Recognizing the Dangers of Chronic Stress
Tips for Stress Relief for Older Adults
Have you ever stressed about a situation that you can’t control?
We all have. It is human nature and natural to experience stress. But long-term or chronic stress can take a toll on our body, mind, and spirit. There is research that suggests stress can impair our cognitive and physiological functions. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress puts our muscles in a constant state of being “on guard,” meaning our muscles can become chronically taut and tense. We might also experience tension and migraine headaches as well as musculoskeletal pain in our lower back and upper extremities. Harvard Health Publishing reports that chronic stress can increase the risk of heart disease and heartburn, worsen diabetes, create high blood pressure, and cause insomnia.
The takeaway is clear: Chronic stress is dangerous, particularly for older adults, and we should take steps to seek stress relief.
Earlier this month on November 2, we recognized Stress Awareness Day, an initiative of the International Stress Management Association. While it is great for us to devote a day to promoting knowledge about stress, this should be a topic of conversation all year long. It would be nice to just eliminate stress from our lives, but we know that’s impossible. Instead, try some of these tips to reduce and relieve stress:
- Stay physically active. Find an activity that suits your mobility and your interests, from walking to practicing yoga or tai chi.
- Focus on intentional breathing. In moments you feel especially anxious, try to focus on taking careful and intentional breaths. This can help calm your thoughts and ease your body’s reaction to stress.
- Get outside. It is amazing how much some sunshine and fresh air can help, no matter the time of year.
- Find support in others who know what you are going through. If you recently lost a partner or a loved one, consider joining a bereavement group. If you were diagnosed with a medical condition or disease, talk to others who have received the same diagnosis.
- Consider getting a pet. However, make sure you are prepared for the physical demands and financial needs of caring for a cat or dog.
If we can be of any support to you in identifying resources to help with chronic stress, please do not hesitate to reach out.