Stress is sometimes a normal part of life. Seniors may experience stress when they go through a major transition which causes a dramatic change in daily life. Health concerns, loss of loved ones and financial worries are all common causes of stress in older adults. Stressful situations are usually outside of our control, but we do have power over how we react. If you have good stress management skills, you can handle stressful life events without these challenges taking a toll on your quality of life.
Improving stress management abilities takes intention and self-reflection. It’s a long-term process, but there are many benefits to learning new ways to manage life’s stressful events.
Here Are Seven Stress Management Tips for Seniors
1. Evaluate the Cause of the Stress
Some people try to ignore or avoid their stress by distracting themselves with unhealthy coping mechanisms. Logically, we know that avoidance and distraction doesn’t help to alleviate the stress but people don’t always make the logical choice. When a person feels safe enough and supported, ideally they can try to find the root of the stress and face the problem head-on.
What was going on when you started to feel stressed? Has something big changed in your life recently? Is there a pattern in the times of year when your symptoms of stress flare up?
Some stressors are within your control, and others aren’t. By identifying the source of your stress, you can figure out whether there’s anything you can do to remove the stressor from your life. If you can’t control the cause of the stress, it’s time to look into strategies for managing your response to the situation.
2. Keep a Journal
A journal can be a safe, private place for you to release your worries. Writing about your experiences, thoughts and emotions is a great way to relieve stress. It may help you better understand how you feel, and it can help you see a solution that you didn’t think of before.
For some seniors, journaling can be very difficult as eyesight and fine motor skills required for writing may be compromised. You don’t have to write long journal entries or novels every day. Occasional, short journal entries or bullet points or talk-to-text notes when you’re feeling stressed or anxious may be all you need to express yourself.
3. Try Meditation
Meditation is a powerful stress-reliever. It helps you learn to clear your mind and let go of worries about the past, present, and future. It’s a skill that requires time and practice to feel comfortable with, but anyone can meditate to improve their mental health.
One of the most popular meditation techniques for stress management is mindfulness, which is the act of acknowledging your thoughts and sensations in the present moment without judgment. During mindfulness meditation, the goal is to be aware only of your current experience, not of the events of the past or worries about the future.
To practice mindfulness, find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. Close your eyes, and focus your attention on your breath. Notice how you feel as you breathe in and out. Your mind will likely wander occasionally, especially during your first few mindfulness sessions. When this happens, redirect your attention back to your breath without judging or criticizing yourself.
As you settle into the mindfulness practice, it will become easier to focus on the present moment without becoming distracted. You can start with short sessions of five to ten minutes and then gradually increase the length of your meditation when you feel ready.
4. Take Care of Your Physical Health
Your physical health can greatly impact your mental health, so taking care of your body is key if you’re feeling stressed. One of the most important stress management tips is to get eight hours of sleep every night. When you’re not well-rested, your emotional resilience drops significantly. Even small inconveniences can seem like major setbacks when you’re exhausted.
Exercise is an excellent stress reliever, too. Here are some of the best exercises seniors can do for stress management:
- Chair yoga
- Water aerobics
- Bodyweight workouts
The general recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, but you should adjust your exercise routine to your own needs. Consult with your doctor before you start exercising, especially if you have a health condition.
5. Spend Time with Pets
Pets can have an immediate positive effect on your stress levels. Research shows that interacting with an animal can reduce anxiety and increase levels of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes feelings of love and well-being.
If you’re a pet owner, try to spend quality time with your pet every day. Even a few minutes of cuddling with a pet can ease your mind. If you don’t have a pet, you could reach out to a pet-owning friend or family member or look into programs that offer therapy pets.
6. Be Kind to Yourself
Try not to be upset with yourself for feeling stressed or anxious. Some people are naturally more prone to high stress levels than others, and you can’t prevent stressful moments from happening. Criticizing yourself for feeling overwhelmed will only make you feel worse.
Practice acknowledging your experiences without judgment. Notice how you’re feeling, and explore stress management strategies that will help you feel better, but don’t feel guilty for being stressed. Remind yourself that doing your best today may look very different than your best 10 years ago. It’s important to adjust expectations about our own abilities and be mindful of our own self-talk, especially as we face frustrating circumstances.
7. Talk to a Counselor
Stress management is one of the most common reasons that seniors receive counseling. If your stress is affecting your mental health or quality of life, it might be time to reach out for help.
During therapy, you and your counselor will identify the causes of the stress in your life. Then, you’ll work together to find effective ways to cope with the stress. Sometimes, simply talking about the stressful situations can help you feel better.
Counseling is private and confidential, so it’s particularly valuable if you don’t feel comfortable speaking with friends or family about your stress. Your therapist is an unbiased party who won’t judge or give their own opinion. Their job is to help you learn about yourself and discover healthy coping skills.
Stress management for seniors can involve a number of different strategies. Keep in mind that everyone has different coping skills that work best for them, so you may have to try a few stress management activities before you find what works for you. Whether you choose to meditate, exercise, go to counseling, or try any other strategy for managing stress, what’s most important is that you’re compassionate and patient with yourself.
Blue Moon Senior Counseling offers therapy services for older adults who are dealing with stress, grief, depression, anxiety, and a variety of other concerns. Our therapists specialize in working with seniors and addressing the unique life challenges that people face as they age. To learn more or to connect with a licensed therapist, contact us today.