Manage Your Mental and Emotional Health in Difficult Times
For decades, boomers have been exposed to a myriad of changes, both small and big; global and personal; shocking and gentle; and through it all, you’re still here by the grace of either good genes, mindful health practices, or just plain luck.
My favorite song from Stephen Sondheim’s Follies is called “I’m Still Here.” The lyrics make me smile and bring me comfort, because it is a song of resilience and hope:
Good times and bad times
I’ve seen them all
And my dear, I’m still here
Plush velvet sometimes
Sometimes just pretzels and beer
But I’m here
Oh, I’ve stuffed the dailies in my shoes
Strummed ukuleles, I’ve sung the blues
Seen all my dreams disappear
But I’m here
Enter the Coronavirus
Not long ago, you woke up to something called the coronavirus. As you watched the virus spread quickly from China to the U.S., it became crucial to manage your physical, mental, and emotional health, by gaining knowledge of the virus, how it is systemically spread, and why isolation and distancing from others can protect you from its symptoms.
You know that catching the virus is not necessarily a death sentence, and that underlying health problems, especially related to the respiratory system or to the heart, can make recovery difficult.
My experience is that my boomer friends are self-isolating. If you resisted isolation at the beginning of this pandemic, you probably have changed that mindset due to peer pressure and/or your sons, daughters, and friends monitoring your every move.
You know enough to be cautious about social-distancing, washing hands frequently, and generally keeping away from places that have over 10 people in attendance.
However, while you are mindful of protecting your physical being, your mental and emotional health should also be considered important.
Boomers have developed a variety of protocols for managing their mental and emotional health needs. I am a particular solitary woman by day and a social creature by night. I manage my situation as a solitary writer by practicing yoga and meditation, walking, swimming, and visiting my son and grandchildren with pre-planned distancing protocols.
Now that I can’t get my social fix on the dance floor, I am creating new ways to restructure my evenings to include social interaction via the Internet, phone calls to my sons, my brother, best friends, grandchildren, and keeping company with Netflix.
3 Steps to Manage Your Mental and Emotional Health
The following are 3 other suggestions for managing your mental and emotional health in this strange new world.
Call It Zoom
I’ve been in Austin five years and have a wonderful group of senior/boomer friends that are clever, smart, and inquisitive. We’ve discovered Zoom as an app to integrate a new way of conversing and catching up on things.
Sometimes we have a happy hour, other times we share ideas or information about internet programming. Download the app on your computer or smartphone and you are good to go.
Time to Get Creative
Managing your mental and emotional health underlines the idea that when one door closes, another door opens. Life doesn’t stand still.
After you cleaned your closet, re-organized your kitchen, pulled the weeds in the garden, cleaned out the shed or garage, mowed the lawn, thrown out old files and dust collectors, it’s time to get creative.
What have you always wanted to do in your life but haven’t done yet? Maybe: tighten up your meditation practice; use tutorials for yoga and work-outs; stretch more; increase the time you walk, and, therefore, increase the miles you log and decrease mental resistance.
Walk to your favorite music, dance, skip, and use your arms to feel the spirit move through you.
Do you knit, crochet, sew? Get back to a hobby. Read more, study a subject that enthralls you, take internet classes, and learn to think differently by shifting your mind-sets.
Deepen your core values, but also practice renewal activities, which involve developing a deeper understanding of beliefs, attitudes, and most of all, your ever-changing identity about who you are today in your 60s or 70s.
Expand Your Worldview
The challenge of isolation and the beauty of silence is that you have the opportunity to expand your worldview – a world that includes philosophical and psychological changes, as well as new ideas for personal growth and development.
- Start spending time with the right people (online, of course) in intellectual discourse.
- Let go of self-limiting behaviors; take some risks!
- Make life simple again; confusion is an anathema.
- Find a new passion.
- Work through difficult situations with family and friends with tranquility and care.
The most formidable challenge to everyone facing a pandemic, such as the coronavirus, is existential. The definition of existential references your ability to face a crisis or a disaster with competence and understanding of where your life is now and where it might be going after it’s all over. The existential crisis tests your will, your fortitude, and your resilience.
Cervantes wrote, “Make it thy business to know thyself, which is the most difficult challenge in life.”
Knowing yourself reduces panic and anxiety. To say that you don’t know enough of anything right now produces a self-prescribed knowledge gap that is bound to inflame your neurosis quotient. Holding on to a high anxiety level is not productive for learning to manage your mental and emotional health.
- Align your needs with what is happening in the present.
- Analyze your resources (what’s available to you in your environment).
- Worry won’t help to end the crisis any sooner, so stay in the present.
- Be with your own thoughts; sit with your own thoughts.
- Process your feelings instead of being reactive.
- Stay calm: think of the crisis as a human correction in your life.
It’s an axiom that every crisis shakes loose the old order: the sudden catastrophe changes the rules of human interaction and demands a review of old mindsets and antiquated opinions.
Managing your mental and emotional health in difficult times will, of necessity, shift the sense of who you are and what role society will play in your future. It’s an opportunity not to be missed.
And smile when you remember that in good times and bad times, you’re still here.
How well do you manage your mental and emotional health? What activities do you engage yourself in to keep busy? What activities do you engage in because the calm down your anxiety? Please share with our community.