Stress in seniors is a serious problem and, unfortunately, a common issue. Though all people can experience stress throughout their lives, the problem can be worse for seniors. Thankfully, there are ways for seniors to relieve stress.
Doing so is important, as stress can lead to significant health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stomach issues, and a lowered immune system. Plus, for those who may already suffer from these health issues, stress can make any problems worse.
It is essential to understand what is causing the stress to manage the situation better. Stress in older adults has many root causes, such as significant life changes like:
- Chronic illness or pain
- Loss of a spouse or loved one
- Deterioration of physical abilities
- Acting as a primary caregiver
- Changes to lifestyle such as retirement or separation from friends and family
- Changes to finances
But stress doesn’t always come in the form of major life events; a lot of stress stems from worries about:
- Ability to live independently
- Concerns about current events in the world
- Feelings of isolation
- Caring for grandkids
- Worries about being institutionalization
It does not matter what the cause is; there is some common symptoms seniors experience when stress becomes too overwhelming. Signs and symptoms to look for include:
- Loss of appetite
- Back and neck pain
- Heart palpitations
- Inability to focus
In this article, we will cover the top 10 ways for seniors to relieve stress. The great thing about these stress relief methods is that they can be used together safely, unlike some supplements or medications. Also, many of these fixes are either inexpensive or free.
The below stress relievers may not work for everyone and all situations, but many will work for most people. Pick and choose the ones that are easy for you to get started with, but don’t overdo it. By making multiple changes at one time can have the opposite effect, and as a result, can add more stress to your life.
It is best to start with one or two things and add on once you feel comfortable. The good news is that many seniors find the below stress relievers enjoyable and often integrate several of them, not out of need but only because doing so makes them feel good.
10 Ways To Relieve Stress
- Physical Activity
- Talk Therapy
- Boost your social Life
- Address the cause of stress
Maybe your saying to yourself, “I knew this would be on the list.” But before you skip ahead and read on, physical activity doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to do an exercise program you don’t enjoy. Physical activity should be fun, so choose something you love, like:
And if you aren’t one who enjoys those things by yourself, look to your local community. There are several clubs and programs centered around physical activity, such as golf leagues, running or bicycle clubs. Many of the different clubs are as much about being social as they are about the activity.
Or maybe you want to try something new like snorkeling, paddle boarding, strength exercises, or canoeing. Many community centers, including senior centers, offer a variety of classes to help keep people active.
According to the Mayo Clinic, physical activity helps your overall health and gives people a sense of well-being. But that isn’t all exercise can do for you; it positively impacts stress through the release of endorphins. Physical activity also helps you to forget about your worries, acting as a tension reliever.
So not only will physical activity directly and immediately help to relieve stress, but it also helps to promote good health.
There are different varieties of talk therapy that help to reduce stress such as:
- Assertiveness Training
- Grief Counseling
CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; it sounds more intimidating than it is. CBT helps those feeling stressed to recognize their triggers and are given ways to respond using positive actions to manage and eliminate stress. Not all stress can be removed from your life, but it can be managed.
Assertiveness Training helps people feel more control over their life, ultimately reducing feelings of helplessness. Additionally, assertiveness training enables you to communicate your wishes clearly and better deal with conflicts. By empowering yourself, you will be better able to help manage and reduce stress in your life.
Loss is a part of life but, the death of a loved one, especially a spouse, is one of the most stressful things we will ever face. Experiencing the loss of a loved one can result in significant emotional turmoil and stress. It is not unusual to struggle with the grieving process, but seeking grief counseling can help you better understand and deal with your feelings.
Learning how to live with the death of a loved one can reduce if not eliminate the stress that was brought on by grief. And if you would prefer a group setting with a little less pressure, it is easy to find grief support groups.
Research has shown that laughter is good for our physical and mental well-being. Some of the positive effects of laughter are:
- Reduces tension – laughter increases circulation and helps to relax muscles, which reduces the physical effects of stress.
- Activates and relieves your stress response – laughter increases then decreases your heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in feeling relaxed mentally and physically.
- Increases endorphin production – Laughter increases the release of endorphins, which not only reduces stress but pain brought on by stress.
- Boosts immune system – As mentioned earlier, stress can wear down your immune system, but laughter can bolster it through the release of neuropeptides that can reduce if not eliminate stress.
- Improve your mood – Laughter can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, while also putting you in a good mood.
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the “Power of Pets” can have several positive impacts on your physical and mental health, including the following.
