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What Are The Best Ways to Relieve Stress After Age 60?

By Martha Michael

Relieve Stress After Age 60

If there was a fountain of youth, many of us would drink from it with the hopes of a longer life, but some would give up a few extra years to escape the pain from stressful situations associated with aging. The loss of physical function is common, and mental acuity tends to decrease with age. When your life has an abundance of stressors, the usual challenges can be more difficult to handle -- both physically and emotionally.

Stress and Your Body

Because of its insidious nature, stress is sometimes the cause of physical and mental health problems but you don’t recognize it as the source. An article by the Mayo Clinic describes some of the most common physical effects of stress and possible outcomes related to mood:

  • Muscle tension - Restlessness or anger
  • Headache - Anxiety
  • Fatigue - Feeling overwhelmed
  • Stomach ache - Depression or sluggishness
  • Chest pain - Lack of energy

An article in HealthDay talks about the long-term effects of stress on your body including the release of chemicals in your brain. Regulation of cortisol, a hormone that provides you with energy and increases your ability to focus, is related to the level of stress you’re experiencing. If cortisol circulates in your body for an extended period of time, it can cause health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and a suppressed immune system. Studies show that women are more affected by high stress hormone levels than men.

Because stress hormones affect brain function, it adds insult to injury for seniors who already face memory problems and anxieties about aging. High levels of cortisol can cause damage to the hippocampus, the part of your brain affecting memory, and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Types of Stress Experienced by Older Adults

Circumstances related to aging can contribute to stressful feelings for seniors, according to an article on the website for Home Care Assistance. Coping with stress becomes more challenging when dealing with several different things.

Financial security - From forced retirement to poor planning, many older adults live on a fixed income and are not adequately equipped for the cost of living. You can help reduce your parents’ anxieties by sitting down with them to discuss a plan for financial stress relief that includes your support.

Loss of family members - The longer you live, the more loved ones you lose as they move away for retirement or succumb to illness and pass away. Some seniors become concerned about their own health issues while also bearing the pain of grieving.

Reduced independence - As people age and become less capable of handling everyday activities, they lose control over personal decisions. Grieving the loss of their independence adds to fears about declining mental health and competence.

Health issues - The levels of stress faced by older folks are compounded by a rise in health problems. Young adults don’t give much thought to a potential stroke or cancer, but seniors are more aware that their days are limited, which can be stressful.

Physical Stress and Seniors

Whether an older adult is facing relatively new stressors or suffering from a lifetime of pressure from loved ones or a demanding job, there are physical signs that demand attention. Chronic pain is one of the most common outcomes of untreated stress to the body. And, after a half-century or more of living and getting yourself into the less-than-perfect condition that you’re in, it can be challenging to reduce the symptoms that leave you feeling creaky and sore.

If you have concerns about an older loved one whose health is failing, or maybe you’re just worried about yourself, an article by Comfort Keepers suggests watching for signs that stress is taking a toll on a senior:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Overeating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aches and pains affecting daily activities
  • Becoming ill more often

You may need to remind them that some tasks are better left to younger folks. Seniors aren’t always aware that things they used to do, such as climb ladders or snow ski, become more dangerous with age. It’s one thing to live in denial, but as Clint Eastwood told us in the Western movie Unforgiven, “a man’s got to know his limitations.” So pay some kid to shovel snow off the sidewalk.

On the other side of the coin, seniors who aren’t active run the risk of developing certain physical problems ranging from high blood pressure to muscle atrophy. Adding exercise to their schedules can help turn the tide.

Stress Management

Finding ways to reduce stress and regulate mood is essential to maintaining balance, and it’s easier if you establish patterns early in life that contribute to your overall health and wellness.

A healthy diet and exercise program are positive habits at any age, but as you get older it’s easier to see how behaviors are linked to outcome. From addressing a lack of sleep, to raising your physical activity level, lifestyle changes can help you cope with changes associated with age.

WebMD has a list of tips for managing stress:

  • Accept circumstances you can’t change
  • Employ a positive attitude
  • Become more assertive
  • Develop hobbies
  • Establish a community
  • Refrain from the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Use deep breathing techniques
  • Get routine chiropractic care

Chronic stress compounds physical challenges as you age and contributes to the onset of emotional problems. If you or a loved one suffers from a health problem such as depression or a loss of cognitive function, seek help from a medical or psychiatric professional. If you suffer from the physical effects of stress such as shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, or nausea, get immediate emergency aid. It may indicate the onset of a heart attack, not just symptoms of stress.

No one escapes the onset of stressors -- it’s a part of the human condition. Healthy habits not only contribute to a longer life, they make it easier to relieve stress and age gracefully. Life’s too short to spend it in the throes of depression and anxiety. By taking a look at your lifestyle choices you can make plans to reduce the presence of stressors and keep your head above water when times get more difficult.

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