Season of Self-Care

By Cari Brastad, RN

Health & Wellness Navigator at Trillium Woods

Cari Brastad, RN headshot

After a year of social distancing, it’s no wonder why increasing numbers of people are struggling with their mental health. Winter, combined with pandemic restrictions, make this a difficult time for everyone, but especially seniors. Self-care is crucial to preventing feelings of isolation and loneliness this winter and beyond.

The World Health Organization defines “self-care” as what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It’s the foundation of our health and wellbeing, encompassing hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle, environmental and socio-economic factors, and self-medication. As we age, we need to spend even more time on self-care for maintaining vision, hearing, joints and more. Without a good foundation, your whole wellbeing suffers.

The pandemic adds to the isolation seniors may already face during winter months. Many have reported experiencing that “Groundhog Day” feeling, with each day bleeding into the next. Family and friends can’t gather like they used to, and since risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, it’s even more important that older adults stay quarantined. Many seniors also suffer from hearing loss, and face masks can impair their ability to read lips and for others to project their voices, adding yet another barrier to feeling connected.

With all this in mind, here are some ways to practice self-care this winter:

  • Stick with a routine – Take a shower, get dressed, do your make-up, whatever you do to get ready in the morning. It may be tempting to stay in your pajamas all day, but it’s important to feel good about your appearance and start the day on a high note.
  • Move your body – Watch an exercise video or get outside and walk. Even small movements can improve your mood and overall health.
  • Engage your mind – Complete a puzzle, read, paint or create. Keeping your mind active helps you feel happier and healthier.
  • See your doctors regularly – Follow up with your doctors on your standard schedule. If you’re not comfortable seeing your doctor in person, several providers now offer video visits. Take your medications as prescribed and alert a medical professional if you notice changes in your health.
  • Soak up some vitamin D – With less sun exposure during the darker winter months, consult with your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement. A light therapy box is also a great way to add sunlight to your day and combat seasonal affective disorder.
  • Skip the afternoon nap – Although it may be tempting, napping can lead to lower quality sleep at night. For seniors, afternoon napping can also cause late-day confusion, where the darkness makes it difficult to decipher what time it is.
  • Maintain a balanced diet – Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables and buy frozen ones if needed. Reduce prep time by purchasing them pre-cut. Make ordering out a special event to look forward to and try something new to keep things fresh, while supporting your local community.

As a friend, family member or caregiver, you can help combat feelings of isolation in a loved one by staying engaged with them. Call, write, Zoom – make sure they’re having a conversation with someone at least once a day and let them know you’re thinking of them. Get creative! Extended outdoor visits are not ideal in Minnesota now, but how about leaving a surprise snowman in the yard or dropping off a special treat or meal? There’s nothing like getting a letter or card in the mail, or an interesting article, a joke, or a picture with a favorite memory.

At senior living communities, neighbors are looking after each other from afar with daily calls and socially distanced waves in the hallways, and virtual programming helps residents practice self-care and stay engaged. At Trillium Woods, these virtual activities range from fitness classes to educational programs, and movies to bingo. On-site campus medical providers prevent residents from having to go out in the community too.

If you’re feeling secluded or lonely, know that many people are feeling the same way these days. Reach out to a medical professional and be open and honest with your providers and family to let them know how you’re feeling. Senior LinkAge Line of Minnesota is also a great resource for finding caregiving services and learning how to age well in Minnesota.

These are difficult times, so remember to be kind to yourself and others. A little bit of self-care and kindness can go a very long way.

To learn more or to set up an appointment to visit the community, call 763-744-9440.