May is Mental Health Month.
How’s your mind feeling?

It’s a good time to be sure you’re protecting your mental health, too

When someone asks how you’re feeling, there’s a good chance that you think first about how you’re feeling physically not your mental health. So much of the time we focus on our physical health, but our minds and our bodies are connected.

Something that causes us to feel troubled emotionally or psychologically can lead to physical ailments, just as having a chronic medical condition can alter our mental perspective.

With May being Mental Health Month, it’s a great time for all of us to stop and consider how we’re feeling in our minds and in our hearts.

What exactly is mental health?

When we talk about mental health, we’re referring to three different aspects of our life — our emotional, psychological and social well-being. Those are all connected, too.

Think about it. If, for example, your social life is out of kilter, that can have an impact on how you feel emotionally and psychologically, right? And if you’re feeling anxious or depressed, that can keep you from enjoying your usual social activities and can certainly take an emotional toll.

At Heron’s Key, we emphasize holistic wellness. What does that mean? It’s simple, really. We make a point of offering programs, classes, services and activities that help residents feel their best physically, mentally and emotionally.

Our overarching goal is for Heron’s Key to be a community where residents can live life to the fullest — and when you’re getting the very most out of life, you can’t help but feel great.

Being healthy mentally is critical to achieving whole-body wellness

Holistic wellness, which we believe is the key to successful aging, takes into consideration seven aspects of daily living that add up to whole-body wellness. You can read all seven here, but for the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on the three that primarily affect our mental health:

  • Emotional – Acknowledging our feelings and responding to them in a productive way

Most of us recognize when we’re happy or excited about something. When it comes to less positive emotions, though, we don’t always put forth the time and effort to understand why we’re feeling that way. We might not even realize we’re angry or afraid or guilty or otherwise “upset” until we take it out on someone else. Working on our emotional awareness can help us prevent that kind of inappropriate response.

  • Intellectual – Using our minds to engage with the world

When we lose interest in learning new things and stop caring about what’s happening around us, we make our personal world smaller. That can lead to boredom, apathy, and feeling like we’re stuck in a rut. There’s a whole big world out there, and it’s easier than ever to be a participant — whether it’s by learning about a different culture, keeping up with current events, or taking music, art, language, or some other kind of lessons.

  • Social – Developing meaningful relationships and connections with others

Too often as people reach their seventies and eighties they start to become isolated — sometimes without even realizing it. Their children might live in other states and/or have families of their own, making it more of a challenge to stay in touch. Longtime friends and even neighbors they’ve known for many years may no longer be available for planned or impromptu get-togethers. It takes effort to form new relationships, but that effort pays off handsomely. Looking forward to chatting with a new friend or attending a group gathering can be powerfully motivating.

To clear your mind, unclutter your space

Stop reading for a moment and take a look around you. What do you see … and how does that make you feel?

If you’re surrounded by a lot of “stuff,” or if your living environment is overly messy, you could be subjecting yourself to unnecessary stress. Eventually, that extra stress can affect your mental and physical health.

According to Sally Augustin, an environmental psychologist, “Seeing clutter all around us is mentally exhausting and makes us feel tense.” She says too much clutter can indicate a lack of control.1

Getting rid of your clutter might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Take it slow. Start with a small area — maybe one you don’t use much. Have separate bags or boxes for items you want to donate to charity, give to family members or friends, or toss out. Ask for help. You can even hire a professional to make the whole process easier.

Uncluttering can do more than take a load off your mind. It can reduce the amount of time it takes to clean your home. And, it will also make downsizing a whole lot easier if you decide to move to a smaller home.

mental health month at heron's key

Retirement living emphasizes the mind-body connection

Senior living communities like Heron’s Key make a point of offering classes and activities designed to help residents maintain their health in all aspects — physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and more.

To get a better idea of all that’s available here in our community, we invite you to take a look at the events and activities listed in our monthly newsletter. You’ll find a link to it here.

Staying positive during the pandemic

Avoiding exposure to the coronavirus is top of mind for everyone these days. And, it’s of particular concern for retirement communities. After all, the opportunities to socialize, take all kinds of classes, and enjoy the active lifestyle are among the main reasons that people choose to live in a community like Heron’s Key.

The need to reduce the risk of exposure through social distancing has presented a unique set of challenges, not just here but in communities everywhere. No doubt you’ve experienced at least a few of your own. Meeting these challenges calls for resiliency — and a certain amount of creativity, as well.

We’ve helped Heron’s Key residents adapt to the current situation and maintain their sense of connection in a number of ways. For example, our fitness specialists, Chuck Abbey and Becci Crecelius, are offering live-streamed classes to residents via Zoom. Although we initially thought that some people might be hesitant to participate because they were unfamiliar with the technology, we found the opposite to be true. We’ve had residents tell us how much they appreciate being able to take the streamed classes because of the consistency — and the sense of community spirit — they provide. Zoom makes it possible for everyone who’s participating to see and talk with each other, which helps maintain those all-important social connections.

“One of the benefits of these classes [on Zoom] is that I’ve actually seen people I’ve never seen in my class before. They may have had trouble getting down to the room, or maybe the class didn’t fit with their schedule,” Chuck noted. “But now I’m seeing some new faces, and some have told me they would probably join the [regular] class after this is all over.”

Exploring new opportunities

A new class we’ve added since we started streaming via Zoom is called Mind and Motion. Although the class is centered mostly on dance moves, as the name implies, there’s also a mental aspect to it.

“It’s designed to keep the mind sharp,” Becci explained. “It involves learning some simple moves, but it actually can be somewhat challenging.”

We’re also planning other sorts of activities for later this month. This includes a scavenger hunt that will give residents a chance to get out, get active and engage with each other — while observing social distancing guidelines, of course.

Related article: How to Stay Connected While Practicing Social Distancing

1 McQuillan, S. (n.d.) Organize your space, declutter your mind and tidy up. PsyCom.