Aging. Financial issues. Poor health. Being alone. The death of a spouse or lifelong friend. Each of us has stressors that can occasionally make us feel anxious or sad. The older we get, these challenges may sometimes occur more frequently or even simultaneously, making it harder to cope.
In honor of National Mental Health Month in May, below are tips to help boost mental health and emotional well-being, including during the worst of times.
- Eat well – Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet every day, including protein for energy, as well as plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables. Certain mineral deficiencies, such as iron and vitamin B12, can give us a low mood. If you’re a particularly anxious person, cut back on caffeine because it can make you feel even more jittery.
- Soak up some sun – Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D! It helps our brains to release chemicals that improve our mood, like endorphins and serotonin. Try to go outside, but keep your skin and eyes safe by wearing sunscreen lotion and sunglasses. Thirty minutes to two hours of sunlight a day is ideal.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking – When we have had a few drinks, we can feel more anxious the next day, and it can be harder to concentrate and exercise. Drinking too much for long periods of time may lead to a deficiency in thiamine, which is important for brain function, memory and motor coordination. If you smoke, between cigarettes your body and brain go into withdrawal, which can make you irritable.
- Be active – Exercise is key to good mental health. Staying active boosts chemicals in our brain that help to put us in a good mood. Exercise also is linked to living longer. Even a short walk or some other gentle activity – like chair exercises or doing yard work – goes a long way.
- Connect – Maintain good relationships and talk to people whenever you have a chance. This is important at any age, and especially if you live along. Research has found talking to others for just 10 minutes a day can improve memory!
- Help others – Helping others not only helps them, but also raises our self-esteem and makes us feel good about our place in the world. Volunteer for a local charity or simply be neighborly, like delivering a homemade meal to a new mom or pulling a neighbor’s trash can from the curb after trash pickup.
If all else fails, seek help. It’s important to reach out for professional support when you need it. There are many resources available, including your spiritual advisor, your health care provider and mental health experts.
Here are a few helpful sites: