Aging in Style with Lori Williams
Aging in Style with Lori Williams

Episode · 1 year ago

028. The impact of COVID-19 on Seniors' Mental Health


Mental health is just as important as physical health (if not more)!
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted mental health, particularly in the senior community. Add the “winter blues” and it becomes more necessary than ever for seniors to prioritize their mental well-being.
That’s why senior services expert Lori Williams has invited Heidi McBain, a marriage and family therapist, to share her top tips for alleviating anxiety and depression during this tough time.

Takeaways from this episode:
- We’ve all lost a lot during COVID-19, from family time and recreation to the lives of loved ones. It’s important to recognize this as grief and realize we’re all experiencing this together.
- Start with the basics: Check that you’re tending to your diet, hydration, physical activity, and other basic needs – and be sure to get fresh air when you can.
- Journaling is a helpful practice for processing grief. It can be easier to make mental connections when you put pen to paper.
- Try meditating! There are many apps that can help you focus on breathing and living in the moment instead of letting your mind wander to frantic or dark places.
- Connect with people virtually or pick up the phone, and be sure to honestly share how you’re doing nowadays. Many people can relate with how you’re feeling.

Topics from this episode:
- Depression / anxiety in seniors
- COVID-19 and mental health
- Mental and emotional wellbeing
- Connecting virtually with family
- Journaling practice
-Anxiety tips for seniors
-The benefits of meditation
- Processing COVID-19 grief

To learn more about Heidi McBain please visit:

