More and more often, mental health and mental illness are assumed to be the same thing. However, everyone has mental health, it refers to our cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well being and is sometimes used to show an absence of mental illness. 25% of people will suffer from mental illness during their lifetime, with main groups of mental disorders including; mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, trauma-related disorders, and substance abuse disorders.
Around 15% of over 60s suffer from a mental disorder, accounting for around 6.6% of total disabilities for the age group. With a rapidly ageing population, it is becoming increasingly important to focus on mental health in our older generations, especially with increased risk of issues such as loneliness and social isolation.
How to look after your mental health in later life
Mental health problems are beginning to be thought of as a normal symptom of ageing, but this doesn’t have to be the case! It’s difficult to know what to do in retirement to look after your mental health so we’ve compiled a list of ways to look after your mental health in later life;
- Be prepared for change – Retirement comes with such a massive lifestyle choice, it’s important to retire when you’re ready, not when other people say you should. It’s important to remember that the age of retirement is not the same as the state pension age which can differ with gender, age, and location.
- Eat well – Even though retirement may leave you with more time on your hands, it’s all too easy to get lazy. Make sure you’re eating well, aiming for at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, and try to cook from scratch. Even finding new recipes to make can be beneficial as it will keep you busy and entertained.
- Make sure you get enough sleep – Have you ever found yourself losing sleep because of work and kids? Now’s your time to catch up! Life is such a rush nowadays that most of us find ourselves getting a maximum of 5-6 hours of sleep each night. Try to aim for at least 7 hours of good quality sleep each night as this can increase brain function and improve mood.
- Stay active – Even 30 minutes of physical activity per day can help to improve both mental and physical health. Some people even suggest that physical activity may be as effective as some medications in the treatment of depression as well as other mental illnesses. You don’t even have to go to the gym, being active may be as easy as walking the dog, gardening, or going out dancing! Try to keep your mind active as well as your body: doing puzzles such as crosswords and jigsaws can be a fun way to keep busy.
- Keep busy – Find something to give you a purpose and make sure it’s something that you enjoy. Joining societies, taking up a volunteer position, or even taking care of the grand kids. Finding new hobbies can help you make new friends and build your social network, giving you people to talk to and improving your emotional well being. Make sure you have someone to talk to about everything – good and bad – it’s important to let people know if you’re feeling down, but remember that it’s not all doom and gloom.
- Relax! – Although being retired might sound like a holiday, there are still jobs to be done and people to see. Make sure to make a break from your routine to take some time for yourself, whether that is a couple of hours getting coffee with a friend, a movie night, a day trip, or even a holiday! When you’re used to working full time, it can be difficult to let go and relax. Just remember you don’t actually have to be physically relaxing, as long as it lets you unwind.
Most importantly: enjoy!
So whether you’re thinking about retirement, or you’re already semi or fully retired, make sure to take it on your own terms and think about what you can do in retirement to take care of your mental health.