5 Tips for Seniors Coping with the Ongoing Mental Health Impact of COVID-19

2 5 Tips for Seniors Coping with the Ongoing Mental Health Impact of COVID-19

Just when vaccinated baby boomers were starting to feel optimistic about life again, the Delta variant reared its ugly head and created more havoc. While vaccines have made seniors feel much safer, stories about breakthrough cases are taking their toll.

Given the higher risk associated with older age groups, seniors realize that this pandemic isn’t over and contemplate a future reminiscent of 2020. AARP reports the death toll resulting from COVID-19 in the over-50 age group accounted for 95% of fatalities. That’s why it is more important than ever for seniors to make a special effort to protect themselves both mentally and physically.

1. Stay up-to-date on new developments and safety guidelines.

While it is not a good idea to dwell on COVID-19 news, it will definitely make seniors feel better to know exactly what preventative measures they need to stay safe. Given the constant updates about where the virus is soaring and what the latest recommendations are, it makes sense to catch the headlines on a daily basis. Few things are more empowering than taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family.

Be sure to get your news from reliable sources. Stay away from news groups that obviously have a political agenda which often compromises the clear messaging needed for accurate updates. Good sources for accurate information are CDC, local health departments, the World Health Organization, and National Council on Aging.

2. Be thankful for how much better you have it than those less fortunate.

Being grateful for the small things in life can uplift you when the world gets too dark. What you choose to focus on at any moment in time largely determines your mood and outlook on life. In spite of all the negative news surrounding the pandemic, it is important to remember that you have many wonderful gifts that so many other people on the planet don’t have.

If you have clean water to drink, enough food to eat, and a roof over your head, you have a lot to be thankful for in this world. Then, if you have a person or two to call your friend and enjoy good health, you are truly blessed.

Focus on what you can control and erase the rest from your mind. By practicing this recommendation, boomers won’t be tempted to focus on negative news. Worrying about things beyond your control is a recipe for depression and anxiety.

Consider keeping a gratitude journal to encourage positive thoughts. By writing down at least one thing that you are grateful for daily, seniors are certain to feel less stress and more joy. When it becomes easy to think of three things a day to write down in your journal, then it becomes difficult to remain sad and morose.

3. Know the warning signs for mental health problems like anxiety and depression.

There are times when we could all benefit from having a trusted professional to discuss the personal challenges we are experiencing. Anxiety and depression are two mental health conditions that often accompany life’s crises. That’s why it is a good idea to know the signs for concern. When the symptoms listed below last longer than a few days, then it is time to get professional help.

Symptoms of anxiety:

  • Experiencing an impending sense of panic or danger
  • Feeling nervous or restless
  • Sweating
  • Feeling weak or exhausted
  • Trembling
  • Avoiding activities because you dread the associated anxious feelings
  • Having gastrointestinal distress
  • Breathing rapidly
  • Experiencing a rapid heart rate
  • Feeling tense

Symptoms of depression:

  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once enjoyed
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Lack of energy
  • Frequent angry outbursts
  • Increased irritability
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Slow speech, thinking or body movements
  • Preoccupation with death or suicide
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering things
  • Feelings of shame or fixation on failures

In the event these symptoms are interfering with your work or relationships making it difficult to function, then it is time to call a professional. With so many treatments that work well in relieving these painful symptoms, there is no reason to suffer.

4. Practice healthy lifestyle habits.

Living a healthy lifestyle has proven to improve both physical and mental health. During a crisis like the pandemic, the best way to build your immune system and also maintain a healthy mental outlook is by making smart lifestyle choices. That means steering clear of destructive behaviors like drinking too much or smoking while eating a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly.

5. Stay in touch with your support network of friends and family.

A surefire strategy for maintaining a positive attitude during the pandemic is to stay in close touch with the important people in your life. Isolation should be avoided at all costs.

While there is no question that it is important to keep your physical distance from others, especially unvaccinated people, that does not preclude socializing in safer ways. Talking on the phone, visiting with each other outside, or taking walks together with other vaccinated friends and family members are preferred ways to get the personal emotional support everyone needs.

Summary

COVID-19 continues to threaten baby boomers who remain at high risk of having the worst outcomes if infected. That kind of pressure creates stress that must be addressed with a smart plan that ensures continued mental and physical health. By making every effort to live a healthy lifestyle, stay informed, maintain social connections and monitor emotional health, baby boomers can take constructive action to survive this long, unprecedented storm.

Alice Goldstein
A Licensed Professional Counselor and Life Coach for over 25 years, Alice has written on a wide range of topics, touching on issues that matter most to seniors. Check out her article “Tips for Successful Marriages for Couples over 70” - a popular post on Marriage.com where Alice is an “Expert” author. Learn more about Alice Goldstein