Stress and the Elderly III – 8 Ways to Relieve Stress
Stress is all around us. There’s no getting around it. Young or old, we all have to deal with it. The one choice we each have though is how we deal with stress. In this series on the elderly and stress we have, so far, adopted a workable definition, defined the approximate number of seniors affected (10 million), looked at some of the more common causes, and then looked at some of the problems caused by too much stress.
The good news is that it’s not all doom and gloom. There are healthy ways we all, including seniors, can deal with stress. I liken stress to banging my head against a brick wall, it feels good when I stop. Too often we keep reacting to the harmful stressor(s) and make things worse. The other (and best) option is to pivot, stepping away from the stress and doing something beneficial that will relieve the stress. Today, we will be looking at positive options seniors can use to relieve stress and still maintain their independence.
- Don’t Isolate – The Mayo Clinic asserts that a good stress reliever is to stay in community with others. This can be done in several ways. Examples include joining a book club, meeting friends for coffee, or simply talking to someone on the phone.
- Meditate – Julie Corliss, writing for Harvard Health Publishing, cites a study by Johns Hopkins University which found that “that mindful meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.” Mindful meditation, she says, “involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future.”
- Listen to Music – The University of Nevada at Reno cited a study by Stanford University that said that “listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication.” ‘They noted that music is something that almost anybody can access and makes it an easy stress reduction tool.’ “
- Healthy Diet/Meal Plan – One of the founding principles of the Edison Institute of Nutrition is “ how and what you eat can have an impact on your stress levels.” One of their keys goals is educating people to make wise lifestyle choices with regard to food. These decisions include “simple things from skipping meals to how much coffee you have in a day.”
- Laugh – The Mayo Clinic cites past research showing how laughter affects our breathing and eases tension, thereby relieving stress.
- Play with a Pet – Citing numerous studies, Animalsmart.org, which provides science-based data on pets and animals, states “playing with or petting an animal can increase levels of the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and decrease the production of the stress hormone cortisol.”
- Be Creative – Writing for Entrepreneur magazine, Deepak Chopra and Kabir Seghal cited numerous studies showing how most any creative endeavor can reduce stress. This could include mindless doodling, playing a musical instrument, writing, or knitting.
- Exercise-The American Heart Association is well known for promoting a healthy lifestyle. The research they and other groups have completed shows that “regular physical activity can improve quality of life and relieve stress, tension, anxiety, and depression.” The particular form of exercise can be anything you choose. The good news is you don’t need to perform perfectly, you just need to do it.
There are numerous positive and healthy choices for dealing with stress. Prolonged stress can have negative consequences, so the sooner we make a positive choice the better. Not choosing to extract yourself from the stressor(s) can negatively impact our independence. This is even more true for seniors, especially if they are dealing with chronic issues like arthritis or asthma or have mobility issues. Seniors can be more susceptible to stress, so it is paramount to help them recognize the signs and choose a healthy alternative. That can be almost anything a drive, a walk, or going to a movie. Most any positive activity will help relieve stress. “Just do it.”