Stressful times come and go throughout our lives. These past fourteen months however have presented unique challenges that have had global impact and have touched the lives of everyone in every age group in various ways.
Stress is a part of life. As we travel our journey through each life stage, we encounter new stressors that get increasingly more difficult to cope with. For seniors, dealing with stress can have both physical and mental consequences. As we age we are likely to have less resilience to stress and seniors often feel that stress takes more of a toll on them than when they were younger.
Along with physical responses to stress, seniors experience stress triggers such as the loss of a loved one, too much unstructured time, lost or altered relationships with children, or dealing with deteriorating physical capabilities. There are ways however to help manage stress for seniors or to help in the life of a senior loved one in your life.
Regular physical activity is crucial for aging well and managing stress at all ages. Regular exercise releases a “feel good” hormone that combats stress and helps seniors deal with anxiety. The benefits of exercise for everyone is immense. With seniors however, the benefits are even more profound. Exercise can improve overall health and motivation to keep working on new challenges, it enhances and builds confidence and under normal circumstances is a great way for people to connect and socialize. As we begin to see positive changes happening in Ontario with declining cases of COVID-19 from increased vaccinations, we can look forward to social exercising again soon.
Many seniors find meditation to be an excellent stress reliever. If the type of meditation can be something that resonates with the individual, it tends to result in greater stress relief. There are many different types of meditation that can be personalized for each unique interest to result in the greatest outcome.
Another excellent way to combat stress is to try new hobbies. Whether it is building a craft, puzzles, painting or gardening, trying new things is invigorating and the possibilities are endless. After being isolated and spending so much time indoors this past year, we realize the negative effects from not enough sunshine and nature. Time outdoors can revitalize a senior who has been isolated. Simply taking a walk or spending some time relaxing in the outdoors are great habits to take advantage of during the summer months to help with stress relief.
Stress has a very powerful impact on our health and well being. Even simply having stressful or worrisome thoughts begin to wear our bodies down and speed up the aging process. The positive news is that we can all help to curb the negative effects of aging by trying to keep a positive attitude and by implementing helpful practices to help an aging loved one or yourself from stress and burnout. Often we can feel so overstressed that even the thought of trying to improve the situation becomes too stressful. There is nothing more important than health and no one has to tackle life’s stressors alone. Reaching out to a friend, family member, physician or community support service can help you become better at managing stress and taking more control of your overall health and well-being. Some resources available to help with stress include the Canadian Association of Mental Health, and the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health.