Aging can be stressful for older adults as they tend to worry about health problems and their ability to care for themselves. Aging also decreases stress resistance and coping abilities.
How the Body Makes Itself Stress-Resistant
Events, thoughts, and behaviors that appear to threaten life or well-being can activate the body’s natural “fight or flight” response. This is the body’s protective mechanism. The more stressed you are, the more your body creates new ways to protect itself and become resilient over time.
According to the National Institutes of Health, this resistance begins to build at an early age and peaks in early adulthood. As you age, however, your body begins to gradually lose its ability to effectively cope with the physical and emotional challenges life brings.
Poor diet, physical inactivity and persistent lack of sleep may take their toll and prevent the body from returning to a state of calm as fast as it used to. To maintain physical and mental health, you’re then forced to find other ways to cope.
Five Stress Reduction Techniques for Aging Adults
Retirement is a time many seniors look forward to. Finally, you can relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor without worrying about working or raising a family. However, aging and retirement can mean a loss of income, feeling “misplaced”, and dealing with health issues associated with aging. They also create uncertainties that cause you to feel antsy. These five techniques can help you build resistance to stress while remaining calm and in control of your life:
1. Eating a Nutritious Diet
Consuming a balanced, nutritious diet is an important way for aging adults to de-stress. Avoid processed and fast foods and opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and foods low in fats and sugars. Eating foods that provide adequate amounts of the required daily nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, is good for the immune system. A healthy immune system is better able to fight off stress-related medical conditions such as anxiety, depression, diabetes and heart disease.
2. Exercise Frequently
Routine exercise, including yoga, is a great way to cultivate a stress-free lifestyle. It also reduces the chance of chronic diseases and early death. Walking for at least 30 minutes a day is a helpful way to release built-up toxins and improve functions of the immune system. Whether it’s walking along a quiet trail, in a busy park, or around the neighborhood, just being outdoors and appreciating nature provides mental and physical relaxation.
3. Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is vital for good health the same way a nutritious diet and staying active help keep the body healthy. Studies conclude that elderly adults need at least seven to nine hours of interrupted sleep for their body and brain to function better. Getting adequate sleep can reduce the risk of medical problems, including anxiety, mood swings, depression and high blood pressure. It also improves alertness and memory as you age.
4. Practice Meditation
Mediation is a powerful stress-busting technique that can help you achieve a state of mental and physical relaxation. It teaches you to “zone out” distractions and focus on the present moment. People who make meditation an integral part of their lifestyle tend to remain calm and more relaxed amidst stressful life events. The deep breathing exercises of meditating introduce fresh air into the lungs, relieve tension and produce a sense of calm and inner peace.
Growing old and remaining at home can bring on loneliness, depression or chronic health conditions. People with a strong and supportive social network tend to live happier and healthier lives and may even live longer. Your network can be made up of family, friends and people in your community. Connecting with your peers at church or other types of community groups, for example a volunteer group, can give you a sense of belonging. Helping people who are disadvantaged can give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Although aging reduces the body’s stress-resistance capabilities, you can still cultivate a stress-free lifestyle by practicing the above five techniques. Each of them can help the brain create new stress-responsive pathways as it did naturally when you were younger.