senior women exercising, meditating

How Seniors Can Reduce Stress

What Is Stress? 

Health concerns and worries about the future wear on the most optimistic of people. And even if your life isn’t incredibly stressful, there are things you probably are tired of doing or wish you could give up. Senior living can be an excellent solution for stress-related worries, especially if you live alone. But more about senior living later.

Stress isn’t all bad. During stressful times, we may perform at our best physically, mentally and emotionally when our brains release “fight or flight” chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase our focus and help us react quickly to situations.

It’s prolonged  stress that leads to health issues. Tension headaches, heart palpitations, anxiety and trouble sleeping are the most common effects. As we get older, our brain has difficulty regulating stress hormones, producing higher levels that are hard for our bodies to cope with. High levels of these hormones have been linked to serious diseases like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

How does senior living relieve stress?

Boredom, loneliness, isolation, health problems and loss of independence are among the most common stressors for older adults. Senior living communities intentionally address these stressors. They provide a framework for aging in place while remaining independent. Here are five ways a senior living community can help in reducing stress and help seniors live a happier and easier life:

  1. Maintenance-free home. Without tedious household chores and home maintenance holding you back, you can enjoy your retirement years to the fullest. Downsizing to a smaller residence saves money by minimizing expenses such as cleaning and utilities, and forces you to be more intentional about what you buy.
  2. Community and friendships. Feeling lonely doesn’t just make you sad, it increases the likelihood of early death. In senior living, you’re instantly part of a community, surrounded by peers who all want the same thing as you do:  to live independently and fully enjoy life.  
  3. Health and wellness. Staying healthy takes planning and discipline. With the services and amenities under one roof in a senior living community, it becomes much easier to exercise regularly and stay active. Eagle Senior Living communities focus on helping residents stay healthy and independent, with wellness programs, fitness facilities, and social, cultural and recreational activities.
  4. Delicious dining.  It’s a wonderful convenience to have someone else do the meal preparation, cooking and clean-up. In a senior living community, meals are provided as part of the lifestyle. And yummy food, served in a comfortable, inviting setting, goes a long way toward making you feel good. You can read more about the effect of food on your mood, here.
  5. Continuum of care. Senior living provides peace of mind when it comes to your health. Expert staff and a continuum of senior care are there if ever needed. Moving to a senior living community provides a plan in case of a health emergency, relieving your children and family members of worry as well.

Stress management for seniors.

Keeping stress in check should be a priority so it doesn’t affect our well-being. Since all of us cope with stress in different ways, we need to determine the stress-relieving techniques that work best for us. Making these activities part of our regular routine is simply part of self-care.

Keeping stress in check should be a priority so it doesn’t affect our well-being. Since all of us cope with stress in different ways, we need to determine the stress-relieving techniques that work best for us. Making these activities part of our regular routine is simply part of self-care.

Work out.
Physical activity is by far one of the most effective stress-relieving activities to try. Exercise reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, and it can trigger the release of endorphins and other brain chemicals that make us feel good. Finding exercise you really enjoy keeps you motivated to stick with it.
For some seniors, a group exercise class is an opportunity to connect with others, and they feel more accountable for showing up. Other seniors prefer the quiet time when they exercise on their own. Here are some popular exercise options you can do with others, or alone. As always, it’s smart to check with your doctor before you begin a new fitness activity, especially if you have ongoing health problems, balance issues, injuries, or some other condition.
·   Walking
·   Yoga
·   Water fitness
·   Cycling
·   Stretching
·   Bodyweight or weight training
·   Resistance band workouts

Get creative.
Listening and singing along to music, writing in a journal, learning to dance, painting, quilting, woodworking — engaging your creative side can really recharge your batteries. Creative endeavors are as much about the process as about the final product. When you become absorbed in a project you enjoy, it’s easy to lose track of time. You focus on something outside yourself, giving yourself the mental space to learn something new or master a skill. You’ll learn a lot about your mental health, including how you deal with challenges and imperfections, what keeps you going, and what success means to you. The good news? You don’t need to be Mozart, Picasso, or Isadora Duncan to enjoy music, pick up a paint brush, or let your hair down and dance.  

Spend time with pets.
Dogs and cats do more than keep us company. The bonds we form with our household pets serve as a source of comfort and support. A study that looked at the health benefits of different pets found people who interacted with animals decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Other studies found being with animals reduced loneliness, increased feeling of social support and boosted mood. And therapy animals are especially good at giving their owners the attention and affection they need during stressful times. If you have the means to adopt and care for an active animal like a dog you’ll increase your physical activity too. But even caring for fish and watching them swim can result in a feeling of calm.

Get out into nature. 
When we feel stressed, our instinct is to get out. Why not get out into nature? Visiting green spaces and being in nature brings significant physical and mental benefits, improving blood pressure and helping boost your mood. Research shows that  being outside lowers the amount of cortisol in the body, and also reduces harmful inflammation that could lead to autoimmune disorders. Being outdoors is highly beneficial for seniors, as it helps regulate healthy circadian rhythms for better sleep. And it almost goes without saying that spending time in nature looking at plants and flowers, listening to bird calls, and observing the sky and clouds stimulates the eyes and brain in a better way than watching TV or looking at a computer screen.

Practice meditation.
Meditation has been around for thousands of years. Meditating will train you to become aware of the inner workings of your thoughts. You learn to purposefully pay attention to the present, letting go of mental distractions and chatter. As you practice becoming less reactive to what’s going on in your head, you improve your mental health and feelings of control. You change your automatic response to stressful situations, thoughts and feelings. If you’re busy, even one or two minutes of meditation a day can make a difference. You can do it anywhere — sitting comfortably at home, prone after yoga, standing in line for a coffee — what matters is that you stick to it, make it a habit and gradually increase the time. Phone apps such as Calm or Headspace can get you started.    

Senior living: Ready-made stress relief.

When you choose an Eagle Senior Living community, you’re choosing to age in the best place possible. Our lively, enlivening communities are designed for active older adults who value their physical, mental, emotional and social health. From fitness classes to chef-prepared meals, from superb health care to friendly neighbors who share your interests, our communities offer independent living with endless opportunities to help you thrive in the face of life’s ups and downs. Contact us today to learn more.