In these uncertain and unprecedented times, and with so much attention on our physical health, it is easy to overlook our emotional and mental health. Right now, many people are experiencing increasingly high levels of stress and anxiety over current world events. Two things that can help are a little self-care, and maintaining connections (albeit, from a distance) with others.
When it comes to self-care there are a number of things you can do to look after yourself even if you are confined to home. If you are caring for someone at home and you don’t have a regular break scheduled into your week consider looking into in home respite options. Right now. In order to keep looking after the person you care for, it is vital you look after yourself too and arrange for some time out.
Meditation and practising mindfulness are associated with improving sleep and cognition as well as reducing anxiety and stress. There are a number of websites and apps dedicated to meditation and mindfulness. Headspace and Smiling Mind are just two that come to mind. Exercise is another way to practice self-care, and the links between exercise and positive mood are very strong. By getting your blood flowing and moving your body, you release endorphins which combat stress and help you to feel good. A brisk walk, cleaning the house, washing the car or logging into an online exercise class (such as yoga, pilates or tai chi) are all activities that can be achieved at home.
Connecting with nature has more of a positive benefit on our emotional health than many people realise. Try setting aside 30 minutes in the morning and again in the afternoon to go into the garden, prune the plants, read the newspaper or enjoy a cup of tea in the sun. If you enjoy reading, most public libraries have much of their catalogue available to read, or even listen to, online. You can call your local council for more information.
Keeping up social connections is vital for maintaining wellbeing, now more than ever before. However in the current climate it can seem too hard to do. Research shows maintaining connections can improve our physical and mental health, and even help to reduce the risk of developing dementia. As we are increasingly asked to practice social distancing and stay at home, it is easy to feel disconnected and alone. Thanks to the internet there are a number of options available to stay connected.
At a time when we are unable to see many of our loved ones face-to-face, video calling using Skype or FaceTime is a great alternative. It will also help children to understand that their friends and families, in particular their grandparents, are ok. Try setting up a regular time each week to stay in contact. Email is also a great way to share photos and videos. Who knows, perhaps the humble telephone will make an almighty comeback? Another great activity you could start with the grandkids is letter writing.
If you are caring for a person living with dementia, you may be at home with your loved one more than usual. This may be very stressful for you both. At this time finding activities your loved one enjoys can be very helpful, support you to keep them engaged and reduce their anxiety.
Putting together an activity area or box in the home with things the person can access and engage with, that brings them some joy and meaning, is a great way to stimulate and divert the person’s anxiety. One activity is to list favourite holidays then jump online and share a journey visiting websites of that area, looking at photos and talking about why the holiday was so good for them. This can lead to digging out the old photo box which is always a great way to spend a few hours.
Now could be a great time to put together a meaningful music playlist and share some singing and dancing together. Research has shown music that has meaning to us affects the brain and makes us feel better. Life stories can often bring people joy and reminiscing has proven to stimulate positive chemical releases in the brain. It is an activity the whole family can get involved in and we have tips on creating life stories on our website.
Lastly, if you are caring for someone at home consider having a few hours of in home respite regularly to give yourself a break and have some “me time”. In response to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, we have introduced a number of new respite and other service offerings to support you and your loved one at home. Keeping yourself healthy and managing your stress and anxiety is critical, now more than ever before. Please call and speak to one of our friendly staff, who will be more than happy to talk through the various options for you.
For more information on our response to COVID-19 visit alzheimerswa.org.au/covid-19. If you have any questions or concerns about services please call 1300 66 77 88. #StayConnected