For some reason, we don’t talk a whole lot about mental health when it comes to seniors. Perhaps it’s because the older we get, the more our physical ailments begin to hog the spotlight. Yet mental health issues are prevalent in senior populations. According to the American Psychological Association, 20 percent of people over the age of 55 are dealing with some sort of mental health problem. Furthermore, two-thirds of nursing home residents show signs of mental and behavioral disorders.
However, older Americans under utilize services for mental health — less than 3 percent report visiting a mental healthcare professional for their issues. Mental health issues including fear, excessive stress, anger, anxiety, and depression can all influence a person’s immune system, cardiac functions, pain tolerance, and abilities to recover from illness or surgery.
If you are a senior who wants to be proactive about your mental health, use the following tips to promote a positive state of overall being.
Cut Out the Junk
Growing up in the 20th century, we saw a revolution in food. Over the years, however, it became cheaper and easier than ever to make a meal. While convenience foods were fun at the time of their debut, over the years, the risks associated with them have become clear. We are not meant to eat highly processed foods. Our bodies and minds function better when you cut out all that junk and focus on a diet full of whole foods. That means fresh and frozen produce, lean proteins, high-fiber legumes, whole grains, healthy fats, and plenty of water. Eating a well-balanced diet full of these kinds of foods will support brain function for better mental health.
Get Involved in Your Community
Loneliness is a huge problem in the senior community. It’s such a big issue that the United Kingdom recently appointed a Minister of Loneliness to take charge of addressing this mental health crisis in their own senior population. Getting involved in something is a proactive way to prevent loneliness and the problems that come with it.
If you already belong in a church, talk to somebody there about volunteering or even senior classes/programs they may already offer. If you don’t have something like that in your area, check out your local senior community center, where other people just like you gather daily to socialize and enjoy each other’s company.
Keep It Moving
You may have thought that exercise was just good for your physical health, but you’d be wrong! Exercising is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It helps relieve stress and its symptoms. It also promotes an overall good feeling by releasing neurochemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins into the body. And, yes, it’s good for the body. However, the body and mind are connected — when you take care of one, it contributes to the wellness of the other and vice versa. Make sure to add cardio, resistance, balance, and stretching exercises into your routine for full-body benefits.
Ask for Help If You Need It
One of the hardest things someone struggling with mental health issues can do is ask for help. When you’re having a hard time mentally, you get the idea that you’re not worth anybody’s time so you shouldn’t reach out for assistance. It’s important to talk to someone if you are feeling overwhelmed by feelings like depression or anxiety.
Another problem for which seniors should seek help is prescription drug abuse. Many seniors need to take certain medicines to help control chronic pain. These medications put a person at high risk for developing an addiction. Monitor your drug administration carefully and watch for signs of prescription drug abuse. If you feel like you have lost control of your use, seek help for rehabilitation as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more difficult recovery can be.
Taking care of your mental health can prevent physical health problems while creating a happier life. Cutting out junk food, getting involved in your community, and exercising regularly are all great ways to help your mental health. If you need help, don’t wait to ask for it.