For many seniors, the New Year will be very different this year. In this article, we provide four basic tips to help bolster our mental health during and after the 2020 holiday season.
Holidays are traditionally a time to share food and frolic with our nearest and dearest. For most of us, this was unlikely the case this year. With travel restrictions and quarantines in place, we were forced to adjust.
At a time when family and friends are normally the closest, this year, they will be farther away. Looking after our mental health in a proactive way is more important than ever as we enter 2021.
Right from the get-go, it is important to make it clear that nothing we provide below can fill the void or heal the anxiety that COVID-19 has produced. Perhaps, though, it might nudge the needle in the right direction. Sometimes, small steps, taken together, can produce significant benefits.
Before we dive in, here is something to bring to the forefront of your mind as often as possible over the coming days and weeks:
Each day, scientists are learning more about how SARS-CoV-2 works and vaccines are being rolled out. Yes, 2020 has been challenging, but, with medical research in our armory, we will defeat COVID-19.
- Sleep, we do not give it the space that it needs in our modern, neon-lit world. We all need to do better.
- Losing sleep interferes with our mood. This is intuitive, but it is also backed by research. “Sleep loss amplifies the negative emotive effects of disruptive events while reducing the positive effect of goal-enhancing events.”
- In other words, if we do not sleep enough, we are more likely to feel negative when things go wrong, and we are less likely to feel good when they go well.
2. Keep active
- Scientists have shown that physical activity can boost mood both in the short and long term. Importantly, we do not need to run a 4-minute mile to gain mental benefits from exercise. A study from 2000 found that short, 10–15-minute walks boosted mood and increased calmness.
- So even if it is something simple, such as dancing in your kitchen or walking your dog for a little bit longer, it all counts.
3. Addressing loneliness
- For many people, loneliness has already been a significant feature of 2020. Reflecting on friends and family is likely to intensify those feelings of isolation.
- To combat this, make an effort to make contact. Whether it is a simple phone call or a video chat, schedule some conversations in. Remember, you are not the only one feeling lonely.
4. Align expectations
- Not everyone is on the same page when it comes to the pandemic. Some people might still be shielding, while others might have succumbed to “pandemic fatigue” and be returning to normal prematurely. Others still might use terms such as “scamdemic” and refuse to wear a mask.
- Some family members might be pushing for a family meal, like the long distant days of 2019.
- These differences in position have the potential to cause disappointment and additional stress. It is important to have clear and frank discussions with family members about what they can expect this year. Unfortunately, the safest way to enjoy the New Year, at this point, is to do it virtually.
Individually, the tips outlined above cannot replace the good times we expect from 2021. However, if we make more of an effort to eat right, sleep right, and move around, the cumulative effect might be enough to enjoy some benefit.
As many people struggle during this time, it might be hard to see an end in sight. But remember, we are in this together, and it will end.
A weekly feature for Lumby, Cherryville, and area seniors. For more information about any of the following please contact Colleen or Jenny at (250) 547-8866 Whitevalley Community Resource Centre Office (250) 547-8866, Saddle Mountain Drop In (778) 930-0509. Funding support provided by Interior Health, the Province of British Columbia (Community Gaming), United Way Southern Interior and United Way Lower Mainland.