Mental Health is as Important as Physical Wellbeing in Ageing

Mental wellness is as important as your physical health in navigating the ageing process. We often focus on taking care of our physical self but neglect mental wellness. Our mental health is all about happiness and the way be think and feel about life. A short booklet from the UK Mental Health Foundation entitled “How to Look After Your Mental Health in Later Life” is a great read – download here. Here are 10 ways listed to help you stay mentally healthy.

  • Prepare yourself for changes – some more predictable than others. Your life’s routine will change significantly when you stop working. Take advantage of the Singapore government’s efforts including those that helps seniors to remain in the workforce even post retirement. Be prepared also for changes in your physical faculties realising that ageing means that your body will begin to slow down and you will face health challenges. The more you are prepared for these changes, the more confident you will be to face them.
  • Find friends or family to talk to about your worries and problems. Nothing is more scary than feeling that you are alone facing all these problems. Chances are everyone in your age group have similar concerns and talking about them is an important first step.
  • When you need to, learn how to seek professional help. Friends and family members my lack the knowledge or skill to help you. In Singapore, an important resource is the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC)- AIC coordinates and supports efforts in integrating care for most aspects of ageing support – and is a great place to start.
  • Stop worrying and start planning. Ageing is a journey and worrying about the future is bad for mental health and does not help. Get out of your worry bubble by thinking and planning ahead – whether it is health, retirement or financial issues. If you are not a planner, start by working on your next vacation!
  • Caring for others will help make you feel needed and wanted. Playing a role in taking care of your grandchildren, is an example, that will keep your familial relationship healthy and strong. Keeping engaged and helping out where possible makes you a continued valued member of your family.
  • Growing old should not mean out of touch – keeping in touch with people and things that you care about is easier than ever. It’s a small world today with the technology in your smartphone. Be part of family and friend chat groups to keep connected. Also, stay in touch in-person by meeting with friends and family for meals and special occasions – and not rely purely on digital connections alone. Live human interaction is important.
  • A good level of physical and mental activity is as important as getting a good night’s sleep. Staying active will prevent lethargy from setting in. Having a regular sleep habit is also helpful. Both will make your day more pleasant and enjoyable.
  • If you do not have time for a hobby or something that you enjoy because of your work, now is the time to do things that you like to do – and enjoy them. Explore new hobbies and interests – and having the luxury of time to really invest in them. Keep a dog if that is your thing.
  • And yes, you need to also eat and drink in moderation. Watch what you eat and look after your weight. If you like alcohol, there is no need to stop unless your doctor tells you to – but keep everything in moderation. And enjoy!
  • Having a routine often keeps us grounded – but it is not a bad idea to also take a break. Whether is it a short respite by going to the movies, a hike with nature or a long vacation, a new routine can help add a sense of purpose and adventure.

There is no secret formula to sustaining your mental health – and you have to make a effort to resist any downward spiral that leads to depression and mood swings. Keep a keen eye on your mental health as you would your physical well being – both are equally important.

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