Stress in Older Adults: How to Recognize It and Reduce It
It’s no surprise that in the last few weeks, many people have been experiencing increased levels of stress due to the Coronavirus and the way it’s changed our daily lives. Stress in older adults can have a traumatic effect on the body and mind. In fact, long-term stress can result in a lowered immune system, heart conditions, vision and hearing loss, digestive issues, and dental problems. Stress can feel very different for each person, and reveal itself in a variety of ways, both mentally and physically. Here are a few of the most common symptoms of stress in older adults:
Changes in eating habits
Stress can affect the way we fuel our bodies, especially in over-eating or under-eating. If you feel like you might be experiencing stress, take a moment to reflect on how you’ve been nurturing your body. Is it different than usual? Have you been snacking more? Have you been missing meal times?
Changes in mood
Digesting our current situation and consuming more news stories than usual can have a profound effect on our mental health. You might notice frequent shifts in your mood, irritability or general sadness.
As people age, it’s not uncommon for them to feel a bit more forgetful or to have occasional moments of mental fog. However, research has shown that long-term stress can actually worsen these problems in older adults. Chronic stress can lead to changes in the brain that make it difficult to remember things or make decisions. Additionally, stress can interfere with sleep, which can further contribute to cognitive problems.
Tips for Reducing Stress in Older Adults
While experiencing stress can be challenging, resolving it can be quite simple. Here are a few things you might try to reduce your symptoms of stress.
This mindful breathing practice can help lower your heart rate, calm your breathing and help reduce your symptoms of stress and anxiety. There are many different platforms for meditation practice. Headspace and Calm are guided meditation apps that talk their users through simple meditations. You can choose which kind of meditation you’d like to practice and work your way up the time levels, starting with a few minutes and ultimately working your way up to a full 60 minute meditation. YouTube also offers a variety of guided meditations, specifically for older adults and beginners.
Reflecting on our thoughts and writing them down can also help you work through your stress and leave you feeling a little lighter. For beginners, journaling might seem daunting, especially when thinking about what to write and where to begin. Amazon sells guided journals that give you prompts to encourage your imagination. Once you get the hang of it, journaling without a guide will become a more natural process.
Movement is a great way to combat the physical symptoms stress can have on the body. If you are a beginner, or if your struggle with balance, you might consider first starting with a guided chair yoga practice. Yoga with Adriene is a free guided yoga class on YouTube. Adriene even makes classes designed especially for older adults.
Like most people who are practicing social distancing, you probably miss connecting with your family and friends. While we may not be able to see our loved ones in person, you can still connect with them virtually. Video conference platforms like Skype and Zoom allow us to talk with our family members while using a camera. While there’s no alternative for physical interaction, this is a great substitute.
Stress can have a serious impact on our health as we age, but there are things we can do to lessen its effects. Be sure to keep an eye out for the common physical and emotional symptoms of stress in yourself and the older adults you know. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, contact a Carespring skilled nursing facility near you. We offer several senior living options designed to help seniors regain or maintain their independence and reduce stress.