Just as everyone fits into a spectrum of physical health, mental health has a spectrum as well. Identifying symptoms early can make it easier to treat and prevent more serious issues. Even if you aren’t diagnosed with a mental illness, your thoughts, emotions and attitude affect your energy, productivity and overall health. It’s imperative to take care of your mental health as you age in order to strengthen your ability to cope with everyday hassles as well as more serious crises and challenges.
To help you get proactive, we’ve put together a list of five smart ways to take care of your mental health as you age.
Get physically active.
As we’ve talked about previously, exercise provides many benefits, including an improved mood and reduced feelings of depression. Activities like going on a walk to hopping on your bike will help relieve pent-up muscle tension, burn off stress hormones and increase blood flow to your brain. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity five days a week. Make sure to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise routine.
Get enough sleep.
Studies have shown that older adults with sleeping disorders like sleep apnea are more likely to have memory problems. If you struggle with a sleep disorder or feel you aren’t getting enough sleep, seek help immediately. In order to get the rest you need, set a regular bedtime. A schedule will help your body know when it’s time to rest and when it’s time to be awake. And if you’re a coffee addict, it’s time to decaffeinate! Another way to ensure good rest is making your bed a haven for sleep. Don’t bring work or stress into your bed, and you’re more likely to sleep well throughout the night.
Learn how to de-stress.
Stress will eat away at your mental health if you allow it to. It can lead to serious mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Learning to deal with your stress in a healthy manner is an important skill to practice, but you need to find what works for you. Is it going for a walk? Practicing meditation? Taking a long bath? Reading a book? Meditating? Do whatever it takes to eliminate unnecessary feelings of stress.
Connect with others.
Our relationships serve as the support systems in our lives. Healthy family relationships and friendships are proven to increase feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Not only do we benefit from the support of our friends and family, but lending our companionship to them can have a positive impact on our moods and attitude as well. As an older adult you’ve likely had many long-lasting relationships that still exist today, but why not build more?
Get professional help if you need it.
If you feel your mental is declining, get the help you need. Approaching a medical professional can be intimidating, so read up on how to talk to your doctor about your mental health. One of the main reasons people don’t seek out professional help is because they’re embarrassed, but truly, seeking help should be seen as a sign of strength. If you don’t know where to start, check out Mental Health America’s resources for finding professional help and support groups.