By Linda Snyder, Senior Care Advocate, The Villas of Hollybrook
When the brain senses danger or a need to fight, it sounds the alarm for action: it tells the muscles to tighten and signals the adrenal glands to release stress hormones — such as adrenaline and cortisol. Those hormones make you breathe faster, getting more oxygen to your muscles, and they trigger the release of sugar and fat into the blood, giving your cells more energy. To accommodate these needs, your heart beats faster and your blood pressure goes up. These physical changes are all part of the stress response, which is helpful if you need to jump out of the way of danger. Once the brain senses safety, body function returns to normal.
This routine isn't harmful if it occurs once in a while. If you put your body through those paces frequently, or even constantly, you may suffer a cascade of dangerous and sometimes lasting effects such as high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, insomnia, heartburn, indigestion, and an increased risk for heart disease.
When you were younger, your stressors may have been a busy day at the office or a crying child. Stressors that tend to affect seniors are the loss of a loved one, too much unstructured time on your hands, a change in relationships with children, or a loss of physical abilities, such as vision, hearing, balance, or mobility.
Not all stress is bad. But chronic (ongoing) stress can lead to health problems. Symptoms of stress may include tension headaches, indigestion, heart palpitations, poor concentration, sleep difficulties, anxiety, irritability, crying, or overeating. Preventing and managing chronic stress can help lower your risk for serious conditions, like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and depression. Seek help if any of these symptoms are interfering with your quality of life. Take action! Being prepared and feeling in control of your situation will help lower your stress. Follow these tips for preventing and managing stress.
1. Plan your time.
Think ahead about how you are going to use your time. Write a to-do list and figure out what’s most important and then do that thing first. Be realistic about how long each task will take.
2. Prepare yourself.
Prepare ahead of time for stressful events like a speaking engagement or a hard conversation with a loved one.
3. Relax with deep breathing or meditation.
- Picture the event in your mind.
- Stay positive.
- Imagine what the room will look like and what you will say.
- Have a back-up plan.
Deep breathing and meditation are two ways to relax your muscles and clear your mind. Try meditating for a few minutes today.
4. Relax your muscles.
Stress causes tension in your muscles. Try stretching or taking a hot shower to help you relax.
5. Get active.
Regular physical activity can help prevent and manage stress. It can also help relax your muscles and improve your mood.
6. Eat healthy.
- Aim for two hours a week of physical activity. Try taking a walk or doing chair exercises if you have mobility issues.
- Be sure to exercise for at least 10 minutes at a time.
- Do strengthening activities — like crunches or lifting small weights — at least two days a week.
Give your body plenty of energy by eating healthy foods which include vegetables, fruits, and lean sources of protein.
7. Drink alcohol only in moderation.
Avoid using alcohol or other drugs to manage your stress. If you choose to drink, drink only in moderation. This means no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men.
8. Talk to friends and family.
Tell your friends and family if you are feeling stressed. They may be able to help.
9. Get help if you need it.
Stress is a normal part of life, but if your stress doesn’t go away or keeps getting worse, you may need help. If you are feeling down or hopeless, talk to a doctor about depression. If you are feeling anxious, find out how to get help for anxiety. If you have lived through a dangerous event or death of a relative, find out about treatment for PTSD. A mental health professional can help treat these conditions with talk therapy or medication.
Lots of people need help dealing with stress, it’s nothing to be ashamed of! For seniors, downsizing can eliminate financial pressures of home ownership, home repairs, and stress. Seniors living alone often feel isolated and that no one cares. They may not have someone to talk with daily or have any social interaction for long periods of time. Assisted living may be an option that will eliminate these feelings and stress.
Most assisted living communities provide nutritious meals, household services, social activities, and wellness supervision by a nurse. Choosing to live in an assisted living community eliminates the stress of many daily activities. You don’t have to cook, do housekeeping chores or laundry any more. Seniors have an opportunity to participate in fun activities daily. There is plenty of social interaction with new friends they make in their new home. In the same breath, it’s alright if they choose private time in their apartment. Eliminating some of the stress of everyday life can enhance your health, happiness, and quality of life.
To learn more about the Villas of Holly Brook and the Reflections Memory Care community in Bloomington, visit www.villasofhollybrook.com. If you would like to schedule a personal tour and share lunch with the Executive Director, please call 1-855-20 VILLA (1-855-208-4552).
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