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Mental Health Issues in the Elderly: A Preventative Approach

Taking care of mental health and wellbeing is important at any stage in life and it’s always a good idea to begin this practice as early as possible. When it comes to the elderly, mental health issues - including dementia, depression and anxiety, can often be under-identified, which makes the situation even more serious. A study conducted by healthcare professionals in the UK found an alarmingly high prevalence of undiagnosed mental health issues amongst older adults (70+) admitted to general hospitals. What can be done to keep these numbers at bay?

Diet

The connection between good nutrition and mental health is becoming increasingly more apparent. Our bodies and minds, require many essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients in order to function optimally and ward off illness, disease, and even mental health issues. Limiting or eliminating processed and refined foods during every stage of life is important, and as we age, it is all the more important to fuel our bodies with a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), protein, fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as adequate water.

Stress Management

We know the effect that stress can have on a person’s daily life, and the long-term consequences it has on overall wellbeing. It can affect your mood, worsen pre-existing health conditions (hypertension, digestive issues, anxiety), keep you up at night, and adversely affect overall mental health. No matter what age you may be, proper stress management techniques are crucial when it comes to good mental health. There are so many different ways to reduce stress in your life and you can easily find one that best suits your lifestyle. Whether it’s incorporating some “you time” into your schedule or visiting a therapist once a week, managing stress is one of the most preventative healthcare options available.

Physical Activity

While being active is usually associated with physical fitness, regular physical activity can have a very positive impact on the mental health of the elderly. Moderate exercise a few times a week is one of the best ways to keep your mind sharp when you are over 50, according to recent research. Whether that means walking, light jogging, yoga, or swimming exercises, the choice is entirely up to you - just remember to choose activities that appeal to you and are actually enjoyable.

While mental health in older people can oftentimes get swept under the rug, it’s a very important topic to discuss and understand, in order to treat or even prevent issues from arising. Proper diet, effective stress management and regular physical activity are all necessary components in a preventative approach aimed at keeping our minds sharp - at any age.

Guest post by Sally Perkins 

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What you need to know about parental burnout

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What you need to know about parental burnout

Typically, when you get to the point of burning out within a job role, it is advised to slow down or begin looking into different opportunities. You can use your weekends to relax, and even take some more time off if you need to. 

With parenting, you can’t exactly pack up and leave for that holiday you desperately need. It is very difficult to maintain a healthy balance of parenting, social life, work or education and enjoyment, whilst also finding time to relax. This lack of relaxation and constant stress can result in parent burnout - affecting not only you, but your children too.

The definition of burnout is both physical and mental exhaustion, usually caused by excessive workload and long hours when referring to burnout in a work environment. Burnout is relatively common in job roles within the public service sector - teaching, for example. Parenting is extremely rewarding, obviously, but of course does comes with the longest hours (throughout the entire day, every day of the week and even interrupting sleep) and most intense pressures as you attempt to raise and shape a child into an accepted member of the population. The majority of parents will experience parent burnout at some point, although some a lot more severe than others.

Who is most vulnerable?

  • Single parents can be at more risk of developing burnout due to the lack of help they receive, and therefore more responsibility. 

  • Parents of infants, in comparison to older children, as younger babies/children are more dependant. This goes hand in hand with lack of sleep (due to night time wakings, anxiety etc), and sleep deprivation is a big factor in burnout.

  • Parents of teenagers. Coping with your teenagers mood swings, their future educational choices, and the extra money they will now be costing compared to when they were much smaller. Balancing this, with the fact your own workload may well be larger now as your career has progressed, can be factors for concern.

  • Parents of children with special needs. This usually involves more responsibility and a more vigourous routine, with the added pressure of introducing their differences.

  • Parents with existing physical chronic pain or mental health problems - those who find themselves stressed due to constant pain or depression/anxiety are more likely to experience burnout as they are unable to relax.

  • Parents with certain circumstantial situations resulting in stress including divorce and poverty.

The signs:

Parental burnout doesn’t just appear, it is built up over time - that could be days, weeks, months or even years. There are a few signs parents should be aware of in order to avoid full-blown burnout. These include:

  • Constantly frustrated and irritable without a specific cause, or getting angry at something that would not usually bother you.

