5 Ways Seniors Can Manage Stress

Whether we like it or not, stress happens at every stage of life. Stress even affects older adults who are entering their retirement years. For instance, some seniors worry about a possible decline in their health, mobility, and independence. It is also a common source of stress to worry about who will take care of them. This is made more challenging because as we age, the way our bodies handle stress can change, impacting concentration, sleep quality, physical health and illnesses. As a result, good stress management is important for anyone, especially seniors. Here are some ways that seniors can effectively manage stress levels, from the team at our Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in New Jersey.

How stress affects health and quality of life

Stress isn’t an emotional state or mood, it’s a safety mechanism. When something happens that is negative or upsetting, our brain reacts as if threatened. It releases cortisol, the stress hormone, that floods through the body’s nervous system, muscles and organs to ready you to fight off the threat. This hormone increases heart rhythm and blood pressure, releases glucose into the bloodstream, and shuts down your digestive system so that the body can make muscles ready for fight or flight, and reduce the immune response.

This reaction is all well and good when you’re facing a potential threat, like coming across a grizzly on a nature trail – but it’s a lot less helpful when the source of your stress is concern for a loved one, health condition, or financial burden. Our bodies and brains just can’t tell the difference.

As a result of the many pressures and concerns of daily life, many people are living with constant stress. Such an intense reaction that is supposed to help us survive in dangerous situations and only last a few minutes is something we live with for days, weeks, and months instead.

This has a big impact on our health and quality of life. Consistently elevated cortisol levels can trigger anxiety, depression, mood swings, problems with digestion, weight gain, insomnia and more. So, what can seniors do?

How to manage stress as a senior

  1. Know your stress triggers.  First, identify what is stressing you out. It may not be what you think – your anxiety over bills, for example, may disguise itself as frustration with others. The only way to deal with stress is to understand the root cause.

  2. Speak up. Different types of therapies work for different people, so try to find one that works for you. Talking to a therapist about what is causing your stress is the first step in managing it, and releasing it.

  3. Get moving.  Physical exercise cannot resolve the issue that is causing your stress, but it can be very effective at alleviating negative emotions. Getting your heart rate up for about 30 minutes a day by walking, doing yoga, swimming, or dancing is a real mood booster.

  4. Lean on someone.  Stress doesn’t have to be something you deal with alone. Talking to a friend or loved one can help a lot – whether you are talking about your stress directly or not. Closely knit social bonds help make us feel stronger, more purposeful and less lonely.

  5. Have a laugh.  Laughter may not be the best medicine, but it sure comes pretty close! Laughing with a friend, or at a TV show/novel has immediate and impressive effects on our physical and mental health. It stimulates good oxygen circulation through the body, relieves the stress response, soothes tension and even helps with pain relief and immune system function.

Safe and easygoing community for seniors in Newton, NJ

Bristol Glen is a CCRC in Newton, NJ, with beautiful grounds, apartments and plenty of amenities that support independent living for seniors. It’s a great place for seniors to stay healthy, active and stress-free, and the COVID-19 protocols ensure that everyone gets the assistance they need in their daily life while staying safe. If you are looking for a welcoming, safe community for yourself or a senior loved one, contact us today or visit our website at: https://bristolglen.umcommunities.org/