Stress and Seniors

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Guest Blog By Roger Liddell Co-Owner of Caring Transitions of the Chippewa Valley

Stress seems to be an everyday thing. It doesn’t matter how old you are. As we mature the causes of stress may change but certainly, they do not diminish. It could be different things like helping your children move into adulthood with adult responsibilities or moving up in your job because of your accumulated experiences, or facing change such as downsizing, moving, or helping with grandchildren. Or, unfortunately it may be losing a loved one or experiencing health issues of your own or a loved one, or worry over financial security.

Research shows that people aged 50 to 65 are 17% more likely to experience stress than their counterparts in the 1990’s. What's worse, the effects of stress are magnified as you age. A Harvard Health article about stress in the elderly details how your body can no longer fight off stress as efficiently as in your prime years because of the diminished state of your cells, heart, and lungs. As a result, stress can cause short-term memory loss, sleep problems, tension headaches, anxiety and irritability, indigestion, and heart palpitations — all of which can worsen over time. This is why you need to figure out healthy ways to deal with stress.

So, what are some of the things you can do to help manage your stress? Here are some ideas.

Learn to breath – I know that sounds funny since you have been breathing your entire life but here is the thing, because we all do it every day, we don’t think about it, we just do it. However, there are exercises in breathing that can help reduce the stress you are feeling. The best part is, they are free, easy and you can do them any time you want or need to. A popular exercise is called the 4-7-8 breathing technique. You inhale through your nose for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7 counts, then release it forcefully for 8 counts. Doing this can help ease some of that stress away

Exercise – Most people know that exercise helps keep you strong and gives you stamina. But it also releases serotonin, which helps relax both your body and brain, and endorphins, which boosts your mood and sense of wellbeing. This is why you should keep on exercising as you grow older. But you don't need to go to the gym or perform strenuous workouts. Instead, you can take leisurely walks every day, do house chores, and even take up a low-impact sport such as swimming. Doing these will boost not just your mental health, but even your physical fitness.

Mind games – Doing the crossword puzzle, playing Sudoku, playing cards with friends or on your tablet or computer all help keep the mind sharp while you have fun, which helps keep stress levels down.

Socialize – Spend time with friends and family. Consider moving in to a senior community to be with people your age with similar interests. Being isolated can be a stress inducer that we really don’t consider nearly enough.

Eat properly – The things we ate when we were younger isn’t always the best for when we are older. Not that a lot of it was great for when we were younger either but we could tolerate it better. Obviously, fruits and vegetables are very important but do not forget the protein. Nutrition experts, advises seniors to consume 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day — and higher if you are suffering from chronic diseases. This protein uptake will help you stay fit and functional, and able to do the healthy stress relievers outlined above.

Unfortunately, stress is very likely to show up in all of our lives, but we can do fairly simple things to make it less impactful.

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