  • Feeling as if you’re not doing a good job, questioning your abilities and achievements as a parent

  • Emotional detachment from your children

  • Being in a constant state of fatigue, not waking up feeling refreshed even after an appropriate amount of sleep

  • Inability to fully concentrate, forgetting simple things

  • Loss of appetite

  • Feeling anxious or depressed

  • Physical pain including chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and/or headaches - which should all be consulted with your doctor (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201311/the-tell-tale-signs-burnout-do-you-have-them)

  • Not being productive, wasting time and finding distractions from your normal routine.

  • Feeling hopeless and detached from others

If you feel particularly low for more than 2 weeks in a row, accompanied by one or more symptoms above, it is worth visiting your GP to discuss the potential for depression or anxiety. The sooner we can identify something, the sooner we can help ourselves.

There are numerous ways you can help to avoid parent burnout when you begin to feel as if your workload and stress is heightened. First and foremost, if taking care of yourself. As parents, it is relatively common to neglect our own needs in attempt to put the child, housework or job first. It is okay to say no if you can’t take on anymore. It is okay to take a night for relaxation and ask a loved one to help you out while you have a break. It is okay to put yourself first for once.

Another way to avoid burnout in the first place is by managing expectations, and being realistic. Nobody is the perfect parent and expecting to do everything perfectly will only result in disappointment. Don't set yourself up to fail. 

Finally, don’t compare yourself to anyone. Everybody has different parenting techniques, and even when you see someone coping much better than you, how do you know what happens when they get home and shut the door? We can all put on a brave face, but you mustn't compare someones ability to 'cope' with your own. They are probably as exhausted as you.

If you are already experiencing parental burnout, there are a few things you can try in order to decrease your stress levels. One of the most popular is to learn mindfulness techniques and yoga at home in attempt to de-stress and furthermore, give you the energy you need. Ensuring you eat well and aim for a balanced diet including plenty of water is also key. A good sleep routine, aimng for 8 hours a night, will also do you wonders. Asking for help from friends and family is also a must. 

If you aren't looking after yourself, how can you expect to look after someone else? 

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Stress in the workplace

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Stress in the workplace

Stress in the workplace is topic that needs to be considered and discussed openly. Awareness of stress in the workplace needs to be raised so that individuals know what causes it, what the symptoms are and if they do suffer with stress at work, ways in which they can deal with it.

According to research by Trade Union Congress, someone is made ill by stress at work every two minutes.

CV-Library.co.uk found that:

•     53.2% of workers report that stress is an issue in their current workplace.

•     61.9% believe that their employer looks down on workers who get stressed.

•     57.4% think that their manager does NOT offer support to help them manage stress at work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) claimed that in 2015/16, 488,000 people in the UK reported work-related stress at a level they believed was making them unwell. This accounted for 37% of all work related illnesses.

It is evident that workplace stress is something that needs to be tackled across the country.

First, we need to address what the most common causes are of workplace stress . The main causes include heavy workloads, long working hours, and low morale within the workplace, unfriendly colleagues and bad management.

What can you do if you are suffering from stress in the workplace?

Start by reaching out. Talk to your manager face-to-face about any worries you have. It is more personal than sending your worries over by email and makes it easier to convey your emotion.

Look for support at home. Talking it over and getting support and sympathy to those that are closest to you can help you to regain your sense of calm.

Review your diet. Your food choices can have a huge impact on how you feel during the work day. Keep your energy and focus up, and avoid mood swings by choosing healthy meal options.

Get active. Try to add more exercise into your working day. Physical activity produces endorphins that acts as a natural painkiller and also improves the ability to sleep. Better sleep will help you to be more patient and feel less agitated which can reduce stress.

Prioritise and organise. If you findyour workload is getting too much. Try the following: create a balanced schedule, leave earlier in the morning, avoid over-committing yourself and always tackle high-priority tasks first.

Have a positive attitude. Positive thinking helps with stress management and can even improve your health. Practice positive self talk and surround yourself with positive people.

 

This is a guest submission from Shepherds Friendly Society - who offer income protection plans  to prepare for your future.

 https://www.shepherdsfriendly.co.uk/plans/protection/income-protection

Find out more about stress at work; the Symptoms, causes and how to beat it here.

