May is Mental Health Month, which has been commemorated in the U.S. since 1949 with awareness-building activities that today include ad campaigns, blog posts (like this one), and even lighting up the Empire State Building in green to kick off the month.
Iona is committed to fostering good mental health of older adults and their family members in May and throughout the year. Our team of psychotherapists, all of whom are licensed clinical social workers, helps people cope effectively with depression, anxiety, stress, anger, interpersonal conflicts, loneliness, grief, and other issues. We also have support groups for people who are living with dementia, low vision, and Parkinson’s, and who are caring for a family member or did in the past.
We all face satisfying and challenging times during our lives. Though you may not have much control over these vicissitudes, what you do have more control over is how you deal with them. The better you can cope with challenges, the better your mental health.
And sometimes you may need some help with that.
If you’re concerned about your mental health, one thing that can help is talking about it with someone you trust, like a family member or friend, your doctor, faith leader, or a psychotherapist, as well as with a support group. Medications, if needed, can complement the effect of talk therapy, and your doctor or a psychiatrist can help you consider the options.
There are also things you can do on your own that can help, such as:
- Exercising, eating right, and getting enough rest
- Staying socially active
- Doing hobbies and activities that tap your creative side and engage your mind
- Doing things that make you feel useful and helpful to yourself and others
- Limiting alcohol consumption and taking medications as prescribed
- Balancing negative thoughts with positive ones, as hard as that can be sometimes
- Keeping a list of things for which you’re grateful, like this nursing home that implemented regular gratitude journaling
- Engaging in spiritual practices that are meaningful to you
- Treating yourself, like getting a massage, having a nice meal, or listening to your favorite music
This list is by no means exhaustive, and if you have strategies you’ve found helpful we’d love to hear from you. Let us know how you cope with challenges in the comments.
By Bill Amt, LICSW
Bill Amt, LICSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and is the Mental Health Program Manager at Iona Senior Services. As a psychotherapist he works with older adults and caregivers who are coping with the emotional challenges of aging, and he also leads support groups for caregivers and people diagnosed with early-stage dementia. He has a Master of Social Work degree from The Catholic University of America.