Parents and other older relatives may still be feeling fearful and isolated. This makes sense as the early health advice was for them to stay home as they were “too vulnerable”. Concerns about their health were paramount.
As this crisis drags on, many older (and younger) people experience fear and foreboding day after day. Living in a state of fear overloads one’s body with cortisol.
This reduces immunity and can increase the risk of diseases such as atherosclerosis and depression. To combat stress and replace it with joy, here are a few suggestions:
- Turn off the television news. Apart from knowing what the current health orders are, there is no need to have a daily update on what is happening in hospitals. There is not enough detail in the reporting for it to be meaningful. Statistics do not help anyone feel safe.
- Make a list of things that feed the spirit. Discuss ideas with older relatives and arrange to make them happen. It may be fish and chips by the water, watching children swimming in a lake or writing poetry. The aim is to bring light and joy back into everyday life for yourself as well.
- Connect with people again. Ample research tells us humans are social beings. We need to belong to groups. Being with others brings spontaneity back into our lives. Look at what older relatives have given up during Covid lockdowns and see what connections and group activities can be resumed.
- Use the rituals of Christmas. Most families have Christmas rituals that give us a sense of continuity from year to year. They involve members of different generations. Rituals create a common dialogue.
Assist older family members to complete their usual Christmas rituals such as sending cards, putting up decorations, going to a church service or making shortbread. Engage other family members in these rituals where possible.
- Be with nature. The magpies don’t know about Covid. They sing their morning song regardless. Spend time in nature and help older relatives to do the same. Studies have shown that time in nature reduces cortisol levels and combats depression.
Perhaps you could arrange a picnic or a Sunday drive by the water. There are many cafes in scenic locations that do not require much walking. Google will help find cafes with easy access.
- Go greener at home. Having a window with a garden view can be enough to lift someone’s mood and reduce anxiety. Even pictures on the wall can be beneficial.
One study compared heart surgery patients. Some had direct views of pictures of trees and calm water and it was found they had less anxiety and less need for pain medication than the control group.
Kendall Morton is Director of Home Care Assistance Sunshine Coast to Wide Bay. Call 5491 6888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org