Even though most seniors are no longer in the workforce, they experience a variety of stress triggers that can affect them daily.
Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, health complications, change in routine, financial concerns or loneliness, the elderly often face serious challenges. It is essential that seniors along with as their caretakers find effective ways to lower the amount of stress in their lives as it can be detrimental to their health, according to the National Institute of Health.
There are a myriad of activities and practices that seniors can incorporate into their daily lives, adopting a healthier lifestyle that will empower them to improve their physical, emotional and mental health.
How Does Stress Form inside the Body?
When your body senses danger approaching, your brain sends signals to your muscles that cause them to tighten. Consequently, your adrenal glands release stress hormones, causing your breath to quicken, blood pressure to rise and senses to become immediately alert. While this is needed for survival, every situation should not warrant stress hormones to be released. If it does, this is a sign of chronic stress, which can be very harmful, especially in seniors.
Stress can quickly culminate and may prove hard to be eliminated. However, the key to handling stress is to first identify the problem. If the elderly person has a strong support system who value senior care, such as a spouse or family member, then it is advised that together they review what could be the underlying cause of the stress. If the senior does not have biological family or a spouse, then he or she should explore the local church community, get to know neighbors or develop a relationship with a nearby community center where a support system of caregiving can be developed. Additionally, getting the help of therapist who specializes in working with seniors could also be of great help. Having someone to whom they can express emotions without judgment is key to uncovering the root of their anxiety and depression or their stress. By speaking with a trusted individual, they can create a stress management plan, which best fits their lifestyle.
Stress-relief exercise is highly recommended for seniors over the age of 65. Ideally, seniors should participate in various forms of exercises that focus on endurance (i.e. walking, dancing), strength (i.e. sit-ups, weights), balance (i.e. yoga) and flexibility (i.e. stretching) for approximately 30 minutes per day. Increasing physical activity throughout the day is also a great way to experience relief from stress. For example, seniors can walk up a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator, get off a stop early on the bus and walk, take the dog out for a walk more often, stand up more, etc. Additionally, exercise allows seniors to release endorphins, blocking pain signals, according to WebMD. Regular physical activity can serve as a chronic pain stress reliever, while strengthening the muscles, preventing further pain and improving mood frequencies.
Back pain can be a symptom of stress. Sometimes when stress is derived from anxiety, the body will act as if there is a physical threat that requires protection. This will cause the muscles to tighten, preventing you from relaxing your back. A tight back can cause a variety of physical and emotional problems that follow. The best way to relieve back tension and for muscle relaxation is to reduce the body’s stress. Seniors who experience this tension should get a good night’s sleep, take a warm bath or use muscle relaxants after discussing options with a medical professional.
Other things that can help to relax your back include getting a massage, hugging more people and using a heating pad on your back. Studies also show that being active, having fun and slowing down everyday life can also assist with reducing stress and back pain.
Seniors can benefit from participating in meditation as it provides a sense of tranquility, peace and balance, helping to relieve stress. Meditation is also known to help manage symptoms of some medical conditions, such as depression, anxiety, tension headaches, etc., as there are many emotional and mental health benefits. For example, meditation can help seniors gain a new perspective on stressful situations, reduce negative emotions, increase patience and build coping skills to deal with stress. As different forms of meditation, including guided, mantra, mindfulness, Qi gong, tai chi and transcendental, all promote relaxation, concentration and staying in the moment, seniors can try different methods to achieve inner peace and a calm state. This can reduce their stressed attitude and to help them be in a more peaceful mental state.
Change in Diet
Caregivers may find helping seniors to change their diet as an upward battle, but it is worth the fight. Seniors often experience many trials with healthy eating. Some seniors lose their appetite, while others overeat as a result of anxiety. There are also many who continue to follow their regular diet; however, the diet does not always lean towards the healthy side.
Because of cultural foods or bad eating habits, seniors can often consume too much sugar, which only adds more stress and health complications. It is recommended for seniors to develop healthy eating habits, including more greens and water. For example, if seniors could alter their diet to include a high-protein breakfast, then their current stress level would be greatly reduced.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of stress relief products on the market. Ranging from cool fidget toys to squishy balls, there are many products that have proven to reduce stress. For seniors who love technology, desktop toys would be the best products for stress relief. For those who spend hours at their desk, while browsing on the internet, the following items would be great to place next to their desktop computer: squishies, a jar of putty, light bulb stress balls, Chinese meditation balls, a scalp massager and a rubix cube. All these desktop toys help ease tension. For example, stress balls prompt you to squeeze and release, allowing you to regularly let go of tension through usage. In addition to relieving stress, some of these toys also boost blood circulation and help with arthritis and carpal-tunnel syndrome, which are common ailments among the elderly population.
A good sense of humor is no laughing matter, according to Mayo Clinic. Studies show that laughter has great short-term and long-term effects on the body. For example, a good laugh can stimulate many organs, enhancing the intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulating the lungs, heart and muscles, while increasing the endorphins that the brains releases. Also, its long-term effects are plentiful. Incorporating laughter as a part of your daily life not only improves your overall mood or disposition, it also improves your immune system.
Laughter is especially necessary for seniors who are in the fourth quarter of life and have experienced many hard obstacles and losses that may cause ongoing stress. When seniors laugh, they are activating and relieving their stress response, which causes them to relax. Additionally, laughter can improve your immune system. Research shows that negative thoughts, whether it be loneliness and depression or other feelings internally, can manifest into chemical reactions that can affect the body by adding stress, decreasing immunity. However, positive thoughts can have the reverse effect. Laughter can help to release neuropeptides that help fight stress and even some serious illnesses. By soothing tension in the body, laughing can stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, reducing some of the physical traits and symptoms of stress. Also, laughter serves as a natural painkiller and helps to improve your mood, adding a feeling of personal satisfaction.
Being able to successfully manage stress will allow seniors to improve not only their quality of life but their longevity as studies show that chronic stress can be more fatal than smoking. By developing a community of support coupled with several ways to incorporate stress relieving activities throughout the day, seniors can cope with the age-related stress in a healthy manner. Living a healthy lifestyle, creating and utilizing a support system and remembering to laugh every day can allow seniors to live happier, stress-free lives.