Throughout our lives, we deal with a variety of daily stressors. When you’re younger, it’s usually not so hard to get through those stressful times and simply move on. However, in your later years, coping with stress and the way your body handles it starts to change. If you’re not managing your stress with somehow or through certain techniques, ongoing stress could start to take a toll on your physical and mental health.
Stress and Seniors
When most people think about retirement, they picture a vibrant, carefree lifestyle. After all, you no longer need to worry about the daily grind and your time is now your own. However, life after retirement can also trigger certain stressors and uncertainty for several reasons, including: financial security; how to spend your days; how to manage chronic health issues; and how to cope with the loss of a loved one.
The way seniors’ bodies deal with stress is also different from a younger person’s. When you go through a stressful situation, the brain reacts by releasing potentially harmful hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, but when levels get too high, your brain will start to shut them down. While these hormones provide energy and focus in the short term, over time, too much will negatively affect your health by causing issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.
Stress hormones can also have an impact on brain health. One study showed that excess cortisol over the years can damage the hippocampus, the area of the brain that stores and retrieves memories. Therefore, high cortisol levels tend to go hand in hand with a poor memory.
Make sure you’re keeping tabs on your stress levels. The common symptoms of stress include:
- Tension headaches
- Heart palpitations
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
Stress Management Techniques for Seniors
Luckily, coping with stress is entirely possible, no matter your age. Here are a few stress management tips to keep you cool and calm:
Identify the cause. Take a moment to figure out the cause of your rising stress levels. Try writing it down, talking to a friend or thinking about a potential solution. Address the problem at its roots—sooner rather than later. Simply looking at what’s bothering you from a different angle can make it less stressful.
Change your routine. Get out of the house for a bit and go on a head-clearing walk, do some window shopping or try a new restaurant. Find a new hobby or pick up an old one you may have forgotten you enjoyed.
Try meditating. Meditation has a variety of benefits. It not only provides stress relief, but can also help prevent future stress. You don’t need any special equipment to meditate, either. Simply find a quiet space, eliminate distractions and practice some deep breathing until you feel calm again.
Take a yoga class. Yoga offers a relaxing way to let go of the stress and tension you’re holding in your body. Yoga can help reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and your heart rate. It can also help you breathe easier and improve sleep. Try a yoga class that’s designed specifically for seniors.
Pick up healthy habits. Take care of yourself and your body. Exercise is a well-known mood-booster, so try walking, swimming, aerobic classes, biking—or anything that gets your heart rate up for 30 minutes a day. Combining exercise with a nutritious diet and a good night’s sleep is a great way to keep those stress levels in check.