A Senior’s Guide to Managing Stress

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Throughout our lifetime, we will inevitably experience stress or changes that cause physical, emotional or psychological strain. Feeling stress is common for everyone, but undergoing too much can be overwhelming, especially for seniors. This is why it is essential to understand common causes of stress as well as how it affects the body and how it can be managed.

While seniors have likely had their fair share of stress over the years, moving into a new age range comes with its own unique set of challenges.  Stress for those 65 and older can show up in many forms and be both positive and negative. For example, positive stress may come from exciting life events such as retirement, weddings and births, and negative stress may come from pain or mobility issues, death of loved ones and financial dependence.

“Seniors are typically more susceptible to adverse physical reactions when it comes to stress because of age-related changes to the body,” says White-Wilson Advance Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Pamela Lee. “This is why it is important to identify stressors and work to reduce them as much as possible. Understanding how you are personally affected can lead to better long-term health outcomes.”

In older adults, stress can cause health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, warns APRN Lee. Recognizing whether your stress is physical, mental or emotional can help place you on the correct path to stress discovery and management.

“For many patients, lowering stress levels can come from taking surprisingly simple steps,” says APRN Lee. “I always recommend establishing a healthy diet, participating in physical activity and setting aside time for mental reflection. These actions will improve your heart’s health while reducing the impacts of stress on the body.

Healthy Eating Plate, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Eating a balanced diet can facilitate a healthy immune system and repair damaged cells. Harvard Medical School provides this example of a Healthy Eating Plate which explains how to create well-balanced meals.

Consistent physical activity helps improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels and overall heart health. The American Heart Association recommends that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week. Several popular exercises among seniors include pickleball, walking and water aerobics. 

Reflecting and connecting through meditation, yoga and journaling reduces muscular tension, calms the mind and slows the heart rate. Set aside some time each day to take a breath and focus on the positives. 

“Once you have established these relieving practices, it is important to also remember that stress is normal function of life,” says APRN Lee. “In other words, stress is unavoidable at any age, but taking certain steps will help you to control or reduce the physical and mental strain it may cause.”

APRN Lee emphasizes that stress can actually provide several cognitive benefits if it is managed properly. Always be aware of how your body responds to stress and the actions you take to control its affects. If you continue to experience issues related to stress, be sure to talk with your primary care provider for further explanation and guidance on your unique health and wellness needs.   

Pamela Lee, APRN provides Internal Medicine care at White-Wilson Medical Center in Destin. Friendly and empathic, she helps her patients to be well-informed on their treatment options and works with them to make health-related decisions that will result in successful health outcomes. Learn more about APRN Lee and her approach to patient care here