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Welcome to aging in style with me, Laurie Williams. I'm an optimist by nature and I believe you can follow your dreams at any age. My grandmother's journey with dementia ignited a passion and need to work with seniors. I've spent the past thirteen years learning about seniors and aging. In my mid S, I followed my own dream and found at my company, where I use my expertise to help seniors locate housing and resources. On this podcast we cover all aspects of aging. Joanna's each week to meet senior living experts and inspirational seniors who are following their dreams. The fact is, we're all aging, so why not do it in style? Hi Everyone, welcome back to the show. Today we are talking about covid and its effect on our mental health. You know, it's caused for all of us, not just seniors, but for every one of us, no matter our age. It is definitely affected our mental well being and I've brought on a expert to talk to us about that. So today our guest is Heidi mcbaine and she's the owner of mental wellness for MOMS and Heidi has a masters in marriage and family therapy from the University of San Diego and her private practice focuses on counseling MOMS during pregnancy, postpartum and through motherhood. So most of us are past that, but that's okay because she has a lot of really great information that just covers across all age groups. Hidi has been married for almost nineteen years. She has two kids, one teen and one preteen, and one geriatric chocolate lab that still acts like a puppy. So welcome Hidi. I'm so glad you're here and looking forward to talking to you and how we can, you know, maybe come up with some ideas to help people through this time. Hi, Lori, thanks so much for having me on your show. I really appreciate it. Sure. So let's kind of jump into what are you seeing of the effects of covid and the isolation everything? What are you seeing the effects on mental health? Sure so, as far as mental health, I am seeing a lot of heightened anxiety right now across the board. Also a lot more people presenting with depression, sometimes, so also heightened and across the board. And then a third one is a lot of people presenting with grief symptoms, but they don't always know it's grief and that that's been a really interesting one, is trying to help people name that what you're actually feeling is grief right now, because there are a lot of things that have disappeared in your life and that you're just used to have, and so, you know, grief is on this continuum where it can be some of the lighter stuff and then it can be the really heavy stuff too, and I think for most of... that the heavier stuff we can very easily name as grief, loss of a loved one, you know, something like that. But the things on the the other end that are maybe, you know, loss of your vacations or loss of seeing or friends, or loss of connecting with people in the workplace, or loss of seeing your family during the time, especially, you know, extended family, that those are some things you know that a lot of us take for granted that we're just going to go grab coffee with a friend or we're going to go, you know, visit our aging parents, and those are the things that just aren't possible right now for most of us across the board. I think that's really interesting that you said grief, because I hadn't even thought of some of these things as grief. But, and this is, you know, like a smaller thing, but my daughter the other day we were watching TV and she's like remember when we could go and be around people and didn't have to wear masks? And you know, I think that's probably grief right there, and I didn't even put it, you know, a label to it, but yeah, it's life is completely upside down right now. Absolutely, and I think you know what I'm saying in my practice is a lot of people are presenting with depressions symptoms, but if we actually get to the heart of it, they're actually grieving something. And so it's not for everybody. Mean sometimes people really do present and you know they truly are depressed. But for a lot of people, especially, you know, the lucky ones that haven't experienced some of these really hard grief transitions in life, they don't have the words to put to it. And so you know, even what you're just presenting, like with your daughter, you know that that this is a type of grief that even our children are experiencing, and so if we can help them put words to it, it can help really navigate this hard time in a different way. That also helps us all kind of collectively come together, that we're all greeting these these things at the same time. HMM, that's a good point. So what are some some tips, I guess, if you know, for people, and I know, like you said, we're kind of all in this continuum. Some people are at the point where they never leave, they haven't lift their house since March. I know some people like that because they're so fearful, and then you have some people who believe it's all not even real, the handing maskers, and then you have everyone, like you said, that kind of fall in the middle. But what, what kind of advice are you giving people? And I'm guessing probably mostly the people that are in the middle right yeah, I would say, you know, we tend to hear more about the people in the extremes, like in the media, and you know social...'s kind of where you're seeing that, but most of us do you tend to fall in the middle, somewhere we're we're really happy to check in with ourselves to figure out what works for us. Give them what's going on outside, and so I think, you know, a lot of us are more conservative and then some people aren't that it's with them. This continuum, what actually works for you and then what actually works for your family and then you kind of move out work for there from there. So, you know, as far as in in starting, I usually look at at self care first and starting out the kind of the basics. You know, what what is your eating look like? What is your sleep look like? Are you saying hydrated? Are you getting some movements in your life? Are you able to go outside and breathe them some fresh air and you know, kind of checking in with people just to see, you know, are these basic pieces being taken care of, because sometimes, you know, your sleep is off and so we need to figure out some ways to get sleep back on. or you're forgetting to drink water, because you normally drink water all day long at work, but now that you're working for home, things just feel different. You know, I think it definitely. Our family was like this at the beginning. You know, your home it's sort of feels like you're on vacation, that you're not really and you're working from home. So, you know, we were having a lot of vacation food and eating a lot of treats and I'd say a Shu that first none of us felt very good and so, you know, we just collectively, you know, made the shift to eating better and then move to a big one too. I mean I think you've been people that are used to getting out and going shopping or seeing people or going for walks or, you know, walking from the car to their workplace. That there tends to be, you know, just a lot more movement and life. And so if you're if you're at home and you're not doing any of those things, that can also be something that's just kind of gone out the window. And so, you know, the hope is that people are okay at least getting outside a little bit, even if it's, you know, in your backyard or, you know, going for a walk around the neighborhood, the socially distance, saying you know if you see people out there. And so that's kind of the foundation and then I like to just build off of that for people. You know, once the foundation is set, then we can move into things like journaling, which can be really helpful, especially processing grief. It can be really helpful to just get things out on paper. A lot of times it looks a little simpler when it's on paper. People can make the connections that way. Meditations also really big...

