Everyone experiences stress to some degree. Yet, it can be a silent factor of overall well-being, especially for seniors. Often, senior stress can mask itself in a number of ways, and cause serious issues that may be attributed to other senior health issues. Therefore, it’s important for seniors and their caregivers to understand the symptoms of stress, as well as the different ways to address and prevent it.
When people get stressed, their body releases cortisol, a hormone that readies the body for a fight or flight response. This is why appetite increases during stressful situations: the body is trying to get as much energy as possible to defend itself. However, this is often presented as an increased craving for high fat and/or sugary foods. This can be especially detrimental to seniors who are at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol and blood sugar through poor diet. Family caregivers should be on the lookout for changes in their loved one’s normal eating habits, such as opting for unhealthy options or continuously snacking despite feeling full, which can be a sign that a senior is dealing with high stress.
A lack of sleep is also an indicator of senior stress. With a mind busy worrying, the body stays on high alert, which can ultimately affect the ability to fall asleep. This can be especially harmful to seniors whose bones and muscles need overnight recovery to fight weakness. And, while most people understand the importance of proper rest and the significant role it can have in treating the symptoms of stress, few know that a good night’s sleep can also help the body prevent future stress. There are many suggestions for what a good night’s sleep is, but a safe goal for seniors to aim for is seven hours a night in order to minimize stress and prevent future anxiety.
High Blood Pressure
Like stress eating, high blood pressure (HBP) isn’t a visible symptom of stress, but it is a serious senior health issue that is often caused by high stress levels. If left unchecked, it can lead to other problems in older adults like fatigue, erectile dysfunction, and even coronary artery disease. These are issues that seniors are already at high-risk for, so it’s critical that they, and their caregivers, keep an eye out for symptoms. Additionally, because HBP is most often detected by a doctor, seniors should regularly visit their physician, especially if they’re at high risk for stress. Not only will this keep them on track to be healthy year-round, but it will also minimize the risks of unseen health concerns popping up.
Minimal mood fluctuations are perfectly normal and even healthy in older adults. But, when seniors begin to experience sharp swings between extremes, there may be a more serious cause. Stress can cause irritability, social withdrawal and abnormal mood in adults, symptoms that can become hazards to mental health in a senior population that already typically gets minimal social interaction. If any mood seems unfamiliar or unexplainably drastic, seniors should consider telling their doctors in order to find the most effective ways to treat the stress that causes it.
Tips to Reduce Stress
While stress can be difficult to identify, it’s always a good idea to actively prevent it, and practice effective treatments to reduce it. A few easy ways seniors can protect themselves from falling victim to stress-related issues every day include:
- Getting regular exercise
- Meditating and engaging in other mindful activities
- Volunteering in the community
- Eating healthy meals
- Getting enough high-quality sleep
- Engaging in creative endeavors like gardening, cooking, painting.
Staying stress-free is a crucial aspect of senior well-being. It helps maintain physical, mental and emotional health, and should always be at the forefront of a senior and caregiver’s mind. Follow these tips and adapt them to individual needs in order to help your loved one stay healthy.
Call your local FirstLight Home Care today to learn more about how we can help you live independently as you age in the place you call home.