There are many resources for ways to treat chronic conditions, aches, and pains, such as medication and other therapies. But it’s so important to also take care of your mental health.
Now more than ever, older adults are speaking up about their feelings of stress and anxiety. At Clover Health, we want to help you care for every aspect of your health and wellness, both physical and mental health.
The Importance of Mental Health for Seniors
Mental health includes psychological and emotional well-being. It can affect how we feel, how we think, and how we cope with stressful life events. Mental health can also affect your physical health. If you’re anxious or stressed, for example, you might have trouble sleeping, have a lower appetite, or even have a higher risk of health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
Older adults face many life changes, such as chronic pain, reduced mobility, or the loss of loved ones. These can all impact your mental health. The onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can also affect mood and contribute to anxiety. According to the CDC, roughly 20% of adults over 55 have a mental health concern including anxiety, depression, and cognitive decline.
How to Look After Your Mental Health
Getting older comes with life changes, such as retiring, moving homes, or learning to manage a chronic illness. Here are some ways you can look after your mental health as you age.
Maintain Healthy Habits
As you experience some of the changes that go along with aging, maintain your mental health by sticking to healthy habits.
- Try to sleep for 7 to 9 hours every night. Quality sleep helps your body and brain rest and recharge.
- Eat healthy meals packed with nutrients so your body and brain have enough energy. About half of every meal should be vegetables and fruits.
- Keep a routine so that you sleep, eat, and exercise around the same times every day. This consistency can improve both your physical and mental health.
Your body and mind are closely connected. One way to improve your mental health is by staying active. Go for regular walks, do some daily chair stretches, or even join a local senior fitness class through the SilverSneakers program. Staying active is great for your physical and mental health. Regular exercise keeps your body strong, relieves aches and pains, and can help reduce stress and anxiety.
If you’re feeling stressed and anxious, you may want to stay home and sit out social events. But meeting with family and friends may lower your stress and anxiety. Keeping in touch with your loved ones makes you feel connected and can help reduce stress. Another great way to stay social? Volunteer at a local organization or find a way to get more involved in your community.
Try a New Hobby
Learning new skills is good for your brain. After retirement, you might have time to try some new hobbies on your bucket list. Whether you start gardening, painting, or fishing, learning new skills helps keep your brain healthy and strong. It can also give you a sense of accomplishment and reduce stress and anxiety.
Evaluate Your Medications
Did you know that some of your medications could increase your risk of feeling stressed and anxious? Talk with your doctor about the possible side effects of your medications. You may be able to switch medications or doses to reduce side effects.
Tips for Coping with Stress and Anxiety
When you feel stressed and anxious, there are a few ways you can reduce stress and feel calmer.
- Breathing exercises: A great way to calm your mind is by taking several slow, deep breaths. You’ll notice that when you feel stressed, your breathing is shallow. Calming your breathing can calm your mind, so breathe deeply to reduce stress.
- Mindfulness and meditation: Practicing mindfulness every day can also help reduce anxiety. Sit in a comfortable position for a few minutes, close your eyes, and focus on your breath or your body. Do your best to let go of any anxious thoughts you might have and be fully present in that moment.
- Self-care: Taking time to relax and care for yourself is so important. If you’ve been feeling stressed and anxious, set aside some time for self-care. Curl up with a great book, take a bath, journal, do a puzzle, go on a walk, or listen to your favorite song. Self-care can reduce your anxiety and help you feel calm.
Find Mental Health Support
No matter how you’re feeling, remember that you’re not alone. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed, you don’t have to deal with it on your own. Mental health services, such as counseling or talk therapy, can help manage stress and anxiety. Meeting with a trained mental health professional is a great way to work through your mental health concerns and find coping strategies that work for you.
Mental Health Resources
Start by talking to your doctor about your mental health. Your emotional health is just as important as your physical health, and your doctor can help. Be honest with your doctor about how you’re feeling. Let them know all your symptoms, such as feeling anxious, sad, irritable, or forgetful. You can also share any recent life events that were stressful or triggered your symptoms. Your doctor can provide local resources or give you referrals to mental health specialists in your area.
- For immediate support, call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This national suicide prevention hotline is free and confidential. You can call 24/7 and talk to a counselor. They will offer support and can give you more local resources and mental health referrals.
- The Veterans Crisis Line is also free and confidential. Reach them at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. You can call 24/7 and speak to a trained mental health responder.
- You can also find mental health support and resources by calling SAMSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-552-4357. This helpline focuses on providing referrals to local support groups and community treatment options.
Clover Health Plans
For more information about mental health support services covered by your Clover Health plan, call 1-800-836-6890 (TTY 711) 8 am to 8 pm local time, 7 days a week*
Published on 4/30/21
Photo credit: Getty