Millions of Americans live with mental illness. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The focus is to reduce mental illness stigma by educating the public and advocating for individuals who suffer from mental illness. Older adults aren’t immune to mental illness; in fact, many seniors are at risk for developing mental disorders. Mental health issues may be triggered by a number of things, but stressors that are characteristic of older adult life—like decline in mental processing and physical capabilities, health conditions, and bereavement—can put seniors at-risk. The good news is that mental illness can be treated and you don’t have to feel like you’re alone.
Exercise is beneficial in an array of ways. There is a positive link between exercise and a reduction in depression symptoms. Exercise is a great stress and anxiety reliever too. Making your favorite form of exercise a part of your daily routine can be helpful in reducing your symptoms of depression.
Get a Pet
Companion animals have several great benefits for their owners. Not only can pets increase happiness and lower stress, they may decrease feelings of loneliness. They also provide an opportunity for exercise and socialization—both which can help you manage symptoms of depression.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation can turn into depression. To avoid feelings of isolation, it’s important for older adults to safely engage in social interaction. Going to your community center or participating in the planned activities at your senior living center, enjoying community gardening, joining a book club, or volunteering can help you build healthy connections and provide you with activities to regularly look forward to. You may also consider adopting a new hobby or starting a weekly game night with games that challenge your memory and focus.
Medication and Therapy
Medication and therapy are often one of the first things that doctors and therapists recommend to individuals of all ages struggling with anxiety and depression. These can be effective individually or in combination. You may want to talk to a trusted individual about what you’re struggling with; it can be a good emotional release and they can provide coping strategies. Medication is especially helpful for individuals who don’t find relief from other coping mechanisms—like exercise—or who have a chemical imbalance.
Depression is not a normal part of the aging process. If you notice the early signs of mental health issues, get the help that you need immediately by scheduling an appointment with your doctor or a mental health professional.