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The shocking truth behind our blue light services

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The shocking truth behind our blue light services

The ‘blue light’ services are typically our emergency services. This includes ambulance workers, police, firefighters and search and rescue services. According to research conducted by ‘Mind’, emergency services are at a higher risk of going through a mental health problem than the general public. Most would think that this is due to the traumatic events that people in this field may experience. This is not always the case. It is suggested that workload and pressures from management tend to trigger poor mental health over trauma. With 9 out of 10 emergency service staff and volunteers in England had experienced stress, low mood or poor mental health at some point in their careers, it is crucial that something is done about this.

Those in the blue light services are the people who help us when we are in need, the people who save lives. It is upsetting to think they may sometimes find it difficult to save their own. For example, 30% of firefighters had contemplated taking their own lives due to stress and poor mental health whilst working for the fire services. So what exactly is being done about this? Obviously, there is support that each employer would offer yet 79% of respondents from a conducted survey said they would ‘never’ seek help from HR if they experienced a mental health problem. Alternatively, those within the emergency services suggest that the support given following a traumatic event is positive however there is little additional support provided for the ‘drip drip’ effect. In fact, 82% of firefighters agreed or strongly agreed that there needs to be more emotional support made available to emergency services personnel

Just less than half of the blue light services that were surveyed (44%) thought their colleagues would be treated differently (in a negative way) if they said that they had a mental health problem at work. This just shows the large amounts of stigma or expected stigma within this field of work. This is surprising given that those in the emergency services would have seen a lot, gained more empathy and have a better understanding of what can happen within day-to-day life. Talking about mental health is not overly encouraged within the emergency service sector with 71% of emergency service staff thinking that their organisation did not encourage them to talk about mental health – this was much worse than the general workforce population.  

According to research conducted by ‘Mind’, the research suggests that the following factors are triggers of poor mental health for people in the ambulance service: 

  • Repeated exposure to traumatic events

  • High workload pressures

  • Long working hours

  • Lone working shift work

  • Dealing with people who may be physically or verbally abusive

So whilst measures are being taken to improve the support those in the blue light sector receive regarding mental health, is there anything individuals can do to ensure their family member or friend within the service is remaining relatively healthy in terms of mental health? Obviously, stress is part of the job, yet being overly stressed is going to impact not only mental health but also ability to complete tasks to a high standard. Which in this case, is quite literally a matter of life and death!

Help your loved ones come to terms with whether they are stressed more than usual. Most of the time, people won’t notice that they are displaying signs of stress and so it is difficult to identify yourself that you are going through more stress than is healthy. Some signs to look out for include trouble sleeping, irritability, drinking more than usual, participating in drug-use, physical pain and anxiety. If somebody you know is displaying symptoms of stress, speak to them without judgement and ask if there is any way that you can help.

Encourage them to look after their body and physical health. It is common that by looking after our physical body, we are looking after our minds. Encourage a balanced diet, 8 hours of sleep, plenty of water and exercise. Suggest doing some fun, physical activities together such as hiking or doing the gardening.

Listen to how they are feeling. Just by showing that you are there and ready to listen can allow somebody to express themselves, getting the negative feelings out and in turn, allow a weight to be lifted.

Help them identify their triggers and practise relaxation techniques. Ask your loved one about their day and if they become more hostile or closed off speaking about a certain event or issue, this is most likely the trigger for their stress and should be prevented if possible. It is a good idea for them to keep a journal of anything that has stressed them out during the day to find ways around allowing this to become a reoccurring thing. If your loved one is particularly stressed, it is essential for them to relax during the time they are home. There are numerous relaxation techniques, most being guided through web-based applications which are extremely beneficial.

Look after yourself. If you are constantly surrounded by somebody with poor mental well-being, it is likely that you will begin to feel relatively negative. Ensure you are staying healthy so you can continue to provide support and care if needed. Being calm, relaxed and positive can often allow others to pick this up.

 

Feel Stress Free offers a range of guided activities, using clinically proven techniques, to help prevent and build resilience to common mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and mild depression. Feel Stress Free was created and developed by UK leading psychologists and psychiatrists. If you are or know somebody who is currently struggling due to working in the emergency services, please get in touch through our social media - @thriveappsuk, for a free month trial.  

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