Ask Joan: Taking care of our mental health
May 13, 2024

Q. Lately, I have been feeling more and more overwhelmed and anxious, and I’m concerned something more serious might be happening. I am 79 and caring for my husband, who has been seriously ill for several months. I don’t mind caring for him, but some days are pretty hard. I don’t know what to do or if I am just overreacting.

AgeSpan CEO
Joan Hatem-Roy

A. I am so sorry to hear about your husband and wish him a smooth recovery. It can be stressful whenever someone in our family is ill. As we get older, adjusting to life changes like serious illness is never easy.

It’s ok if you don’t know what to do. While society is getting more comfortable discussing mental health, it can still be hard to know where to start when it comes to taking care of our own mental well-being.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s a good time to remember that taking care of our mental health is essential to our overall health and well-being and that mental health conditions are common, manageable, and treatable.

In fact, one in 5 people will experience a mental health condition in any given year, and we all experience things that can affect our mental health, according to Mental Health America.

Health professionals encourage us to find ways to build our “toolbox” of coping skills to manage stress, difficult emotions, and challenging situations. There are many ways to take actions – big and small – to improve mental health and increase resiliency such as:

  • Doing things that make you feel better like seeing a friend, watching a favorite movie, or taking your dog for a walk.
  • Making sure you are addressing your needs by taking a nap, drinking water, having a snack, or taking a shower.
  • Process your feelings. This could be through writing or drawing, allowing yourself to feel sad and cry, or talking it out with a trusted confidant.
  • Try relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, meditation, or just unplugging from your phone.

But if your feelings persist, seeking professional help when those self-help efforts aren’t working is a sign of strength, not weakness. None of us have to go through these struggles alone.

Mental Health America provides a free, easy, and anonymous screening at

Effective treatment options are available to help older adults manage their mental health and improve their quality of life. Recognizing the signs and seeing a health care provider are the first steps to getting treatment.

I wish you and your husband well.

Are you caring for an older adult or need help finding healthy aging resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at You can also call 800-892-0890 or email

Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of AgeSpan, which serves Amesbury, Andover, Billerica, Boxford, Chelmsford, Danvers, Dracut, Dunstable, Georgetown, Groveland, Haverhill, Lawrence, Lowell, Marblehead, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, Newbury, Newburyport, North Andover, Peabody, Rowley, Salisbury, Salem, Mass., Tewksbury, Tyngsboro, Westford, and West Newbury.

First published in the Eagle-Tribune

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