Stress is a natural part of life at all stages but coping with stress is especially important for senior health. The body’s normal response to stress is to release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline – which trigger physiological responses like increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and muscle tension. As the body ages, it can have more difficulty regulating the release of those hormones. Plus, it can be more challenging for an older body to cope with those physiological changes. When left unchecked, chronic stress can contribute to serious health issues such as high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and a weakened immune system.
Learning to manage your stress levels should be a priority as you get older – not only for your health, but so you can truly enjoy your golden years! Aside from good ol’ meditation, here are a few of our favorite stress management activities for senior health.
Exercise reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. It also releases endorphins and serotonin, which are stress-relieving brain chemicals that improve your mood. Exercise can also counteract the physical responses to stress by deepening breathing and relieving muscle tension. In addition to moderate aerobic exercises like walking, swimming, and chair exercises, try out some slower paced movement therapies as well. Yoga, tai chi, therapeutic stretching, and similar exercises all focus on deep breathing and mental focus – which can be great for stress relief.
Research shows that spending time outdoors in settings rich with natural splendor can bring significant physical and mental benefits, improve blood pressure, and help boost your mood. For an even more stress-melting experience, combine your “nature therapy” with an exercise like hiking or tai-chi.
Sometimes, you just need a little “me” time. Engaging in creative hobbies (or discovering new ones) are an excellent stress management method. When you become absorbed in an activity you enjoy, you focus on something outside yourself – giving yourself some much needed mental distance from your stressors that helps you recharge.
Talking with a trusted friend or therapist is a great way to handle stress at any age. In fact, studies have shown that regular social interactions can help improve your mental health. Letting others know what you are going through and simply having the chance to vent can relieve stress in practical and tangible ways.
Stress management is an important skill for older adults, and the above activities can be a great help for occasional stress. However, be mindful of chronic stress. If your stress levels are taking a toll on your mental or physical health (e.g. you’re so stressed that you feel sick, have trouble sleeping, or can’t take your mind off of your anxiety), you should reach out to a professional for the sake of your health.