Make Your Mental Health a Priority
No doubt about it: these are difficult times. It’s a challenge to emotionally manage our concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic. The daily updates about growing cases of illness and fatalities is worrisome. Losing friends and loved ones to the illness is devastating.
On top of that, it’s difficult to socially engage with our family, friends and community. Those outlets that we rely on for joy and comfort; church, community centers, libraries; have cancelled and restricted gatherings. Plus, it feels like there’s no end in sight. It’s difficult to see how we will get through this period of expanding illness. It’s hard to envision how we will get back to the lives we love. That’s a lot of heaviness to grapple with every day.
Our mental health is just like our physical health. We have to be mindful or it and take care of ourselves. The CDC explains: “Because mental health is essential to overall health and well-being, it must be recognized and treated in all Americans, including older adults, with the same urgency as physical health.”
Think about your mental health. Discuss how you’re feeling with your family and with your doctor. If you’re struggling, you are certainly not alone. There is no shame in that, and it is fixable. Just as we wouldn’t expect people to heal physical injuries without medical intervention, there is no reason to expect ourselves to fix our own mental health without the right intervention and support. This is a difficult time. No one has to tough it out.
An emotional vocabulary
Being aware of our emotions and developing a good emotional vocabulary, helps us to understand what we’re feeling and to talk about it. This can ease some of our internal pressure and it’s one reason that therapy is helpful. Therapists are experts when it comes to discussing and understand our feelings. They can help us examine those feelings that we may experience but not totally understand.
While your Visiting Angels Caregiver is a great source of support, companionship and company, if you’re experiencing anxiety, distress or persistent worry, it’s a good idea to consult a medical practitioner who is an expert in emotional health. Working with a therapist gives us a safe, non-judgmental space to talk about our feelings; it gives us permission to feel however it is that we’re feeling. This is especially important now during this emotionally intense time. It’s okay to recognize that and to call it that. Feeling worried, scared, angry, exhausted makes sense in this current climate. All of those feelings are valid.
“It is estimated that 20% of people age 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern. Depression, a type of mood disorder, is the most prevalent mental health problem among older adults.” Explains the CDC. There are various degrees of depression, and, generally, it’s very treatable.
Some symptoms of depression may include:
- Changes to sleep patterns
- A persistent, empty feeling
- A feeling of lethargy that leads to slow, pained speech or movement
- Changes to eating habits
- Suicidal thoughts
If you’re experiencing these symptoms or if your struggling or your simply feel like you’d like to explore your mental health more fully, talk with your doctor. Seek a referral. Mental health practitioners are seeing clients via telehealth. So, you can get the support you need from the comfort and safety of home.
A resilient generation
Seniors have experienced a lot, and have developed a core strength and sense of resilience as a result of their experiences. Judith Graham, writing for Kaiser Health News shares: “On the positive side, resilience is common in this age group. Virtually all older adults have known adversity and loss; many have a ‘this too shall pass’ attitude. And research confirms that they tend to be adept at regulating their reactions to stressful life events — a useful skill in this pandemic.”
While it is wonderful to have this useful skill to help make it through this time, we all need more than one skill to weather a long period of challenge, especially during a time in which we don’t have our usual access to our support network. It’s a blessing that seniors are emotionally strong and resilient. Consider that one important tool in your toolbox to help you get through this difficult time. Then work on developing other tools, so that you can take good care of yourself as you make your way through this difficult time.
The isolation of the pandemic takes away a lot of opportunities, but it presents others. One of those is an opportunity to learn a new skill. Perhaps learning about ourselves on a deeper level, exploring our emotions and enhancing our emotional vocabulary can be that skill. Consider making your mental health your priority this fall and winter. It’s a great opportunity to grow.