Seniors face many stressors at this phase of life. The stress is typically characterized by a “general sense of loss”. Some of the typical things they can face include:
- Financial hardship. Surviving on less income, managing retirement funds.
- Physical decline. Loss of mobility, loss of energy, increased pain, chronic disease management.
- Loss of independence. Driving, living alone, engaging in normal day to day tasks.
- Loss of loved ones. Missing companionship leads to loneliness.
- Increased health care cost and involvement.
- Increased isolation or lack of support from loved ones.
- Loss of cognitive functioning. Memory loss, concentration issues.
- Caring for a terminally ill spouse.
- Taking many medications. Prescriptions can have negative side effects.
- Moving into a new home. This includes moving to a nursing home, assisted living facility, or with children or other relatives.
Seniors often have a difficult time asking others for help. Many feel embarrassment or shame, and will hide their struggles and need for support. At times they feel like a burden to their families. Living alone with limited cognitive and physical strength can put them at risk of abuse.
Seniors have an increased risk of depression and anxiety. Some report a lost sense of purpose and meaning to life. During this phase, they can begin to review their life. They may find things that they are thankful for and can be proud of their contributions.
It is important to learn healthy coping skills to reduce the impact of stress on the body and mind.
Ways to Combat Senior Stress
- Increase social connections and activities.
- Find ways to connect with others. Join a church, a gym, or a local volunteer group.
- Ask for help from relatives or other friends on how to get more connected.
- Take a class and learn something new.
- Keep a journal.
- Daily write down things that are stressful or upsetting.
- Make a gratitude list.
- Practice yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, walking, or any form of movement.
- You can purchase DVDs.
- If you are smartphone savvy, there are great mindfulness apps. (Mindfulness Daily)
- Get a pet.
- Pets provide company and emotional support.
- Being part of a team of helping others can reduce feelings of isolation.
- Volunteer work can give you a purpose for your life.
- Practice breathing techniques
- Do diaphragmatic or belly breathing.
- Try the free app Breathe2Relax.
- Ask for help and support.
- Don’t be afraid to talk with your primary care provider.
- Don’t be ashamed to let people know you need support.
- Talk with your family, friends, or pastor.
- Increase your vitamin intake.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Get screened for vitamin deficiencies.
- Find a new hobby or activity.
- Word searches or puzzles help increase brain function.
- Read a novel.
- Start fishing.
- Start a card-playing group.
- Enjoy laughter and music.
- Watch funny movies.
- Call someone and tell them funny stories.
- Listen to music that makes you happy.
- Get in nature.
- Get small doses of sunlight throughout the day.
- Take short walks and admire what you see.
- Get professional help.
- It’s ok to seek support from a professional trained to help you learn better coping skills.
- It’s ok to get support to help process and resolve life’s hurts, losses, and disappointments.
Don’t suffer in isolation. You can learn new ways to manage the stress of this difficult phase in life. Let someone know today what you need. Start choosing some healthy coping skills that can help you reduce the impact of stress on your body and mind.
This article is taken in large part from the original publication Reducing Stress That Comes With Aging that was first published in the Aging Insight Magazine volume 5 2017-2018.
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Original Article by Kelli Cook, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is the Director of Genesis PrimeCare Hope & Recovery Center.