How to Manage Stress as You Age

Regardless of your age, everyone occasionally experiences stress. But as we get older, it’s harder to cope with stress and the demands it places on our bodies. Plus, chronic stress can increase your risk of other health conditions.

What is the Stress Response?

When you become stressed, your body releases various hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, as part of the fight or flight response. This response is part of our survival instinct, which prepares us to fend off perceived threats or flee. The hormones cause several physiological reactions in the body, such as an increase in heart rate, breathing, and alertness.

These changes are helpful if you’re in danger, such as in a life-threatening situation. But stressors of today are often not life-threatening. However, we still respond with the same physiological changes. When stress becomes frequent or chronic, these changes can increase your risk of health problems. 

The Negative Health Effects of Stress in Seniors

Stress can have a negative effect on your health, especially as we age. Seniors are more likely than younger adults to have a chronic disease, such as diabetes, COPD, or coronary artery disease. Stress increases the demands on the body and may worsen a chronic condition.

As we age, we don’t bounce back as quickly from stress, and it can take its toll. The effects of stress on seniors can include:

  • Increased pain
  • Memory issues
  • Weakened immune system
  • Exacerbation of illnesses, such as dementia
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Heart disease

Common Stress Triggers in Older Adults

Older adults are not immune to stress. According to a survey by the American Phycological Association, stress among adults over the age of 72 is on the rise.  

Some of the same stressors that affect younger people may also stress seniors. But older adults may also be more likely to experience certain stressors due to their age. Common stress triggers in older adults include:

  • Loss of a loved one
  • Decreased physical abilities
  • Change in relationships with adult children 
  • Loss of independence
  • Disruption of living arrangements

Managing Stress as We Age

It’s essential to manage stress as you age to maintain good health both physically and emotionally. Consider the following suggestions:

Exercise regularly: Exercise is a great stress buster as we age. Plus, it has several other health benefits for seniors. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.

Get enough sleep: It’s harder to cope with stress if you don’t get enough sleep. Older adults are at an increased risk of sleep problems. So, practice good sleep habits, such as a consistent bedtime, limited caffeine, and downtime before hitting the sack.

Stay involved: Isolation can be a stressor and is more likely to occur as we age. Get involved with community activities, do volunteer work, or spend time with friends and family. Staying connected and socializing helps decrease stress levels. 

Get regular checkups: As we age, we are at an increased risk of certain medical conditions that can also affect our mood and lead to feelings of anxiety or stress. See your doctor for regular checkups.

Sources:

Click to access state-nation_tcm7-225609.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5843980/