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 and companionship
- 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- which can have negative side effects
- Moving into a new home, nursing home, assisted living, 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 for 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
- Daily write down things that are stressful or upsetting.
- Make a gratitude list
- Yoga, Tai Chi Meditation, Walking or any form of movement
- You can purchase DVD’s
- If you are smart phone savvy there are great mindfulness apps (mindfulness daily)
- Get a pet
- Pets are great company and emotional support
- Being part of team of helping others can reduce feelings of isolation
- Give you a purpose for your life
- Breathing techniques
- Taking time to stop and doing diaphragmatic or belly breathing.
- Breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth completing multiplies sets. As you do the sets focus on your breathing can have dramatic effects on your stress and health
- 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, puzzles help increase brain function
- Read a novel
- Start fishing
- Start a card playing group
- Laughter & Music
- Find ways to bring laughter back into your life
- Watch funny movies
- Call someone and tell them funny stories
- Listen to music that makes you happy and want to move…. And move!
- Get in nature
- Small doses of sunlight
- Short walks admiring what you see
- Get professional help
- It’s ok to seek the 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.
Original Article by Kelli Cook-Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is the Director of Genesis PrimeCare Hope & Recovery Center.