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Navigating Mental Health Transitions in Later Life

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It is a blessing to make it to the later stages of life. You have a lifetime of experiences behind you. However, this can also make aging quite tricky. Your older years will undoubtedly bring unique challenges, opportunities, and adjustments.

One of the most notable transitions is how you may have to navigate mental health. As you age, your mental health can fluctuate and bring up new feelings and issues that need to be addressed. It’s important to practice compassion and patience with yourself as you traverse this uncharted path to the rest of your life. Use the following to help guide you along the way.

Understanding How Aging Affects Mental Wellness

Aging naturally brings about biological changes, such as cognitive decline, memory impairment, and changes in appearance. These changes vary from person to person. Aging isn’t novel, but it is something you haven’t previously experienced first-hand. It takes some adjusting, particularly when societal expectations and maybe even internalized pressures to “age gracefully” and stay looking and feeling young are weighing on you.

On top of this, you will also experience life changes, such as retirement, the loss of friends and loved ones, housing transitions, health issues, changes in your routine, and your need for outside support. These changes are gradual but significant, bringing up a range of emotions. Know that it’s normal and expected to feel this way, and it’s all about how you cope.

Aging also brings wisdom, resilience, and an opportunity to learn about yourself in a way you never could before. Understanding these necessary adjustments is the key to aging gracefully, prioritizing your mental well-being, and truly experiencing what the rest of your life has to offer.

Nurturing Your Self-Worth

Your feelings about yourself are bound to change as you get older, especially in a society that values youthfulness. Curated social media posts and media representations of what it means to be attractive and successful are steeped in depictions of youth and airbrushed ideals. The first step to nurturing your self-worth is realizing that societal expectations are projected onto you in order to sell products, push narratives, or boost the personal brands of influencers. Social media typically shows only the most perfect moments.

However, we are seeing a shift in the narrative across all media. After all, aging is a natural process that everyone must go through. Try following influencers around your age who are committed to posting realistic depictions of their lives. What’s more, you can unplug and learn to value yourself without needing external validation.

Realize that the way your body changes with age is due to a life well-lived, such as going through a pregnancy and developing stretch marks or laughing loud and often and cultivating crow’s feet around your eyes. It’s okay to have negative feelings about these changes from time to time. However, it’s essential to recognize how these negative thoughts affect how you feel about yourself. Challenge those thoughts with objective evidence, look up to positive role models for inspiration, and prioritize self-care to cultivate ” body neutrality.” Accept your body for what it has done to keep you alive and nourish it going forward.

Maintaining Social Connectedness

As you grow older, you may have a decrease in social interactions due to various factors. You might change locations, friends may pass away, or you may not be able to engage in activities as you once did. This doesn’t mean you have to settle for a life of loneliness. While it’s important to sit with these feelings and learn to value your own company, it supports your mental health to interact with others regularly. Anxiety and depression in older adults are common, but social interaction can help alleviate some of the symptoms of these conditions.

Seek this support through new activities, local organizations, and existing connections. Even if you’re far away from loved ones, you can use tech to facilitate interactions. Video calling your family can ease the burden of travel and give you much-needed socialization and connection throughout the day. You can also use tech as an older adult to access healthcare and mental wellness resources more easily through telehealth services. You can consult a doctor from the comfort of your home, which is helpful if driving or mobility are difficult. Find what’s right for you, and don’t be scared to ask for help setting up internet access or finding other resources.

Stimulating Your Mind and Body

Cognitive impairment with age is complex. It’s common to forget the names of friends and associates or wonder why you walked into another room to do something. However, it’s a good idea to keep track of your thinking skills as you age. Your physician may assess your cognitive abilities and recommend daily activities to exercise your brain. As you age, neural plasticity is still possible — meaning you can form new neural pathways and learn new things. Cognitive flexibility is essential to keep you thinking clearly and successfully participating in daily activities. You can make the most of this important mental skill by finding a subject or activity that intrigues you and stimulates your brain. Take a class with new friends, try an interesting puzzle game, or pick out some books to read.

Along with exercising your brain, you can integrate physical activity into your daily routine. This will keep you limber and able to engage in fun experiences, regardless of age. While you can’t turn back time, you can prevent your joints and muscles from deteriorating rapidly. Healthy aging involves nourishing your body and finding low-impact ways to incorporate movement into your daily routine. As you engage your mind and body more regularly, you will feel more positive about yourself and motivated to live each day to the fullest. This is the best way to reduce depression and anxiety naturally.

Aging Gracefully

Determine what aging gracefully means to you. This is the best way to increase your self-worth as you age. Decide for yourself instead of letting others dictate how you should look or act. Seek support and new activities to keep yourself happy and healthy into your later years.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialists can help you find expert mental health resources and support in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service.

Contact a Resource Specialist

About the Author: Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter, @KatieBWrites93.

rtor.org and Our Sponsor Laurel House, Inc. Celebrate Pride in June

On June 28, 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay nightclub in Greenwich Village, sparking a riot and six days of protests. This incident, known as the Stonewall Uprising, marks a turning point in the gay rights movement, now celebrated as Pride Month in June.

This Pride Month, www.rtor.org and Laurel House affirm their commitment to supporting members of the LGBTQ+ community in their quest for equity and justice, especially in their fight for accessible, safe, health, and mental health care.

www.rtor.org and Laurel House are committed to the advancement of racial equity and social justice, and to making mental health services available to all.

Photo by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-people-romantic-cute-6831707/

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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