Stress Management for Seniors: Activities, Techniques, and Tips

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.

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Effects of Stress on Older Adults

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:

  • Racing heart or chest pain
  • Aches and pains throughout the body
  • The feeling of constant exhaustion
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Headaches, dizziness, or shaking
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle tension or tightness in the jaw
  • Weakened immune system
  • Digestive problems
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Depression
  • A general feeling of sadness or lethargy
  • Panic attacks

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.

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Overview: How to Reduce Stress in Older Adults

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.

  • Make space for the things you love. As we think about how to prevent or manage stress, some of the best things we can do for our bodies are to prioritize the things that fill us up and bring us joy. Make time to practice gratitude or journal every day. You can also try meditation or explore a new hobby that helps you feel positive and joyous about the world around you.
  • Don’t forget to laugh. Another thing you can do to help minimize your stress is to make time to laugh regularly. You know what they say, “laughter is the best medicine!” Turns out there is a lot of truth in that sentiment. The Mayo Clinic cites that it can help stimulate your organs, soothe tension, activate and relieve your stress response, improve your immune system, relieve pain, and boost your mood and personal satisfaction.
  • Seek help if you need it. While it’s perfectly normal to experience stress from time to time, if you’re consistently overwhelmed by it, it could be a good opportunity to pursue professional help. We recommend getting in touch with a counselor or your primary care physician if you’re feeling too overwhelmed to adequately manage your stress. Elderly stress management can include a specialized therapist who works with seniors.
  • Stress is individual. One thing to note is that stress impacts individuals in so many different ways. While you can do the same stress management activities as someone else, they may not serve your body as effectively. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to navigating stress—so you’ll have to experiment and see what works best for you.
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Stress Management Activities for Seniors

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.


Learn a Gentle Sport

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:

  • Swimming: Swimming is the perfect low-impact, self-paced sport perfect for those looking to move their bodies—and enjoy the calm serenity of the water.
  • Walking: Enjoy self-paced or with friends! With the ability to walk alone with your thoughts or chat with friends, walking offers numerous health benefits. Plus, you can find a nearby walking trail to explore and get outdoors into nature.
  • Golf: Golf is an all-time favorite for many seniors. You can enjoy the social aspect, move at your own pace, and even choose if you want to walk the course or hop in the golf cart.
  • Pilates or Yoga: If you want a slightly more fitness-themed sport, try a pilates or yoga class! Your local gym may offer pilates or yoga—and you can also find boutique studios with plenty of classes. Some studios organize classes by level or by intensity, so you can find the right option for your mobility and comfort levels.
  • Pickleball: Pickleball is another popular sport with many seniors. And if you enjoy a bit of friendly competition, pickleball might be the perfect easy sport for you. Most gyms offer leagues for you to play regularly and fuel your competitive fire.
  • Tennis: Looking for fun stress management for elderly adults? Tennis can be as competitive as your partner is. Find a match with just the right intensity as your own and this can be a wonderful way to let go of some stress and spend time with friends.


Practice Traditional Body Manipulation Exercises

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:

  • Tai Chi. Often considered meditation in motion, tai chi is a series of gentle exercises and stretches that flow into one another without pause. This constant motion within the body helps connect the body, mind, and spirit. It can be incredibly calming and grounding for seniors while reducing the effects of stress for older adults.
  • Yoga. A traditionally spiritual discipline with the goal of bringing harmony between body and mind, yoga encompasses a series of gentle exercises. Depending on the type of yoga you take, you’ll likely pause in the specific yoga pose and focus on your breath—the sustaining lifeforce. For many seniors, yoga can be empowering and stabilizing.
  • Massage. In massage therapy, a licensed massage therapist will use pressure and motion to relieve tension on your muscles, tendons, and ligaments—all of which helps promote lymphatic flow, improve relaxation, and reduce overall tension in the body and mind.
  • Reiki. An ancient Eastern practice, reiki is fueled by the idea that vital energy flows throughout the body—and by guiding this energy, it’s possible to better promote balance and healing. Most reiki practitioners use gentle touch or place their hands just above your body.
  • Craniosacral Therapy. This is a method of alternative medicine mostly used to relieve pain and release tension. It consists of gentle manipulation of the skull and different parts of the body to harmonize your natural rhythm in the central nervous system.


Adopt a Pet or Volunteer

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.

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Stress Management Techniques for Seniors

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.


Practice Mindfulness

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:

  • Stay perceptive—and check in with your five senses. Consider regularly asking yourself what you’re touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, and tasting.
  • Accept the present moment for what it is. When we think about how hectic life can be, we can easily get overwhelmed. Take a moment to find joy in the current minute and begin to train your mind to focus solely on the present moment without judging or criticizing any thoughts or sensations that arise.
  • Breathe thoughtfully. Focus on connecting with your breath as it moves in, out, and through your body. Even a few seconds of thoughtful breathing can help to clear your head and feel grounded in your body.


Do Breathing Exercises

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:

  • Improving immunity
  • Increasing sleep quality
  • Improving digestive system
  • Good for cardiovascular health
  • Improving concentration and cognitive properties
  • Reducing inflammation in the body
  • Strengthening lungs

Convinced of the power of managing stress through breathing? Here are two popular exercises that can help:

  • Pursed lip breathing: Pursed lip breathing reduces the number of breaths you take and keeps your airways open longer. Simply breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth with pursed lips. Watch a tutorial from the American Lung Association.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing: Start by breathing in through your nose, paying attention to how your belly fills up with air. Place your hands on your stomach so you can feel the rise and fall. Make sure to relax your neck and shoulders. This exercise helps retrain your diaphragm to help fill and empty your lungs. Watch this tutorial from the American Lung Association.


Try Cognitive Restructuring

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.

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Stress Management Tips for Seniors

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.


Eat a Healthy Diet

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:

  • Foods high in vitamin B: Beef, chicken, eggs, fortified cereals, nutritional yeast, and organ meats
  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids: Anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, salmon, olive oil, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and avocados
  • Magnesium-rich foods: Dark chocolate, avocados, bananas, pumpkin seeds, spinach, and broccoli
  • Protein-rich foods: Chicken breast, eggs, lean beef, turkey breast, salmon, shrimp, almonds, lentils, and quinoa
  • Gut-healthy foods: Kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, kefir, and greek yogurt


Get Enough Sleep

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.


Nurture Social Connections

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.

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© 2022 Everdays, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Everdays mark and the Everdays logo are registered trademarks of Everdays, Inc.
* This app is owned and operated by Everdays, Inc., a Delaware corporation doing business in California as Everdays Moments Insurance Marketing.