When the conversation turns to health, people tend to focus on physical health – exercise, nutrition, substance abuse, etc. – and often overlook the importance of mental health. But especially as we age, mental health is critically important. Seniors are very susceptible to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment (including memory loss). If you want to stay sharp as you age, you need to learn how to take care of your mental health.
How to Take Care of Your Mental Health
We know, we know. We were just talking about how physical health is heavily emphasized while mental health is put on the back burner. But it’s important to remember that your physical health affects your mental health. Regular exercise – whether walking, dancing, swimming, practicing yoga, etc. – can reduce your stress, boost your mood, and help you sleep (source).
Stimulate your brain.
If you don’t exercise your brain, it’ll waste away. To avoid cognitive decline, engage in activities each day that stimulate your mind and require you to think. You might be interested in some of these common options:
- Reading and writing
- Playing an instrument
- Learning a new language
- Playing puzzles and games
Socialize and nurture your friendships.
Socializing and keeping in touch with your friends are great ways to ward off loneliness and feelings of isolation, which can cause depression. Luckily, it’s easy to stay in touch with friends near and far due to modern technology. So while it’s important to see friends in person when possible, consider calling each other on the phone, video chatting, or even writing each other letters if you can’t meet up for lunch.
Foster a spiritual connection.
Whether you’re religious or not, spirituality can bring you a sense of peace that will lower your stress. You might enjoy a daily respite in nature or find serenity through meditation. If you do wish to visit a place of worship, you might find meaning, community, and support there. Whatever form it takes in your life, spirituality is a great way to look after your mental health.
Volunteering can take a variety of forms. For example, you could sort donations at a food pantry, field phone calls for an animal rescue, clean up litter at a local park, assist patrons at the library, or greet customers for the American Red Cross. To get started, locate some worthy organizations in your area, give them a call (or stop by in person), and ask about their volunteering opportunities. As they say, helping others is one of the best ways to help yourself.
Get some sleep.
Sleep is crucial for both our physical health and mental health, so if you’re letting your waking hours overtake your sleeping hours, it’s time to rethink your schedule. As an adult, you need about seven to eight hours of sleep per night to feel well rested and alert. Sleep deprivation can lead to confusion, memory distortion, depression, and decreased mental capacity. Long-term insomnia is even more dangerous, as it affects your ability to react appropriately to stress, which increases your risk of developing a mental disorder (source). If you’re having trouble getting some shut-eye, check out our blog post How to Sleep Well.
If you didn’t know how to take care of your mental health before, we hope you’re breathing a sigh of relief now. Because it’s so easy! These are all things you should be doing anyway, if possible. Plus, you can knock out two birds with one stone if you combine some of them. You could exercise with friends, for example, or take a long walk while appreciating nature.
Are you looking for an assisted living community in Tennessee? Check out Hearthside Senior Living in Bartlett. Our warm and inviting community makes it easy for seniors to embrace a healthy lifestyle, with home-cooked and restaurant-style meals, exercise classes, and a nurse devoted to residents’ health and wellness. To learn more about our amenities and services, please give us a call at 901-266-3329 or contact us online.