No matter who you are, where you are or how old you are, everyone in the world has something in common. Unfortunately, it’s stress over COVID-19. We’re all social distancing and/or staying at home (hopefully) to flatten the curve, but what about our mental health? Here are some tips to help you protect that too.

A COVID-19 State-of-Mind

With all the change and uncertainty we’re experiencing, it’s natural that our mental health will be affected. You’re definitely not alone in this! According to the CDC, common reactions to COVID-19 include:

  • Concern about protecting yourself from the virus
  • Concern that medical care and/or community services such as public transportation may be disrupted
  • Feeling socially isolated, especially if you live alone or are in a community setting that is not allowing visitors
  • Guilt if loved ones help you with daily activities

You may have increased levels of stress if you:

  • Had mental health concerns before the outbreak, such as depression
  • Live in lower-income households or have language barriers
  • Experience stigma because of race or ethnicity, disability, or perceived likelihood of spreading COVID-19

In addition, seniors may also have stronger reactions because they are at greater risk of severe illness with COVID-19 due to age and/or underlying health conditions.

The Effects of Increased Stress

Prolonged periods of increased stress can cause a range of problems from changes in sleeping or eating patterns to difficulty concentrating to worsening mental health including the onset of anxiety and depression. According to a group of clinical psychological scientists at the University of Washington’s Center for the Science of Social Connection, both depression and anxiety are substantially influenced by environmental stress such as we’re experiencing due to COVID-19. In addition, prolonged social isolation - which many seniors are already at risk for and now more so because of distancing measures - can also put you at greater risk of anxiety and depression.

What Can You Do?

To prevent anxiety, fear and stress from taking their own toll on your health it’s important to be proactive. Here are some tips:

  • Take breaks from news stories and social media
  • Relax by taking deep breaths, stretching or meditating
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
  • Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Make time to unwind with activities you enjoy
  • Connect with others at a distance with FaceTime or Skype

There’s An App for That

Technology has been the go-to during the pandemic to help keep us all functioning as best as possible. It can help you combat stress, anxiety and depression too with tools such as.

  • HealthUnlocked Communities is like a social network linked by health in which different communities focus on different areas from exercise to anxiety. These communities provide a space for people to meet others going through similar issues, enabling them to receive emotional support in return.
  • Moodrise focuses on six popular mood states, including confidence, focus and happiness, and the related neurotransmitters that lead to that mood state with content specifically created to help deliver the desired chemical reaction in the brain, backed by scientific research.
  • Headspace is used by 62 million people across the world to improve mental health. It is now offering a free collection of meditation and mindfulness content on topics such as navigating change, reframing anxiety and advice for difficult times.
  • Calm has a free library of meditations, livestreams and tools such as “calm body” stretching exercises, calendars to print out with a mindfulness exercise or idea for every day and conversation and kindness prompts to help you reach out to others.

For more information on ways for seniors to ease stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact SHAG today.