Stress management for seniors is critical to maintaining vibrant health—and living life to the fullest. Regardless of how retirement is treating you, stress can occur in many ways. A recent poll found that 44 percent of seniors experienced and reported feelings of stress.
Wondering how to reduce stress as you age? Luckily, there are a plethora of strategies, techniques, and tips you can incorporate into your routines to reduce stress and help make your golden years even more enjoyable.
Stress is a normal part of human life—and it impacts everyone. In fact, the human body is specifically designed to experience and react to stress as a life-saving mechanism. When you experience external stressors, your body begins to produce a physical and mental response.
These stress responses actually help our bodies adjust to new situations, keep us alert and motivated, and help us avoid dangerous circumstances. Stress plays an important role in our lives—you can probably remember a time when you experienced a stressful situation and your body reacted in a way that helped you stay safe.
However, this fight or flight response that helps us navigate stressful situations might not always be accurate. When your body is under long-term—or chronic—stress, this continued activation of the nervous system can harm the body and physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms might begin to surface.
Physical and emotional symptoms of stress to look out for include:
Although the physical and emotional manifestations of stress can be concerning, remember that stress can be managed. With the right set of tools and techniques for stress management for senior health, you can manage your stress and live a happy, balanced life.
When it comes to reducing stress in older adults, it’s not only important—it’s absolutely critical to living a life you love. Why is it important for elderly adults to manage stress? Because your stress directly impacts your mental, emotional, and physical health.
Wondering what the best stress management activities for seniors are? You can successfully manage stress through group classes centered on joyful movement, in-person or self-paced activities, or even by getting involved with a local community group or adopting a pet. Managing stress as a senior can include a wide variety of activities—many of which are quite enjoyable.
When it comes to trying something new to reduce stress as a senior, we recommend a gentle sport. A gentle sport is usually self-paced, slow-moving, and low impact. They allow you to stay moving without running the risk of injuring your body.
A gentle sport is a wonderful way to boost your mood—while also serving as a stress management technique for seniors. One perk of gentle sports is that they can often be done either as an individual or with a group of people, making it a fun social event!
A few easy sports that can provide you with a light workout and can be done in a social setting are:
If you’re looking for something less strenuous than a gentle sport, you can practice traditional body manipulation exercises. These activities help promote mindfulness, can be an excellent form of exercise and strength training, and can help reduce stress in older adults.
It’s often noted that these practices work to help the body release excess tension by either aligning your body and your mind through exercise—or through physical touch to help the body relax and restore balance.
When you are in a state of balance, your stress response is deactivated, helping to lower your stress and allow you to enjoy your environment.
Some traditional body manipulation exercises are:
Adopting a pet or volunteering at a local animal shelter can help quite a bit in reducing stress in seniors. Animals are increasingly incorporated into therapeutic settings to improve mental and physical health. Pet ownership has been associated with lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and faster recovery during mental stress. The American Heart Association also issued a statement, suggesting that pet ownership may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Owning a pet can also provide social support for older adults and reduce the risk of loneliness in older adults. If you feel stressed due to loneliness or social isolation, one of the best stress management activities for elderly adults is volunteering at your local animal shelter or considering the adoption of a pet. Being around animals can help create a sense of bonding, belonging, and connection—in addition to powerful physical changes as well. Interactions with animals have been found to decrease levels of cortisol and lower blood pressure.
If you’re interested in stress management techniques for seniors, we’ve compiled a list of regular practices that a senior can do daily—or rely on in moments of stress or anxiety. Many of these techniques are rooted in mindfulness and brain training.
Like many mental techniques, these exercises will become the most powerful in reducing stress when you do them regularly. Try to include them into your daily routine for at least a month before you expect to see noticeable results.
Practicing mindfulness is one of the most powerful ways to steady the mind and find a connection with yourself. In a nutshell, mindfulness is a quality of alert, open awareness. When you’re in a mindful state, you have the ability to pay attention to the present moment—without interference from demanding thoughts or ideas.
The benefits of meditation and mindfulness include increases in concentration, productivity, physical and psychological resilience, and the ability to respond well in stressful situations. Meditation has also been shown to have a positive impact in decreasing depression, physical pain, emotional reactivity, and any reliance on unhealthy coping behaviors.
One of the best techniques of stress management for the elderly is incorporating mindfulness into their day-to-day routine. If you’re interested in practicing mindfulness or meditation to reduce the effects of stress on older adults, here are a few ways to incorporate it into your daily routines:
Breathing exercises aren’t just a good tool to help manage stress in older adults—they also have loads of other health benefits. Breathing is a key to any mindfulness practice as it helps us bring awareness to the present. Taking a few deep breaths and paying attention to the sensation can help provide calm and focus.
In addition to the immediate impact of breathing exercises, there are numerous other physical and emotional benefits, including:
Convinced of the power of managing stress through breathing? Here are two popular exercises that can help:
Cognitive restructuring refers to the act of identifying ineffective patterns in thinking and changing them to be more effective. How exactly does this work? Well, it’s part of a therapeutic process called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) which focuses on transforming and reconstruing negative thought patterns to develop better coping skills.
There are many sources online that provide insight and instruction about the CBT process, so you can practice cognitive restructuring without having to leave the house.
In addition to managing stress through physical activities or mental techniques, help manage your stress through holistic lifestyle changes. These stress management tips for seniors include easy lifestyle changes to incorporate into your life that will help you reduce stress if practiced regularly.
Diet and stress are innately interconnected—and when you maintain a healthy diet and get the nutrition you need, you may also notice that your stress is naturally reduced. Certain foods, for example, can help reduce levels of cortisol in your body, the primary hormone responsible for stress.
Stress-relieving foods include:
Older adults need the same amount of sleep as all adults—between 7 and 9 hours a night. But as you age, you might struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep due to pain or the side effects of medication. A lack of sleep can lead to irritability, memory problems, depression, and more falls or accidents.
Practicing good sleep hygiene includes following a regular sleep schedule, avoiding naps in the late afternoon or evening, and developing a restful bedtime routine. You should also try to avoid watching television or using your computer in the bedroom as the light can cause a negative impact on sleep quality.
When you’re able to get quality sleep, you’ll notice a number of positive benefits, including improved concentration, sharpened focus and judgment, improved mood, and the ability to cope with stress better.
As a senior, having healthy and strong social connections is key to stress management for seniors. Prioritize activities in your life that promote social well-being and help you foster and nurture relationships with your friends and family.
Whether that means you’re road-tripping to spend more time with your grandchildren or settling up a book club or tennis league with some of your closest friends, nurture your social connections—and you’ll find yourself less stressed.
Remember: It’s never about the quantity of your social circle. Instead, aim for deep, meaningful connections with people who care for you unconditionally and help you be your best self.
As you prepare for the next phase of your life, Everdays is here to help. From finding the best place to retire in the U.S. to staying healthy as you age, our comprehensive platform helps you get access to all the resources and information you need so you can live out your golden years with joy, confidence, and fun.