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Impact of Stress on Senior Health

two elderly people drinking wine sitting on a bench next to a river

Stress can be unhealthy at any stage of life, but it can be especially harmful for seniors. The mental and physical effects of stress can cause or worsen health problems that can come with the natural aging process. Too much stress in older adults can even speed up the aging process. Even though stress is a normal part of life, it’s important to learn how to manage it as you age. When you get older, your body’s natural defenses start to wear down over time, making it more difficult for you to deal with intense emotions, like stress and anxiety.

As you age, it’s important to find ways to deal with your stress and anxiety as part of a healthy lifestyle. Active aging is a process that involves your mind, body, and spirit and can help you live a happy, vibrant, and independent life in your golden years. A key component is being able to manage stress in healthy ways that you enjoy. Let’s take a closer look at what stress is and the effect it can have on your healthspan, as well as how you can deal with it.


Understanding Stress in Seniors 

As defined by the World Health Organization, stress is a constant state of worry or mental agitation that can arise when you are faced with a challenging situation. There are four types of stress:

  • Psychological: can be emotional or cognitive and can cause you to feel like you’re not in control or not yourself.
  • Physical: can occur from trauma, overexertion, illness, diet, hormones, substance abuse, or other physical ailments.
  • Psychospiritual: a feeling of crisis with your personal values, struggling to find purpose, or feeling unproductive.
  • Psychosocial: problems with personal relationships, including your marriage, family, friends, or colleagues, or lack of social support during difficult periods or situations.

High levels of stress in seniors are associated with higher levels of inflammation, which is linked to health problems that include:

  • Cancer
  • Dementia
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cognitive decline

In addition, stress can be dangerous for your health because it speeds up the aging process. The inflammation of stress damages DNA and cells. Once your stress levels lower, your body can then begin to repair your cells. 

Seniors may experience stress for many reasons. However, there are some common causes of stress during this chapter of life, such as chronic illness, the loss of friends or family members, and financial changes due to retirement. Separation from friends and family is also a common contributing factor. Recognizing these situations and how they make you feel is one step that you can take toward controlling stress and the effects it can have on your health.


Stress Management for Seniors

There are many enjoyable techniques for stress management for seniors that you can explore. Physical exercise is good for both the mind and body, and it doesn’t have to be intense to have benefits. Yoga is proven to be an excellent stress reliever for seniors because it helps to clear the mind while working on physical skills, like balance and flexibility. It’s gentle on the mind and body and can improve both mental and physical senior health.

Another powerful tool is meditation. It’s a great way for seniors to learn how to manage stress and prevent future stress by focusing on breathing and being present. Meditation doesn’t require any special equipment and can be done anytime, anywhere, so you always have this powerful tool when you need it. All you have to do is pause, take some deep breaths, and practice being in the here and now.

Social support is key when it comes to managing the stress in your life, as nobody can do it alone. Joining a club or activity that you enjoy has multiple benefits: it allows you to connect with people who have similar interests, and it lets you focus on something that you’re passionate about. Joining a gardening club, sports class, or spiritual group are all ways to leave your worries behind for a bit. Your stress won’t evaporate, but doing things that you enjoy will help you to feel accomplished, purposeful, and at peace.

Being a caregiver is a big responsibility. If you’re a caregiver to a parent or older person in your community, there are ways that you can help them deal with their stress and anxiety. You want the senior in your life to thrive, so encourage them to follow the route of active aging. Help them feel autonomous and in control. If you notice they’re feeling stressed or anxious, talk to them about it by letting them know you’re there and that you care. Help them branch out and find a meaningful activity that they enjoy that will help them feel connected and less anxious. 


Seeking Professional Help

If you recognize that your feelings of stress and anxiety are interfering with your happiness and everyday life, a mental health professional can help. Reaching out to a professional is a brave step, and it can make all the difference for your well-being. Several types of professionals can help, such as therapists and psychologists. They are trained to recognize your symptoms of stress and anxiety and help tailor a plan for your mental health.

A therapist or psychologist may use various techniques to help you with your stress, but the most important is talking things out with you and being a listening ear. Other tools could include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or group therapy, depending on your needs. All these tools are designed to help you get to the root of your stress and then work on lowering it, little by little.

Some specialists and centers focus specifically on senior mental health. Finding a professional who specializes in senior care is a huge advantage because they can work with both seniors and their caregivers to improve their mental health and well-being. You can find one by doing a Google search with your zip code or asking your primary care physician if they can recommend you to an expert.


Live With Less Stress at SRG Senior Living

While stress is a natural part of life, keeping it at bay and under control is one important aspect of healthy aging for seniors. SRG Senior Living operates 19 luxury senior living communities across the country that are dedicated to helping people live healthy, independent lifestyles. Wellness is at the heart of it, helping residents maintain mental and physical health by offering ample activities, enriching experiences, and top-notch care. Contact us now to learn more and discover the SRG approach to senior living and wellness!