There is no doubt that stress is bad for our health. It is a contributing factor in a wide range of chronic illnesses and conditions, and this can create a feedback loop where being sick causes more stress, and so on. People face different sources of hardship throughout the lifespan, but when we are younger, we are more resilient to them. We experience stress differently as we age. As a group, seniors may be prone to unique stressors, and these poses challenges that require attention and self-care. Prevention of stress is an ideal goal – but, realistically, it is impossible to avoid altogether. Luckily, there are some coping mechanisms and healthy habits to adopt for better stress management.
Some common reasons seniors may experience stress could be:
- Health changes, like limited abilities, chronic pain, and other conditions
- Caretaking for others, including grandchildren or a sick partner
- Losing a spouse, partner, peers, and loved ones
- Major life changes like retirement or moving to a residence or hospital
- Experiencing traumatic health problems or events
- A lack of finances after retirement or reducing hours at work
- Changes leading to a lack of independence
- Frustration and depression over a loss of functioning
Stress manifests physically and mentally and may include fatigue, headaches, stomach problems, heart palpitations, troubles sleeping, lack of concentration, anxiety, depression, and others. All of these can lower one’s quality of life significantly, and it is important to speak to a medical professional. A steady and quality source of support to reduce stress is local home health care services that provide supervised visits and individualized care plans. The close and detailed attention that a Personal Support Worker can give also offers a social connection that could be lacking in seniors’ lives.
Coping mechanisms for stress include talking to professionals and loved ones, improving diet and exercise, relaxation techniques, and taking steps to improve quality of sleep. An underlying condition may be the source of stress that cannot be pinpointed to any environmental source. It is vital to speak to yours or your loved one’s Caregiver or other medical professional to assess if there is a heart condition present, for example. Getting adequate physical activity and eating heart healthy foods is important for this reason, as well. Taking time to visit with family, loved ones, friends, and generally socialize is also good for wellbeing and decreases the experience of stress. A Counsellor can also teach positive cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to help with coping responses, thinking, and behaviour. Alcohol, smoking, and drugs are vice-based ways people use to deal with stress, and these should be avoided, as they are harmful to overall health, plus they exacerbate stress.
Some sources of stress cannot be avoided because they are not under our control. Knowing this and reacting accordingly can help with stress management. If stress is a problem in you or your loved one’s life, speaking to a professional who can advise on the appropriate steps to suit an individual’s situation should be a priority, as well as taking personal steps to take care of oneself with awareness and self-care.