We all have stressors in our lives, from family obligations to work demands to just everyday decisions. But stress itself isn’t unhealthy, it’s how we handle stress that can have detrimental impacts. But learning how to effectively manage stress will help you live longer, keep your brain in tip-top shape, and enjoy your retirement years to their fullest.
Let’s look at how stress in older adults presents itself and learn some easy tips when dealing with stress management for seniors that you can implement today.
Stress in Older Adults
Stress affects us all in different ways and as we age, it can actually impact our emotional, physical, and mental health. In general, not managing your stress properly can cause:
- Increased heart rates
- Muscle tension
- Substance use or abuse
- Social withdrawal
- Weight gain
For seniors, we have to also consider the fact that our bodies don’t bounce back as well as they used to and with an aging heart and brain, the above effects of stress can have even more of an effect. According to Dr. Dossett for Harvard Health Publishing, “many older adults have sleep problems. Stress may make it more difficult to fall back asleep, and the inability to clear these stress hormones from the brain during sleep means that the cognitive effects of stress can worsen over time.”
When dealing with stress in older adults, consider the change in triggers that can ultimately lead to stress. For example, young people are generally stressed out about their work obligations, childcare, relationships, or money. But you might stress about the loss of a loved one, too much free time and nothing to fill it with, the inevitable changes in your familial relationships with children and grandchildren, or the loss of your physical abilities. Recognizing these triggers is the first step in learning how to manage stress properly.
Stress Management for Seniors
Don’t let stress play a detrimental role in your retirement years by adopting stress management practices made for seniors. The following tips and tricks can be implemented immediately and will change how you look at stressful situations:
Even in our older age, staying active is key to helping you manage stress. Countless studies show the benefits of exercise on stress levels, so get out there and get moving! Even just 30 minutes a day of light to moderate exercise can help lower your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, improve your mood, and much more. Try a dance class, a walking group, or even some strength training to keep your mind and body in shape.
Another way to really relax your mind and lower your stress levels is to meditate. When we say meditate, we don’t necessarily mean a bunch of hippies on yoga mats. While you can meditate in a class setting with others, you can enjoy the benefits of meditation right from your own home. Meditation is simply the practice of thinking deeply and focusing your mind. This practice of mindfulness will keep your brain sharp and your stress levels low.
3. Breathing Exercises
Like meditation, simple breathing exercises are an easy way to manage your stress from wherever you are. Next time you feel your stress responses creeping in, take five deep breaths. Try to inhale for at least 7 seconds, then exhale for 7 seconds. Combine these breathing exercises with some stretching and you’ll be amazed at how much of a difference a few breaths can make!
4. Spending Time Outside
There’s something about spending time in nature that just relaxes all of us. No matter where you live, there’s sure to be a peaceful park, nature trail, or outside area that you can go to relieve stress. Breathe in the fresh air, hear the birds chirping, and feel your stress melt away.
5. Treating Yourself
Another healthy tip when it comes to stress management for seniors is to treat yourself to a spa day or relaxation day at home. Pour yourself a bath, light some candles or use an aromatherapy diffuser, and just enjoy the moment to de-stress. Taking this time for yourself is very important and will help you feel mentally strong.
6. Find a Stress-Relieving Hobby
Whether it’s knitting, reading, gardening, or rock climbing, finding a hobby that you can turn to when you’re stressed is crucial for managing your triggers. Whatever your hobby may be, make it a safe space where you can just enjoy the moment and not have to worry about anything else. Your reading nook, yoga studio, or walks with your dog should be all yours!
7. Talk to Your Loved Ones
Talking about your stressors to your friends and family can help immensely. Plus, they might offer you a new take on a problem that you’re trying to solve that’s stressing you out. No one knows you more than your loved ones, so open up to them and talk it out.
There are many ways to relieve stress in older adults, from taking a few deep breaths to picking up a new hobby. Understand how stress affects your body and find healthy ways to cope with your personal triggers.