Dr. Bevill is a board certified psychiatrist experienced in adolescent, adult, and geriatric psychiatry.
One of the privileges of working with older adults is seeing how people stay mentally healthy as they go through physical, emotional, or social life changes associated with aging. Even so, it is normal to experience brief periods of the blues now and then. For many seniors, those changes in mood are often triggered by the sentimentality, traditions, and expectations of the holidays.
The important thing is to acknowledge your feelings and know there are things you can do to help make yourself feel better.
The 2015 U.S. Aging Survey from the National Council on Aging pinpoints the top five habits that older adults and professionals agree help people to stay mentally sharp and healthy.
So if thoughts of the holidays are getting you down, try following these tips to boost your spirits.
1. Look For The Joy - Keeping a positive attitude is key. Focus on the present and being grateful for whom and what you have in your life. Appreciate the things you can do and enjoy doing with your current physical and mental capacities, and redefine what makes the holidays happy to you.
2. Appreciate Others - Staying socially connected is vital. If you aren't spending the holidays with family or friends, keep active and engaged by volunteering, going to a senior center, joining a hobby club or social group, or taking a class.
3. Eat Healthy and Wise - It is tempting to overindulge during the holidays. Be thankful you have the wisdom of age. You can still savor a holiday meal and enjoy a little treat. Just stick to sensible portions and any dietary restrictions you may have.
4. Make Some Happy Moves - Any movement that improves circulation is good for brain health. Regular exercise positively affects your mood, sleep, appetite, and overall wellbeing. The key is to move whatever you can for as long as you can, even if you are limited by being in a bed or chair.
5. Sleep Well - Sleep is regenerative and necessary to both physical and mental health. Excessive stress or a change in schedule due to the holidays can disrupt sleep patterns. Try to follow your regular sleep schedule, get some exercise and fresh air during the day, or enjoy a midday nap.
A case of the blues should resolve itself within a short period of time. Be aware that if feelings of sadness, irritability, fatigue, loss of interest, changes in sleep or eating habits, or unexplained physical discomfort persist for more than a few weeks, it could be signs of clinical depression.
Know that depression is a treatable medical illness and NOT a normal symptom of aging. It is estimated to affect 35 million Americans aged 65 or older, and can be caused by changes in brain chemistry, genetics, stress, or other factors. Once diagnosed, 80 percent of depressed individuals can be effectively treated with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of treatments.
The Intensive Outpatient Program on the Covington County Hospital campus specializes in helping senior adults with clinical depression or other mental health problems regain as much personal vitality as possible.