Managing Stress In Old Age

How to manage stress in old age.

Old age is the stage of life that we all experience in different capacities. As children, we see our grandparents, when we become adults our parents are going through this stage and then we ourselves go through this stage. Thus, old age is not an accident of life it is an unavoidable incident of life. The important point is to make proper plans, so the stressors in this age are minimized and one can enjoy this stage of life to the fullest.

Through this article, we will try to understand the stressors of this age and how to overcome them. Through this article, I also want to help the caregivers of the old people to lead a normal life. I hope this article makes a difference in the lives of some people.

Reasons For Stress In Old Age

Let us try to understand the main stressors of old age and how to overcome them or minimize their effect on our lives. For senior citizens stress can be due to failing health; loss of the spouse; dwindling finances or simply the challenge of retaining their independence in daily life.

1. Health: Our elders have worked hard in their younger days and also gone through a lot of stress. Stress hormones provide energy and focus in the short term, but too much stress over too many years can throw a person’s system off balance. Overload of stress hormones can lead to many health problems, including heart diseases, high blood pressure, and weakened immune system. Years of emotional distress may even increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Stress doesn’t just make a person feel older but it can speed up aging.
2. Isolation: The real problem of old age comes if you are isolated. If you are part of the family and if your spouse is supportive, children helpful, have grandchildren to play with, there is no place for stress in your life. The most difficult loss to tolerate is the death of the spouse. This can increase the feelings of anxiety about isolation and loneliness.
3. Dwindling Finances: If a person is financially secure in old age, the stress levels are comparatively lower. There are many people who are leading a very happy post retirement life. The secret is that they have carefully planned their retirement life with proper financial planning. They feel that they are in control of their own life and not dependent on others relieving anxiety and stress.

How To Reduce Your Stress Levels?

The good news is that by managing and reducing our stress levels, we have a better chance to live a long, healthy and fulfilling life. Let us see what are some of the ways by which we can achieve this.

  • Exercise: A proven stress buster for people of all ages, may be especially valuable in later years of one’s life. Studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease or diabetes benefit from regular exercise. Exercise also helps people with high blood pressure, balance problems or difficulty walking. It can also reduce the feeling of depression and improves mood. If due to physical constraints vigorous exercise is not possible then even trying breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques are also effective.
  • Social Interactions: Staying close to friends or family is an excellent way to cut down on stress. Social interactions also help older people to stay mentally sharp and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
  • Manage your finances: There are many people who are leading a very happy post retirement life. These ‘successful agers’ have carefully planned their post-retirement finances and keep their hobbies and interests alive.
  • Make reading a regular habit: Reading inspires your mind, it can be a religious book or a biography that shares the story of a hero or soul searching poetry or those that are romantic at heart, and there is no harm in reading a romance. The aim is to relax your mind and motivate you for the remaining journey of life.
  • Meditate and be Thankful: Counting your blessings, both past, and present, help to calm your mind and reduce stress. Meditation is a very powerful tool, it not only provides relief from stress but also builds up an immunity to future stress. It requires no special equipment or physical ability and can be practiced in a variety of settings.
  • Cognitive puzzles : These are the ‘brain exercises’ that require focused concentration and are helpful to keep the brain active. As children, we enjoy such games but as adults, we don’t have the time, so this age is ideal for enjoying them. Solving Sudoku or daily crossword puzzles in newspapers are ideal for mental stimulation.
  • Yoga : Research shows that yoga can help promote well-being and improve the quality of life for senior citizens.
  • Take care of yourself: Be intentional about taking care of yourself. Develop healthy eating habits and don’t neglect your rest. A good night’s sleep can revive your body.

In this age, you also need to have a proper “time management budget”. You must formulate the art of remaining busy in style, without the stress on your body and mind. And the most important point to reduce stress is to maintain “Positive outlook towards life”.

Early Warning Signs of Stress (for caregivers)

So far we have talked about the stress in senior citizens but the caregivers, may it be the spouse or the children or any other relatives, also go through a lot of stress while caring for the old. Some of the early warning signs of caregiver stress are:

  • Constantly feeling sad, guilty or worried.
  • Feeling fatigued most of the time.
  • Becoming easily irritated.
  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  • Significant change in weight.
  • Significant change in sleeping habits.

What Caregivers Can Do?

The best way to beat stress is to take care of yourself also and take out some time for yourself too. Some useful tips to achieve this are:

  • Establish a daily routine. In this routine mark time for yourself also. Set realistic goals by breaking large tasks into smaller manageable ones.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for and to accept assistance. Such as assisting with meals, shopping for groceries, relieving you for a few hours or helping in bathing the person.
  • Try to lighten your load by learning about local caregiving resources such as meal delivery, nursing, physiotherapy, housekeeping etc.
  • Try to make some home modification changes that make it easier for patients to bathe, use the toilet or move around.
  • If you need financial help to take care of a relative then don’t be afraid to ask other family members to contribute their fair share.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends but say no to things you no longer are able to handle, such as family meals during festivals or holidays.
  • Joining a support group for caregivers in your area may allow you to make new friends and you can also pick up useful tips from others who have had similar problems.
  • Try to find time to do some physical exercise and get enough sleep and eat a proper diet.
    Make time each week to do something you enjoy and look forward to such as going for a movie or shopping.
  • For a bedridden relative, it is better to have a bell near their reach so they can call you when needed. Mobility monitors can keep track of dementia patients who wear a transmitter strapped to an ankle or wrist that will alert you when they are out of range.

But remember one thing:

“You may not be able to alter the way somebody else behaves but you can change the way you react to it”.

Hoping this article makes a difference in somebody’s life, please share your views and tips with me.

Monika Sharma has done double masters in Psychology and Zoology. She has a keen interest in human psychology and the cognitive science behind it.