Are you keeping your mind healthy?
30 September 2019
Retirement is a big change. The loss of established routines and the need to find something to do with your new found freedom can be disruptive and daunting.
That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on your mental health. In fact, according to the Victorian State Government, it’s thought that between 10 and 15% of Australians over the age of 65 experience depression.
In addition, the Black Dog Institute says that older people tend to under-report depressive symptoms, perhaps because they’re ashamed to do so, or due to a lack of knowledge on the issue.
Of course, depression isn’t the only mental health issue that can impact retired Australians. Here, we examine some of the most common, including signs to look out for and ways you can tackle them.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common mental health conditions associated with older people.
Common symptoms include:
- Difficulty planning or solving problems.
- Loss in memory that’s disruptive to daily life.
- Getting confused, especially with places and times.
- Difficulty in understanding spatial relationships and images.
- Frequently losing things.
- Problems with writing and speaking.
- Withdrawing from social situations.
- Poor judgement and loss of personal care.
- Mood and personality changes.
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can adopt to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. For example:
The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation states that regular exercise can reduce your Alzheimer’s risk by up to 50%.
Giving the grey matter a workout is important too. Puzzles, reading and writing are all great ways to keep those synapses active.
It can be easy in retirement to become more isolated, and this is bad for your mental health. Joining a club or taking classes are great ways to stay social.
A healthy diet
HelpGuide recommends the following dietary steps:
- Avoid trans fats (commonly found in packaged meals and fast food).
- Cut down on sugar.
- Embrace the Mediterranean diet – veggies, whole grains, fish, olive oil and beans are all great brain foods.
- Get your omega 3 fats. These are common in cold water fish like salmon and sardines.
Indications of depression vary significantly from person to person, but can include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness
- Constantly feeling tired or rundown
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Inability to concentrate
- Sleeping problems and loss of appetite
- Loss of enjoyment in usually pleasurable activities.
As well as medications prescribed by a doctor, the following have been shown to alleviate these symptoms:
Create workable goals
Identify things that you can achieve, that are realistic and measurable. Completing a task can give you a sense of accomplishment and help combat feelings of worthlessness.
Moderate exercise (up to five times a week) combined with a healthy diet has been shown to improve mood.
Nurture positive relationships
Surround yourself with people who make you happy and positive about yourself, not people who bring you down.
Volunteering has been linked to the release of dopamine, a hormone that creates positive feelings. Getting involved in volunteer organisations also helps you meet people and learn new skills.
People with anxiety disorder experience symptoms including:
- Unwanted thoughts
- A racing mind
- Inability to concentrate
- Shortness of breath
According to Beyond Blue, anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. Here are some ways to counter its negative effects:
Muscle relaxation methods
People with anxiety often have over-stimulated muscles. Progressive muscle relaxation can help counter the discomfort that comes with this.
Exercise produces chemicals that counter low moods.
Give your mind a vacation
Meditation, yoga and even the simple act of listening to music can help you take a step back from whatever is making you anxious.
Get enough sleep
Your body needs good amounts of deep, restful sleep, especially when you’re stressed.
Limit caffeine and alcohol
Both these substances affect our moods and can make anxiety worse.
Learn what triggers you
Establishing and understanding what makes you feel anxious is an important step to controlling its effects.
Mental health issues impact people at all stages of life, and in different ways. Knowing what to look out for, and having a few tricks up your sleeve for tackling the symptoms is important.
However, never be afraid to talk to a professional to gain additional information, or to augment the steps you’re taking yourself. A good place to start is beyondblue.org.au
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