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The Effects of Stress on Older Adults and How to Cope
April is Stress Awareness Month! Everyone gets stressed. Stress is responsible for causing and aggravating a variety of health problems.

How Stress Affects Seniors

Particularly for the senior population, it’s important to arm ourselves with knowledge to help cope with stress. What’s different about coping with stress when we’re older? Aging cells are more susceptible to disease. Heart fitness and lung capacity decline, especially if you’re sedentary. That keeps us from adequately accommodating the body’s natural stress response. Many seniors also already have chronic diseases, which makes it harder to bounce back physically from the toll that the stress response takes.
 
The immune system in an older adult is not as strong as it used to be. Stress is also known to suppress the immune system, and in older adults where these factors are combined, stress makes it easier to get sick. As a result, stress makes it more difficult for the elderly to fight disease, and the recovery process takes longer.
 
Deteriorating health, loss of energy, loss of loved ones, increased dependence on others, and healthcare costs can also be major stressors for the older population. Even simple day-to-day tasks can cause stress in those who experience physical or medical limitations. Living alone can also increase sense of isolation. Seniors may also worry about decline in their health, mobility, and independence. 

How to Manage Stress

Here are some healthy ways that older adults can cope with stress:
  1. Talk to a loved one.

    Older adults can help cope with stress by sharing their difficulties and feelings in facing stress with a trusted confidant. This helps to ventilate emotions and ensure that their concerns are being heard. 
  1. Get a physical exam.

    Talk to your doctor. Stress may be having a physical impact on you that you’re unaware of, especially if using unhealthy means to cope with stress such as alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use. 
  1. Volunteer.

    Engaging in volunteer work will facilitate an increased sense of purpose. This will help boost self-confidence and keep stress at bay while having the added benefit of helping others. 
  1. Try relaxation techniques.

    A big part of stress management focuses on triggering the opposite of the stress response: the relaxation response, which helps lower blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, and stress hormone levels. Try stress relief techniques such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, and deep breathing exercises to keep stress at bay.

    Mindfulness meditation is a useful technique that focuses on acknowledging the present moment. By enjoying the “now” and not thinking about the past or future, we can acknowledge our feelings and thoughts to reduce stress. 
  1. Keep moving!

    Exercise is well known as a mood-booster. Aim to get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes every day, whether it’s walking, biking, swimming, or taking an exercise class with a friend. 
Our caregivers at Happier at Home can help facilitate these coping mechanisms. Even if it’s just to lend a listening ear to your emotional concerns, Happier at Home is here to make your day stress-free.
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