No matter what stage of life a person is at, looking after their mental health is of vital importance. When someone is feeling down, isolated, or frustrated, it can be tough to know where to turn for help.
The good news is that there are always people available to help. People experiencing difficulties simply need to reach out. We’ve compiled six tips for looking after mental health in later life. We hope they’ll help anyone going through a difficult patch to feel more positive and in control of their life.
1. Understand the triggers
It’s important to be aware of the things that trigger mental health problems. Maybe it’s a particular person, or a place, or a situation. Once a person experiencing difficulties understands what their triggers are, they can start to work on avoiding them.
They might find that some of their triggers are unavoidable. In that case, it would be valuable to try to learn how to deal with them in a healthy way. For example, if a person gets anxious in crowds yet has to go to a busy shopping centre, it would be sensible to try to choose a space before they went, or as soon as they arrived, where they felt they’d feel able to relax and take a few deep breaths.
Being proactive about mental health is the key. It’s important to recognise anxieties and work around them, as ignoring a problem will only makes it worse.
2. Seek professional help
For anyone feeling like they’re struggling to cope, it’s important to seek professional help. There are lots of different treatments available, and with the right support most people are able to get their life back on track.
There’s no shame in asking for help, and it’s not a sign of weakness. In fact, it takes a lot of courage for anyone to admit that they need help and to seek out the support they need. It’s always wise for a person to discuss the situation with their GP. If they have a partner, adult children, or a close friend, it’s a good idea to discuss the situation with them and ask for support in finding the professional who will best be able to help.
Professionals who may be suitable range from therapists and psychologists to psychiatrists and specialist mental health nurses. Whatever type of support someone needs, there’s always someone who can help.
3. Connect with others
It can be tough living alone, or even in a solitary couple, as you get older. Without regular social interaction, people can become isolated and feel low. But there are always ways to connect with others, even for a person who feels they have little in common with the other people available.
One way is to join a social group or club that caters for that person’s interests. This could be anything from a book club to a hiking group. The important thing is that the person should be around others with whom they have something in common, and in a setting that will give them something of shared interest to talk about.
It’s also simple to connect with people online. There are lots of social networking sites where one can meet new people, and many of them have groups specifically for older people, or for people with specific interests – gardeners, cat owners, grandparents, keen dancers, book lovers etc.
For those who are not comfortable with social networking, there are other websites that offer online chat rooms where you can meet new friends. For anyone who doesn’t understand how to find this kind of thing on the internet, it’s a good idea to ask a relative, friend or neighbour to pop in to lend a hand.
4. Get Active
It’s important to be active, both physically and mentally. When we’re active, our minds are stimulated and we feel better in ourselves. Not only that, but exercise releases endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones.
How can someone get active? Well, there are lots of ways. They can go for a walk, take up a new hobby, join a gym, or maybe take part in a sport. Swimming, tai-chi, dancing, yoga, tennis, golf, bowls and many other sports are well within the reach of most older people, even if their days of hurdling or playing rugby are long gone. The key is to find something they enjoy and that will get them moving.
5. Be Mindful
When it comes to looking after mental health, mindfulness is absolutely key.
Being mindful means living in the present moment and being aware of your thoughts and feelings. When you’re mindful, you’re less likely to dwell on the past or worry about the future.
There are lots of ways to be mindful. One of the most popular is mindfulness meditation. This is a form of meditation that involves a person focusing on their breathing. As they breathe in and out, they simply focus on the sensations they feel.
It doesn’t matter if they’re not very good at meditating at first. It takes time and practise to get the hang of it. But it’s worth it. Once someone masters mindfulness, they can apply it to all aspects of their life, including mental health.
6. Give Back
When someone feels down, one of the best things they can do is to give back. It might not seem like it at the time, but helping others is a great way to make yourself feel better.
There are lots of ways to do this. They could start by volunteering at a local charity. They might join a social support group where they can meet and help other people while helping themselves. They might spend more time in nature by volunteering to help tend local woodland or hedgerows.
The important thing is to find something that speaks to that individual and that they can stick with. When they’re in periods in which they feel good, they might try to do things for other people who might be struggling. It’s a great way to make the world a little bit better—and makes the person concerned feel pretty good, too.
Mental health as important as physical health
For anyone having reached later life, it’s important to remember that mental health is just as important as physical health. For anyone feeling down, isolated or struggling with other mental health issues, these tips really can be a start point for helping them manage and improve things.