Stress is considered a part of everyday life, something everyone just has to deal with. But stress can also become a hazard to health and happiness, especially for seniors. In fact, studies have shown chronic stress can even accelerate aging by disrupting sleep and the immune system, and increase risk for weight gain, heart disease, cancer, and dementia. But there are plenty of ways to manage stress by making a few simple lifestyle changes.
Eat better for better senior living
There are foods for comfort and foods for celebrating, and there are also foods that can help reduce stress. Just as a cup of coffee can give you a caffeine boost, many foods have components that can help stave off stress and maybe even elevate mood. Here are a few of the best:
- Go green! Green leafy vegetables like spinach contain folate which produces dopamine, a calming brain chemical. Since dopamine levels can fluctuate, it’s best to eat a diet rich in greens as well as other folate sources like beans and lentils, chick peas, asparagus, avocados, and broccoli.
- Consider olive oil. Switch from vegetable oil to extra virgin olive oil for cooking, salad dressing and other uses. Olive oil contains omega fatty acids and stress-busting antioxidants, that can lower heart disease and cancer risk, and can benefit the brain, joints and overall health.
- Eat more fish. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, essential fats our bodies cannot produce, and often called “the good fats.” These good fats help protect against heart disease, and may reduce inflammation, reduce depression and slow mental decline during aging. Learn more about the best fish for omerga-3 and the environment in the U.S.A. Today article, “13 Best Fish: High in Omega-3s – and Environment-Friendly.”
- Up your vitamin C intake naturally. Vitamin C has long been considered good for your immune system, but it also has antioxidant properties that fight stress. Two of the best are strawberries and red peppers both of which are not only chock full of Vitamin C, but also versatile and yummy.
- Swap out snacks. Skip chips and crackers and much on nuts, one of nature’s best stress fighters thanks to their high magnesium content. Nuts also contain omega fats, other vitamins and minerals and are a great way to wean yourself from other unhealthy high-sodium snacks. For a look at the best nuts to include in your diet, read the Healthline article, “The Top 9 Nuts to Eat for Better Health.”
Get social for better senior living
Isolation is a major contributor to stress among the elderly because it eliminates social activities like visits with friends and family, participation in social events, and other social and emotional supports. The American Institute of Stress notes the definition of social support from psychiatrist Sidney Cobb as “a subjective sensation in which the individual feels, ‘That he is cared for and loved. That he is esteemed and valued; That he belongs to a network of communication and mutual obligation.’” Everyone winds down their social activities as they age, but there are ways to keep doors open and friendships alive with just a little effort. For example:
- Volunteer. The feeling we get from giving back can be a great way to both meet people, develop friendships, and fill each day with a worthwhile endeavor. AARP has a volunteer search page to help you find local opportunities that fit you and your schedule.
- Try a new sport. Athletic activities are great for the body, mind and soul, even if you’ve slowed down a little. Check out local community centers for opportunities to play lawn bowling, croquet, tennis or badminton, or during winter consider swimming classes like water aerobics, try yoga or tai chi, or join a bowling league. If you enjoy music, dance classes like Zumba Gold are a great way to have fun and meet people. Outdoor sports like golf, boating and fishing are perfect for warm summer days and during the winter, skiing (downhill or cross country), ice fishing, and curling are other options.
- Join a club or group. If you have (or had) hobbies or other interests, why not revisit them with a group of like-minded people. From scale model trains, to knitting, crocheting and quilting, to card and board games, you might be surprised what you’re missing out on. One great place to find people who share your interests is on Meetup.com where all kinds of groups post get togethers, workshops and events. Also try your city website and local senior centers.
Make the most of every day for better senior living
- Get daily exercise. Even if you play a sport, it’s very important to get daily exercise. Take a walk, ride a bike, or develop a routine of exercise you can do right at home. Exercise not only relieves stress, it also strengthens bones and muscles, helps improve balance and flexibility, and makes you feel good. Everydayhealth.com has great ideas in the blog, “11 Easy Exercises You can Do Today.”
- Meditate. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, stress remains a part of life. That’s when coping comes into play and meditation provides a great coping mechanism. Meditation is simple, it requires little time and it can go a long way toward helping you cope with stress, whether it’s long-term or sudden. Learn more about how meditation can help in the article, “7 Ways Meditation Can Help You Reduce and Manage Stress” by Dr. Deepak Chopra.
For most people, stress is here to stay in one form or another, but taking steps to minimize and cope with stress effectively can make your life longer and happier. If stress becomes overwhelming, however, make an appointment with your physician to find out if you can benefit from medication or other medical interventions.