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2 apr 2018

How Seniors Can Reduce Stress

Since 1992 April has been Stress Awareness Month, designed to promote public awareness of what stress is, what causes it to occur and what can be done about it. It’s a month-long focus on the dangers of stress, successful coping strategies and the myths that are prevalent in our society.

While everyone experiences some levels of stress, for seniors, stress has the potential to be overwhelming. Aging can be a stressful process, especially if they must manage difficult health conditions, loss of independence, or separation from friends and family. Living alone can increase the sense of isolation. The effects of stress can sometimes exacerbate some health conditions, causing additional worry.

So, how can you tell if your older loved one is showing signs of suffering from stress? Here are several ways to; understand how stress affects the body, how to identify stress, what you can do to reduce stress in a senior’s life and keep it under control.

The Power of Stress Hormones

Stress causes the body to release cortisol, a hormone that is known to damage the hippocampus, an area of the brain crucial for storing and retrieving memories. An increase in stress hormones has also been linked to several serious health issues, including heart disease, higher blood pressure, and a weaker immune system. As we grow older, our bodies have more difficulty regulating hormones, making these effects especially harmful to seniors.

Look for the Signs

Stress can be difficult to identify, especially since it doesn’t have any tell-tale symptoms. However, there are certain signs caregivers should look for, especially after a significant change in a senior’s health or family situation.

A change in appetite or eating habits, such as over-eating or loss of appetite, can be caused by overwhelming stress; difficulty sleeping, mood swings may present in increased irritability, general sadness or depression, increased colds or flus, or loss of interest in daily activities are all signs that a person is experiencing significant levels of stress.

Memory issues may arise in the form of increased forgetfulness of names, places or other things that normally come naturally. Lack of concentration my become a problem. some seniors may exercise poor judgment such as excessive spending when they are already on a limited budget.

Keep in mind, however, that these behaviors can be the result of other issues, such as depression, which often go hand-in-hand with stress. To make sure you accurately understand the situation, check-in with seniors often to ask how they are feeling and involve a mental health professional when necessary.

The good news is that seniors can benefit from these stress-reduction activities.

Improve the Environment

Our surroundings can both increase or decrease stress, depending on how they have been set up and maintained. Large amounts of dust and dirt can trigger stress, and clutter can cause feelings of anxiety or loss of control.

Consider adding plants, colourful items, or personal touches such as framed photographs; a clean, bright, uncluttered inviting space can help soothe a worried mind.

Increase Social Support

One of the best ways to reduce stress is to interact with others. Encourage seniors to spend more time with friends and family, whether it’s in-person, over the phone, or even through letters and email. Get in touch with an old friend, if face-to-face interaction with loved ones isn’t possible, consider joining a social activity, such as a fitness class or local senior citizens centre.

Find a new purpose. If work was your life, it’s time to find something new to focus on. Volunteer, sign up for classes, or pursue a hobby you never had time for.

Spending time with others decreases isolation and increases feelings of belonging and solidarity, allowing seniors to feel less stressed.

Get a pet. It may be a dog, a cat - or any other pet. Science shows that the unconditional love pets exhibit helps us to naturally de-stress with powerful effects on lowering our blood pressure.

Stay Active, Eat Well & Keep Breathing

Regular physical activity and fresh air is imperative to reduce stress and anxiety. Seniors may feel that exercise is difficult or impossible due to certain health constraints, but physical activity does not have to be vigorous to help manage stress.
Do some physical activity.

Healthy eating and getting enough sleep are good stress-busters, too. Cells are regenerated and harmful invaders (like cancer cells) are destroyed while we sleep and leaves us feeling thoroughly de-stressed and rejuvenated.

Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing can be effective stress reduction practices, simply taking time to collect your thoughts will often lead to increased energy and stamina and alleviate worry.

Exercises especially designed for seniors, or simply walking around the block, stretching, or spending time outside is enough to be beneficial. Seniors and caregivers should decide together what type and level of activity is most enjoyable and commit to doing it as often as possible.

April is Stress Awareness Month: Stress and Seniors, One Call Alert, accessed 2 April 2018
How Seniors Can Reduce Stress 2016, Retire at Home Services, accessed 2 April 2018

Steve Jenkosky trading as Golden Age Advisory is an Authorised Representative of Synchron AFS License No. 243313.
Unless specifically indicated, the information contained in this BLOG post is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek personal advice from a financial adviser.

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