Making Mental Health a Priority

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In 1949 Mental Health America designated May as Mental Health Awareness Month, seeking to increase awareness about the importance of mental health and wellness in the lives of all Americans. Seventy-five years later the mission is the same. A stigma still exists around discussing our mental health, which too often can be an obstacle to individuals seeking necessary treatment and accessing the abundant resources available to help. 

This is especially important for older adults. Research shows one in four adults 65 and older experience mental health problems, but two-thirds of seniors don’t get the treatment they need. It’s important to recognize that our mental health is as important as our physical health, and actually affects our physical health. Depression can increase conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. 

Changes in our physical health and life circumstances as we age, such as chronic pain, loss of mobility and the death of a spouse or friends, are likely to affect our mental health. The two go hand-in-hand.  More than two million Americans age 65 and older suffer from some sort of depression.   

But mental illness is not a natural part of aging. There are resources available to help you navigate all of these events, just like navigating a physical health event. 

Emotional well-being is the ability to embrace our emotions, process them, and express ourselves. Learning to embrace the full spectrum of our emotions, both good and bad, is a key to active aging and adding more healthy years to our lives. 

Dedicated practices can be grounding and help us learn additional strategies to improve our emotional well-being. 

Strategies to Improve Emotional Health

1. Practice Gratitude

When we learn to focus more on what we have and less on what we lack, our entire world can change. According to the CDC, practicing gratitude has been shown to relieve stress, strengthen relationships, improve self-esteem, boost immune systems, and even impact physical health. Taking just five minutes at the beginning or end of each day to make a gratitude list can start your journey to more healthy and happy years today.
 

2. Learn to Slow Down

Life can move at a seemingly unstoppable pace at times. Even as we age, the hustle and bustle of daily life can add stress, increase thoughts of frustration and despair, and impair our emotional well-being. 

A great way to calm the mind and center our thoughts on our emotions is to literally “stop and smell the roses.” This idea has rapidly grown in popularity, leading to what has been called the “Slow Movement.” When we learn to live life instead of racing through it, we have more time to process what we are feeling in the moment and can act on our emotions, instead of ignoring them and letting them build up inside. 
 

3. Talk to Somebody

Advocating for your mental health begins with awareness and honesty. Always talk to your doctor about your mental health and any symptoms you feel. Your doctor can develop a treatment plan to help you feel your best.  We can also strengthen our emotional well-being when we lean on our support systems for help, and when we offer help back to those we love. If you don’t feel comfortable approaching a friend or family member, talk to a counselor. There are trained professionals all over the world who are empathetic, understanding, and ready to help you process your emotions. 

 

4. Embrace an Emotional Outlet

The emotional spectrum can be overwhelming. Whether it’s pain and grief, or even an overflow of excitement from an unexpected happy event, we all can benefit from an activity that serves as an emotional outlet. When faced with overwhelming feelings, having a hobby like writing, painting, singing, playing sports, and crafting can alleviate stress.  These activities help us get out of our heads and connect physically, increasing our endorphin levels and allowing us time to process intense emotions until they pass. Are you new opportunities or is your life growing smaller? When was the last time you did something for the first time?  What’s something new you can try this week?  Keep growing bolder. 

 

5. Ask for Help

Trying to handle everything on our own can greatly increase our stress levels. Maybe you’ve always be the helper. Opening to the idea of asking for help may take you out of your comfort zone, but it’s worth it. Whether it’s a friend or family member, chances are there are folks who would be glad to help you in whatever way they can.

And if downsizing or moving are something you’re stressed about, make the call to Caring Transitions of Noblesville. Our team is ready, willing and able to help lighten your load and your stress levels.
 

If you’re not sure if you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health change or challenge, check out the early warning signs posted here on mentalhealth.gov

 

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