...right now with all the meditation APPs out there, and this can be really helpful for anxiety and Awesomefer depressions symptoms, because what we're trying to do is get people in the here and now, in this moment. Anxiety is a lot of the what if for the future. What if this happens, but if that happens? Depression is a lot of reliving things that have happened in the past, and so if we can get people here and now, that can be really helpful to just start shifting, you know, outside of some of these symptoms and may be showing up for them. so meditation APPS are big, but you can also do a quiet meditation, which is just that your time run phone for a couple minutes, focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, you bring it back to your breath and you just continuously do that. And a lot of what's helpful is actually doing this every day, because it helps train your mind to you let some of these harder thoughts, you know, come and go without the distruss level going up around them. I was like that you mentioned the meditation APPs because a lot of people, they hear the word meditation and they're just like, I have no idea what that means really. You know, I can't my mind's going to wander. I'm you know, it's not for me. And and I hear that from all ages, from my daughter, who I try to get to meditate. I mean up to you know, any age. But I think, like you're saying, the APPS for me, that's how when I started meditating. I need it to use the APP because they talk. You just listen and they talk to you and then it gets you kind of in that in that moment, like you said, just in the here and now. And now you know that I've know how to meditate. I can do it with my breathing. Like you said, there's so many apps out there, so just find one that works for you and they're free also most of them, so it's a lot of opportunity there. Yeah, absolutely, and I I say the same thing. I think the meditation APPS are a great starting point and then for a lot of people will move into the quiet meditations. That can be a little bit harder starting out. That once you kind of change your mind to do some of this using the meditation APPs and you know, can be helpful to switch to this other route and I use it for a couple reasons with clients. One is they can really helpful if you're having trouble sleeping or getting back to sleep. You get somethings on me and you wake up in the middle of the night as we try to get some transitions in there. So when it's having a transition into following a sleep at night, which can be, you know, a five or ten minute meditation that you listen to, and then if you're awake in the middle of the night, you can do a shortened version of that, which is, you know, maybe just a couple of minutes, by getting you back in that mindset of going back to sleep. And and then the other way is really people can use these throughout the day just when I'm noticing, you know, they're stuck... their minds, they're not grounded, they are, you know, not being mindful of their surroundings, that this can be a way to really help get you ground it. And so some people do that first thing in the morning to start their days, some people do it throughout their day and I really like cooking it to something you're already doing. So like if you want to do in the middle of the day. Maybe you have lunch and then you do your meditation after lunch and that's how your days flows. Or if you do it for setting in the morning, you brush your teeth and then you do it, or lasting at night, you brush your teeth for you know, the day and then you go into your meditation. So you know, again, just trying to get people into the routine of doing it can be hard. But, as we know, whence you get in the routine and you've been doing it for a while, it just becomes second nature and it's just part of part of what you do and in your daily life. HMM. So you start out, when you're talking to someone who's having some anxiety and depression, just making sure all those basic needs are met, that they are, you know, eating ride or drinking water, they're getting some movement. Then you move to the next level, which is some meditations and just different self care correct and if none of these are working for someone they're just like full on just depressed or they're just so anxious, what do you recommend for those people? So, assuming the already in therapy with me, I do have some people that I refer out to have many vowels through their doctor, because sometimes medication is warranted. I mean we're talking about continuums, right. We off on this line somewhere. If you're talking about anxiety, there is more sort of minimal anxiety symptoms that show up a people can manage a lot of those people are, you know, aren't coming for therapy. It's just so I have heightened anxiety that I can manage it up to I have, you, such heightened anxiety that I'm actually not functioning, you know, not functioning well. I'm not able to do the things I normally do, well, working, taking care of my kids. You can fell in the Bife, but that. And so for them sometimes we do need something added, you know. So we'll get a screening gun do their doctor to see if maybe medication ends weren't it. I would say like with depression, you know, sometimes people again aren't functioning while they're spending a lot of time sleeping, a lot of time in bed, and so just to get them up and doing their normal activity sometimes it takes a little bit more than the basic self care and talk therapy to get them feeling better. Okay, and for seniors a real problem has been isolation, especially for seniors who are in...

