TAKING CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Living with the Times: a mental health and psychosocial support toolkit for older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic has been developed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings (IASC MHPSS RG).

This article provides a summary of the key messages for older adults on how to take care of their well-being and how they can provide support to those around them during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The stress, economic hardship and social isolation associated with both short term and long term measures put in place to contain COVID-19 may affect psychological wellbeing, exacerbate underlying mental health or neurological conditions, including common conditions such as depression and anxiety, and also potentially increase the risk of worsening cognitive decline.

Below you can find recommendations on how we can stay healthy and what to do to improve our mood during the pandemic.

To stay physically and mentally healthy during the pandemic, it is important for older women and men to:

• Keep to daily routines or create new ones

• Sleep and eat at the same time every day

• Stay hydrated and eat healthily

• Be physically active (aim for at least 30 minutes of low-impact exercise each day)

• Be mentally active. Suggestions for activities include doing puzzles, crosswords or mental fitness exercises, playing musical instruments, chess or dominoes, etc.)

• Take all their medication as prescribed by their health care professional, and not stop taking their medication unless told to do so by their doctor.

Moreover, you can pick activities that you find interesting and that best fit your daily routine. You can find some ideas below;

  • Looking at the stars, being mindful, reflecting on the positive things in your life, feeling and practising gratitude
  • Knitting, sewing
  • Painting/drawing
  • Enjoying a meal with family or friends
  • Regularly speaking with family and friends over the phone
  • Doing pottery or other craft activities
  • Playing cards with family or friends
  • Reading a book
  •  Going out and/or helping others to go out
  • Relaxation/meditation/breathing exercises
  • Gardening
  • Jogging
  • Gardening and doing housework
  • Reading a newspaper
  • Riding a bicycle
  • Playing games at a safe distance to keep
  • mentally active and socially engaged. Physical
  • distancing does not mean social isolation
  • Walking
  • Doing outdoor relaxation exercises/tai chi or yoga
  • Buying groceries to keep daily routines and eat healthily. You may need to adapt your routines (wear a face mask, avoid busy times at the local market, ask others for help)

Don’t forget to wake up and go to bed at regular times, make teas, drink plenty of water, also when outside (e.g. while sitting on a park bench) and eat healthily at regular times.