Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been more worried than ever about physical health. Mental health is critical during this time as well, though. Social isolation combined with anxiety about the pandemic can quickly take a toll on your emotional well-being, so you should make a conscious effort to care for your mind.
Senior health is of particular importance right now as older adults are already prone to isolation and loneliness. You should understand how COVID-19 has affected elderly adults and what you can do to improve your mental health during the pandemic.
How COVID-19 Has Affected Senior Health
The COVID-19 pandemic has created physical and mental health obstacles for people of all ages, but seniors have been hit hard with these changes. The virus is most dangerous for older adults, so it’s especially important for seniors to stay home and practice social distancing. This has made it hard for older adults to be physically active, and it has led to some serious problems with social isolation.
Loneliness has always been a concern for older adults, but seniors are more isolated than ever due to COVID-19. While it’s necessary to stay home for the health and safety of everyone in the community, quarantine does have some negative effects.
Many older adults feel like they’ve lost their support system because they can’t see their family members. If they struggle to access technology to call or video chat with their loved ones, they may feel like they have no one to talk to right now. They may have lost other outlets for social interaction, too. With churches, community centers, and other spaces closed, COVID-19 has severely disrupted the typical routines for many seniors.
Stress and anxiety about COVID-19 are common, too. People may be concerned about their loved ones getting sick or losing their jobs. Seeing the world experience a crisis can be deeply upsetting, so pandemic-related emotional issues are on the rise.
Tips to Help Seniors Boost Their Mental Health
COVID-19 has caused immeasurable challenges for almost everyone in the world, but there are always steps we can take to maintain or improve our emotional health. Here are six tips for boosting senior mental health during quarantine:
1. Stick to a Routine
When you’re home all the time, keeping a schedule can feel difficult or even pointless. You may have more free time on your hands than you know what to do with, and it may be hard to keep track of the days when they all look the same.
However, routine can be incredibly valuable during times of crisis. It can motivate you to start your day and complete important daily tasks, and it provides some predictability and order.
You could have both a daily and a weekly schedule to create more structure during quarantine. Try to wake up at the same time every morning and establish a routine to complete some hygiene tasks or household chores. If you have weekly tasks or activities, keep them on the same day so that you have a weekly routine, too.
2. Use Technology to Speak to Loved Ones
We may be physically distanced from friends and family, but that doesn’t mean we can’t communicate. Today’s technology allows us to call, text, and video chat with loved ones. Reach out to your friends and family regularly to stay connected and feel supported.
Interacting with loved ones is one of the best ways to boost your mental health and combat loneliness. If you have a phone or computer with a webcam and microphone, you can video chat with friends and family via Skype, Facetime, or other platforms. You could even schedule group calls for the entire family to get together virtually.
It’s easy to withdraw from your loved ones when spending so much time at home. Staying connected through technology may take more effort, but the benefits are worth it.
3. Find Hobbies to Engage in at Home
Managing depression and anxiety is very difficult if you don’t have anything to take your mind off of your stressors. Hobbies are a great way to find enjoyment at home during COVID-19.
Here are some of the most popular at-home activities for older adults:
- Art and music
- Video games or smartphone games
- Caring for pets
4. Spend Time Outside Safely
If you live in an area where you can go outside and stay socially distant, going for walks around your neighborhood can be an excellent way to maintain your emotional health during COVID-19. Walking can be a great form of exercise for older adults, and the fresh air can help you feel more calm and centered during such a strange time.
Time in nature can be even more valuable. If you have access to a park or hiking trail, try to make regular visits. Research suggests that time in nature can alleviate some symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic stress.
5. Practice Meditation
Meditation is a powerful way to strengthen your emotional well-being and boost your cognitive health. You can meditate anywhere and at any time of the day, but many people like to meditate right after waking up or before going to sleep.
You may not feel the benefits of meditation immediately. It takes time and consistency, so patience is key. Start with a five-minute session, and try not to feel frustrated if it seems challenging or unnatural. Most of us aren’t used to clearing our minds and only focusing on one thought at a time.
When you meditate, find a comfortable place with minimal distractions. Then, focus your attention on your breathing. Notice how you feel as you breathe in and out. Whenever you notice your mind wandering, bring your attention back to your breathing.
As you get more comfortable with the practice, you can increase the length of your meditation session. Eventually, you’ll notice the benefits of meditation in your day-to-day life. You’ll feel more calm and mindful during stressful situations, and you’ll spend less time worrying about the past or future.
6. Work with a Counselor via Telehealth
If you’re concerned about the effects COVID-19 has had on your mental health, consider speaking with a therapist. Counseling can address mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, but it can also be a tool to help manage stress, develop coping skills, or deal with difficult life transitions. There are countless benefits of therapy for older adults.
During quarantine, many therapists are offering telehealth counseling services. This allows you to connect with your counselor from the comfort of your own home. As long as you have a device with a webcam, you can connect with your therapist virtually.
Many older adults even prefer the telehealth model over in-person sessions. You don’t have to travel to your therapist’s office, so scheduling is far more convenient. The privacy is appealing, too.
You and your therapist can discuss your experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown, and social distancing. You can explore your options for maintaining your quality of life while the pandemic runs its course, and you can discover coping skills for stress, anxiety, or loneliness. If there are any other challenges in your life that are affecting your emotional health, you can also work through them with your counselor.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused drastic changes to daily life for many people, but humans are adaptable. By taking steps to boost your mental and emotional health, you can continue to find meaning and enjoyment in life while socially distancing.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling offers mental health services to older adults. Our licensed counselors work with clients to address mental health disorders, grief, stress, and a variety of other concerns. If you or an elderly loved one is interested in therapy, contact us today.