Mental health plays such an important part in our overall wellness. If we have a positive outlook, an optimistic approach to life and a feeling of stability, we feel better and our physical health improves as well. But many people are struggling with their mental health these days due to COVID-19 and its upending effect on normal life.
“Nearly half of Americans are saying that COVID-19 has caused harm to their mental health,” says Charles Benjamin, Executive Director of Harrogate, Ocean County, New Jersey’s premier active senior living community. “As the pandemic continues to stretch on, it’s probably safe to say that we’ll see even more instances of declining mental health and wellness. That’s why it’s so important to take steps now to care for yourself and your mental health so you can ride out the storm, so to speak.”
Senior adults in particular are experiencing a lot more stress about COVID-19 than the rest of the general population. They’re the group that is most vulnerable to the disease, which is a very real and scary stress of its own. Seniors in general are also more prone to depression, anxiety and poorer mental health due to isolation, physical ailments and other factors.
“It’s essential for seniors to find ways to stay positive, boost their overall outlook and care for their mental health during this pandemic,” says Charles. “Putting good practices into place will not only help you right now, but it will also help in the future when we find a new semblance of normal. Caring for yourself is the biggest gift you can give to yourself at this time – and your body and mind will thank you for it tenfold.”
Here are some of Harrogate’s top tips for helping seniors boost their mental health and wellness.
- Get plenty of sleep.
Ever notice just how much better you feel after a good night’s sleep? It doesn’t just improve your mood and clear your mind; it also improves your physical health, increases your metabolism, reduces your risk of cardiovascular issues and can even lessen your risk of developing a cognitive disease like dementia. Unfortunately, it seems the times when we most need restful and relaxing sleep are when we’re stressed, anxious and worried … all things that make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep.
Experts suggest practicing good “sleep hygiene” in order to get your body and your mind ready for a good night’s rest. Turn off screens (even e-readers) at least an hour before bedtime. Make sure your bedroom isn’t too bright, is the right temperature and has a soothing and calming presence. (If you have a TV in your room, take it out – nothing’s worse for sleep than an in-suite TV). Create a bedtime routine (drinking a mug of tea and reading a chapter of a book) that gets you “in the mood” and you’ll set yourself up for sleepy success.
- Get moving.
Physical activity releases endorphins in our brain that help ease stress, reduce anxiety and clear our minds. It also helps us keep our bodies healthy, and – for seniors in particular – helps maintain balance and strength, regulates blood sugar and boosts metabolism. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each day. A brisk walk around the block, gardening, doing yoga or holding a dance party in your kitchen are all great ways to get a little more motion in your life. Best of all, getting outside and into the fresh air is free – and CDC approved!
- Find ways to socialize.
This is harder to do in the age of social distancing, but fortunately, there are a lot of workarounds popping up. Video apps like Zoom, Skype and FaceTime have proven to be fantastic ways to stay in touch with friends and family and feel like you’re “in the same room.” This is great, because loneliness can increase anxiety, stress and depression like no other (and is a real problem for seniors). But if you’re longing for some real face-to-face interaction, there are still options for staying connected. Call a friend and hold a driveway happy hour or lunch break. Meet up for a walk in the park. Depending on how worried you are about contracting COVID-19, you may also be able to hold small gatherings at home or on the patio. However you choose to socialize, do it – even if it’s just a phone call or a text. You’ll feel so much better after spending some time talking with and socializing with people you care about.
- Find someone (or something) to love.
Pet adoption has skyrocketed during the pandemic because people are able to stay at home with the new puppy or kitten and get them socialized. Pet ownership is a wonderful way to stay mentally healthy and happy – in fact, studies have shown that seniors are happier and healthier when they have a pet to care for and love. Have you been considering four-legged companionship? Now’s a perfect time to adopt. If you’re not up for adopting just yet, you can consider fostering (there’s always a need for it) or start with a lower-impact pet like a fish or even a plant. Studies show that just the act of having something to care for will help boost mental health.
- Stay curious.
An active mind is a happy, healthy mind. A silver lining of this pandemic is that we suddenly find ourselves with lots and lots of spare time – making this a perfect time to learn a new skill, pick up an old one, go back to school (online, of course), play games … throwing yourself into an activity that you love and enjoy is a great way to stay happy and mentally well. Read those books that have been gathering dust on your bedside table and start a Zoom book club with your friends. Find ways to donate your time and efforts, whether that’s gathering donations for Goodwill or sewing masks to hand out to people in your neighborhood. The important thing is to keep learning, to keep searching and keep finding ways to involve your brain in the world around you.
This is what “worry less, live more” looks like.
Let go of worries, and embrace a more fulfilling, experience-rich life – at Harrogate, Ocean County, New Jersey’s premier active senior living community, conveniently located between Toms River and Lakewood, New Jersey.
At Harrogate, you’ll have a newfound freedom to enjoy everything our 52-acre retirement community has to offer. You’ll have ample opportunity to tap into your new and rekindled interests for a better life. And your future health care worries – including skilled nursing and rehabilitation – will be buttoned up with the security of Life Care, a smart plan that covers your care and protects your nest egg.
Offering independent living, skilled nursing, home health, memory support and rehabilitation services, residents at Harrogate enjoy all the perks of an independent living lifestyle minus the homeownership hassles. Perks like spacious, maintenance-free, newly renovated senior apartments with numerous options in a variety of floor plans. A built-in neighborhood of friends – most from the Toms River, Lakewood and Brick areas – just outside your door. Plentiful services and amenities always at your fingertips.
Community, security, purpose, all at one “worry less, live more” spot: Harrogate. Contact us today for more information about our amazing community and see what makes us such a one-of-a-kind experience.