How to Focus on Mental Health at all Stages in Life

Mental health has become a big concern, not only among college students but for all adults, as we begin to understand the stressors and triggers and different stages of life. Depending on your age and your responsibilities, your mental health needs may be very different. We’re going to break down what to look for in each stage of life and how to limit your stressors.

College students

Adjusting to living away from home and the added pressure of going to classes and making good grades can cause or exacerbate anxiety and depression for many college students. The American Psychological Association reports that one in three college freshmen report having a mental health disorder. Added to the overwhelm that many college students feel, a large number do not seek help when they begin having symptoms, leading to a worsening of symptoms.

  • Balance your work with something fun. College campuses usually have hundreds of clubs that you can join, for every type of interest. Make sure you join a club that’s focused on something you enjoy doing so you have something fun to look forward to.
  • Acquaint yourself with the college counseling center. These counselors are specially trained in helping students adjust to the rigors and stresses of college life.

Young Twenties

At this stage in your life you may be newly married, just about to embark on a new career after four or more years in college, or possibly even both. It’s a time that’s filled with change and uncertainty and can send anyone into a state of panic.

  • Begin to establish healthy habits that keep you grounded, such as an exercise routine, walking daily, journaling, meditation, or healthier eating.
  • Establish a support system, if you haven’t already, which should include at a minimum a primary care doctor and preferably a therapist or counselor that you can call on when you begin to feel overwhelmed.

Parenting

With the birth of children can come post-partum depression, as well as general overwhelm and anxiety. As soon as your children are born, monitor how you’re feeling emotionally and reach out to your doctor if you notice signs of anxiety and depression. Postpartum depression is a common condition that is easily treated. As the kids get older, your role changes slightly, but young parents still have many demands on their time and energy, even as their children grow.

  • Establish a network of other moms or dads that can relate to your concerns and struggles. Sometimes just talking to others that know what you’re going through can help your mood and mindset.
  • Be mindful about overscheduling for both yourself and your child. Children need to have downtime.
  • Remember the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” This means to always make sure you are taking care of yourself and your needs first, otherwise you will not be able to take care of those that rely on you.

Empty nesters

The empty nesting years are another period of major transition. You may be struggling to determine what your purpose is in life now that your kids are grown and out of the house. The costs of college tuition could create additional stress over finances.

  • It’s a great time to consider a career change. Revamp your resume and pursue a job doing something that you enjoy that will help get your family on secure financial footing.
  • Take up a new hobby – it’s the perfect time to try something new that you’ve always been interested in doing but couldn’t because of your parenting responsibilities.
  • Find a group of friends and plan to have monthly get-togethers. Staying active and social is important to your mental health at all ages, and becomes more important as you age.

Retirees

Long considered the “Golden Years,” the retirement years can sometimes be anything but golden. At this stage in life, you may have medical issues to deal with, downsizing into a new home, or even assisted living to consider. These years can be joyful if you continue to take care of yourself.

  • Consider getting a pet for companionship. The National Poll on Healthy Aging recently reported that pets bring joy and help relieve loneliness for seniors.
  • Eat healthy foods. Not only does healthy eating benefit your mental health but it also helps to keep your body strong and healthy, preventing or helping to manage conditions like Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

It’s important to take care of your mental health through all phases of life. Never be too proud to ask for help and remember we’re all in this thing called life together!

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