family and doctors can provide invaluable support when needed. There is no shame in asking for help–remember, everyone will be dealing with the effects of aging at some point in our lives. It is better to ask for help when you need it, rather than to suffer negative consequences such as injury or depression that can make you feel even worse.
5 Mental Health Tips for Family Members of an Aging Loved One
Whether you are caring for your loved one or not, dealing with the changes you see in them can be difficult. However it is important to care for your own mental health so that it does not affect your relationship with your loved one.
1 | Find a Constructive Outlet. We’ve all heard the saying to not bottle up your feelings. Internalizing these negative emotions leads to stress, worry, depression and even guilt. Instead, counseling can be an effective and constructive outlet for you to work through what you are feeling. Or if you are a caregiver, a support group is a safe place to discuss your feelings and even seek advice on how to deal with problems.
2 | Do something you love. As a family member, don’t just mope about. Instead take time to do something you love. If you are a family caregiver, this is also very important to do. When you do something you enjoy, it lifts your spirits. And as a family caregiver, remember to not feel guilty by taking some time for you. Remember, you can’t take care of others well if you don’t first take care of yourself.
3 | Practice self care. Along those same lines of caring for yourself, take some “me time” to rejuvenate your mind and body. Self care includes exercising, eating healthy and doing something relaxing, such as meditation or taking a hot bath. Nutritious foods protect your mind and body while exercising releases endorphins, which makes you feel happier. Quiet activities can help to ease anxiety and calm your mind.
4 | Stay connected. When we are upset or busy with an aging loved one it can be easy to pull away from our social circle. However it is more important now than ever to retain that social connection. Your friends can be a shoulder to cry on when you need it or can help you get out for a few hours of respite care to do something fun. Otherwise you may begin to feel isolated, which can lead to depression.
5 | Ask for help. It is important to remember to reach out for help when you need it. If you feel the clutches of depression pulling you down, reach out to someone to talk about it. Or if you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed from caregiver duties it is also a good time to ask for help. Those around you are eager and willing to help, whether it is to take over caregiver duties for a few hours or to listen to you talk about your feelings.