Ageing & Mental Health
Hanna Thomas- Psychologist
The journey of ageing and growing older is very much an individual process. Some people experience considerable struggles, for others it's more a time of enjoyment and renewal. And for most it's likely to be a combination of challenging and rewarding experiences.
What can sometimes change is our ability to cope. This could be due to a variety of reasons, e.g. poor health or feeling run down, having lots of change occur in a short period of time, experiencing a number of difficult situations that build up etc. This can leave you with less mental, emotional and/or physical energy to manage as well as you normally would.
It can also be a time for reflection. An opportunity to think about past experiences, such as choices you have made about family, relationships, work, and health; what you've done with your spare time, what you have prioritised in life and where you have focussed your energy and efforts. Depending on circumstances, this reflection can bring feelings of joy and pleasure, but also perhaps some sadness, anger, grief or other uncomfortable feelings.
Looking after our mental and emotional health, is therefore important. Our mindset can have a big influence on how we experience daily life and our expectations of the future, e.g. the extent to which we are fearful of what's to come and how confident we feel to cope. It's normal to have some concerns about financial security, health and wellbeing, housing options, opportunities for pursuing activities we enjoy, our mortality and end of life needs. But if these concerns build up, that's when our emotional and mental health might suffer. It's good time to check in with your G.P. and consider ways to get support for yourself at this time.
Some general protective factors for our wellbeing include:
-regular social contact
-doing activities you enjoy and look forward to
-eating well - having a nutritious diet
-being physically active
-keeping mentally active - scrabble, cards, brain games etc.
-knowing when and getting support, e.g. talking to a professional, using strategies such as meditation, yoga, prayer, helpful thought patterns
-finding and engaging in whatever gives you a sense of meaning and purpose in life