...not just some in their home, but some also that are in these senior living communities which you know they'll get an outbreak of covid and then everyone's lockdown and you're having to stay in your apartment, you're not seeing anyone Dr because, you know, a big thing, a big reason for going to senior living is that socialization piece and unfortunately, because of Covid, that's being taken away at times where they meals and everything's being brought to them in their apartment. So what are some ways to help them with the isolation and loneliness? Yeah, I think this is hard across the board for people and you know, I would definitely start with to trying to stay connected virtually, so, you know, e. either trying to get zoom calls set up or even just, you know, texting family or sending emails with pictures or seeing pictures. I think that can be a really big way to do that. I would say also trying to keep that sort of connection with the people that are in the facility with them so, you know, even if it's just picking up the phone and calling right versus going down the hall, you can check in on your friends and again, I think there's collective grief around not being able to do the normal things that you were expecting to do. So I would say that one's a big one. You said collective grief and I think that that really kind of struck a chord with me. But that's a really good way of saying what that is. So it's collective grief of all your neighbors in your, you know, retirement community. You're all facing the same thing. So, like you said, reach out to each other. Maybe you know just you can talk on the phone at least, but you can all kind of talk about how you're feeling. That's a really excellent point. Yeah, I think it helps to normalize that you're not in this alone. Everybody around you it is feeling the same way, right, and I know people present that kind of differently right. Some people can see them like everything's fine. So that's why it's so important to check in and and to really explain how you're feeling so that you can have some of those super connections with people you know, to kind of open up those channels. And then, I would said the other thing that's really interesting is kind of, you know, the people that are more extroverted that need people and need the socialization. This has been much harder, I think, across the board, than people that tend to be more introverted and, you know, get their energy from being lone versus being in groups of people, and so I think that's the other thing to write as a few times to be really extroverted and you tend to spend a lot of time with other people, then this is possibly going to be harder for you and therefore it's going to be more important to continue to reach out to the people that are around you. HMM, that's a...

...really good point and I think it's been kind of interesting to like, I always would have considered myself an extrovert, but I have to say I think I might be a little bit of an introvert through this experience. It hasn't bothered me as much to stay home, which is which is interesting. Yeah, I think. I mean. So I'm definitely an introvert. So I would say, you know, within our family and I my daughter's pretty introverted to so we're doing pretty okay. I had then and and Sun. They're very extroverted, so they're getting a little more restless. So it's also kind of coming from that place of understanding what other people in your lives are going through, right, because you can be introverted, but also trying to connect with the people that are extroverted that okay, this, this actually is really hard for them and they're having a different experience with it, and I am well, that's a good point too, because if you're a daughter who is an introvert and your mom is an extrovert and you're not understanding, you know what's going on with it, because you're just like hey, it's fine, it's no big deal, but it is a big deal to her because she's extroverted and you know that's where she gets her energy, from being around other people. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah, so we need to be aware of how others are dealing with this. So I think these are all like really great tips and advice to help us get through this which, hopefully this year will be much better than last year. Right, we're putting a lot of pressure on two thousand and twenty one. So, Hidi, I always like to ask people, is there and someone as senior in your life who's been an inspiration to you? Yeah, my grandmother, Ruth. She actually she passed away and number of years ago, but I still think about out her. She was just this baste woman and I remember we used to go visit when we were kids and like my mouth would drop because they were, you know, using profanity and drinking and playing cards and it was just fun to be with that and it was just like it felt very spring, like she just didn't care what anybody thought of her and her life, like she was going to live her life how she was going to live her life. And so I think that piece just sticks with me right, that it's so important for all of us to check in with ourselves on what our truth is and what works for us during the pandemic, even without the pandemic, right is, what if my truth in here and how do I want it to live my life? And I would say I learned that very early on...

...from hers. Just, you know, live your best life and, you know, enjoy every minute of it. I love that. And just be yourself. Who Cares what people think? And you know, sometimes if you're eighty five years old, you know, maybe the expectation is you're just this little sweet, quiet little lady. But I know what I know a lot of ladies who are not like that. And I'm fine with it. I don't plan on being like that when I ready just be you right, but that's great. Well, thank you so much for being on the show and, you know, sharing your expertise. I think it's going to be very helpful for so many of us, no matter our aid, who are struggling with this pandemic, and it's you know, it's it's a pandemic. It's not a normal thing. So I love a lot of the things you said, especially about labeling grief, because I think that's something we've all sort of struggled with, that feeling. That is the feeling. It's grief and a lot of cases it sure is. Well, thank you so much for having me and I really appreciate being here with you. Of course, good to see you. Also, it's been a long time. We're UN zoomed so I can see her great, great well, thank you so much and thanks for listening. Guys, if you have questions or want additional resources, as always, go to my website, which is Lori Williams senior Servicescom and if you have ideas for the show, something you want us to cover, send me a message. Thanks and we'll talk to you next week.

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