Four habits to improve your mental health amid uncertainty

May 18, 2021
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Older adults especially impacted by isolation during the pandemic

By Regence

During the past 15 months, the isolation stemming from physical distancing recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has become a kind of "double pandemic" particularly for older adults. Many have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and are increasingly lonely, worried, anxious or depressed.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey showed 46 percent of U.S. adults 65 and older reported a decline in their mental health due to worry and stress, up from 31 percent in May 2020.

Despite the trend, we can take steps to feel empowered and improve our well-being, especially as our communities begin to reopen.

Practice building resilience. Resiliency, or learning to cope with stress in a positive way and endure hardship, can help lower rates of depression and increase longevity.

Regence Executive Medical Director Dr. Jim Polo recommends four key steps for building resiliency. “Mental resilience is about building the skills that allow you to handle stress, so you can adapt to the difficulties around you,” Polo says. “Doing so will allow you to bounce back and enjoy life.”

Stay connected. As more people become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, there will be more opportunities to safely see friends and family in person—however, with some travel restrictions still in place, you may not yet be able to see your loved ones who live far away. Connecting with people plays a vital role in health and well-being, so continue finding opportunities to connect—even if that means phone calls or video chats, for now.

Focus on your physical health. Exercise is a proven method to improve mental health, as it reduces anxiety, boosts self-esteem and improves cognitive function. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend older adults aim for 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week, like brisk walking, as well as activities that strengthen muscles and improve balance.

In addition to exercising, it’s important to take care of your body. This includes catching up on medical appointments you may have deferred the past year. Make a point to schedule your annual physical, along with recommended preventive screenings, like colon or breast cancer.

Re-engage in hobbies you enjoyed before the pandemic. With the CDC’s latest guidelines around mask wearing lifting, you may start to find that both indoor and outdoor activities can resume. Doing activities you enjoy, like reading or crafting, can help you feel happier and more relaxed and reduce feelings of depression.

Join Regence in bringing light to mental health

During Mental Health Awareness Month and year-round, remember that it’s OK to ask for help. Throughout the month, our experts will share tips for connecting to mental health resources, addressing the stigma associated with seeking care and much more.

Additionally, Regence Medicare Advantage members have access to resources, like Papa Pals, that can help address feelings of isolation and improve mental well-being. Regence Medicare members can explore behavioral health resources on our website and sign in on regence.com to learn more about specific benefits available under their health plan.

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