- Pets will give you a reason to wake up and get out of bed
- Pets can give you a sense of purpose
- They help you to focus less on your problems and more on a loved one
- Petting your companion animal can lower your blood pressure
- Alleviating feelings of loneliness
- Increasing feelings of security
- Decreasing cortisol levels – a stress hormone
- Increasing feelings of happiness
- Help keep you physically active
- Help keep you connected socially
- Reducing feelings of anxiety and depression
However, getting a companion animal is not right for everyone, especially those who are sick or facing financial challenges.
For seniors that would benefit from the positive side-effects of having a pet your in your life, consider pet adoption. This is a particularly useful approach, as some seniors fear leaving behind an animal or don’t want to deal with a younger pet.
The good news is several rescue groups offer senior programs. For example, there are dog rescues that have a senior for seniors program that can help with the financial care of the animal as well as assisting with transport to vet appointments if needed, which is a win-win for everyone.
Meditation is an excellent stress reliever. It helps to reduce if not remove the physical tension in your body, which is one of the signs of stress. It is a mental exercise that focuses on clearing one’s mind and practicing breathing techniques and relaxation.
In the 1970s, a Harvard doctor came up with a meditation method now used throughout the medical community to help relieve symptoms associated with severe medical conditions such as cancer.
Meditation as a whole can help reduce stress, relieve and manage pain, decrease depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improve digestion.
Yoga is a mind and body therapy that focuses on holding specific poses and controlled breathing. Most seniors would benefit from practicing yoga due to its many health benefits. And, after many years of research, yoga is now considered a complementary and integrative form of medical therapy.
The purpose of yoga is to reach a state of “peacefulness of mind and body.” What this means is that yoga can help relax the body easing tension and reducing stress.
Yoga is a form of exercise and comes with all of the benefits of physical activity. Best of all, you can practice yoga alone or attend classes.
But stress isn’t the only thing yoga helps with. It also:
- Reduces risk of heart disease
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces depression and anxiety
- Strengthens muscles
- Improves balance, flexibility, and range of motion
People hold stress in their bodies in different ways, but muscle tension is one of the most common signs, frequently seen in the neck and back. Massage therapy can help relax those muscles. Seniors who have insomnia may also find massage therapy particularly beneficial.
Massage therapy uses various forms of pressure and rubbing manipulating muscles and pressure points. By helping to relax these areas of the body, massage therapy removes the pressure and tension that has built up in your body.
There are several forms of massage, such as hot stone, deep tissue, sport, and trigger point. Like with yoga and meditation, it is now an accepted form of complementary therapy. Massage therapy can help with both physical and mental ailments, such as:
- Insomnia related to stress
- Soft tissue strains or injuries
- Sports injuries
- Digestive disorders
Boost Your Social Life
Staying in touch with family and friends creates a vital social network. Whether it is talking on the phone or getting out with others, staying connected is essential to one’s well-being. And not only maintaining your group of friends but also growing that circle can have exponential benefits for all parties.
Sometimes as we grow older, it can be challenging to build new relationships. However, some great ways around that are getting involved with some of the programs at your local senior center, connecting with people through church, or volunteering.
And why not combine getting together with friends, with one of the other stress relief techniques such as yoga or physical activity?
Not only is it fun to be with friends and family, but doing so also has many health advantages too, such as:
- Stress relief
- Eliminating feelings of loneliness and isolation
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing the risk of heart disease
Volunteering is a fabulous way to relieve stress while also helping others. Many retirees have found volunteering a great way to stay active and connected with their community.
There is a wide array of volunteer options available, such as at your local library, historical center, museum, park and rec, outdoor programs, children’s programs, and hospitals.
Plus, according to the Mayo Clinic, volunteering has excellent health benefits:
- The “helper high” a feeling of joy and happiness from helping others, which reduces stress, anxiety, and depression
- Develops relationships which help protect us from feelings of isolation and loneliness
- Reduces stress by embracing the good feelings from helping others
- Helps to give you a sense of purpose
- Will take your mind off your problems, it may even help put particular worries into perspective.
- May increase your lifespan. A study showed volunteering helped reduce the mortality rate. Plus, other research shows those who suffer from illness or chronic pain that volunteer have less pain and depression.
Address the Cause of Stress
All of the above techniques help reduce the feeling and symptoms related to stress. However, some stress triggers require you to address them to eliminate them from your life.
For example, if you are in serious debt, the above techniques will help focus your mind and remove some of the symptoms of stress, but it will not relieve the debt itself. However, using focusing techniques will allow you to look at your situation more clearly, so you can find a way to fix your financial situation.
So, if you are experiencing stress from something that, if left unattended, will either continue to cause or increase stress in your life, it is critical to find ways to reduce or remove it. And using the above techniques may be the first step in resolving these issues.
When your mind and body have attained a level of relaxation, plus, you are getting enough sleep and have a better feeling of wellbeing, then tackling the stress in your life is far less daunting and a lot easier to handle.