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senior stress managementFor some people, the pressures of daily life can lead to stress. According to Statistics Canada, 23.6% of Canadians aged 15 and older reported that most days were ‘extremely or quite a bit stressful,’. Seniors who live alone may also experience stress due to various reasons, including having no one to talk to, fear of burglars breaking in at night, and being far away from other family members. This is where caregivers are important companions that can help relieve some of that stress.

4 Stress Management Options for Seniors

Below are some ideas for seniors to try that can help relax their tension.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing is a great stress reliever. Studies show that breathing exercises often improve a person’s well-being.

The proper way to breathe is to breathe deeply because shallow breaths tend to make the heart beat faster. It is advisable to perform these exercises while standing or seated.

Follow these steps, and see if it helps to instantly calm the nerves a bit:

  1. Start by inhaling deeply to fill the lower section of the lungs
  2. Hold your breath for some time
  3. Try to exhale as slowly as possible
  4. Repeat this exercise at least five times.

The good news is these breathing exercises do not require a lot of effort.

Take a Forest Walk

As more people migrate to urban areas, their daily hustle and bustle becomes more pronounced. For a senior citizen, this could easily lead to stress. An effective way to bring the stress levels down is to take regular walks in a forest.

In Japan, this is a common practice called forest bathing. A study carried out at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo found that forest bathing reduces stress levels. The same study found that people who take regular walks in a forest usually have elevated levels of natural killer (NK) cells that help the immune system fight cancer. According to the study, talking in a forest for a day elevates NK cell levels for up to seven days, while doing it for three days elevates NK cell levels for up to 30 days.

Naturally not all seniors have access to a forest, but a walk in a city park is likely to produce similar effects.

Ramp up Your Vitamin Intake

Eating processed foods may not provide all the vitamins your body needs. This is why boosting your vitamin intake is important. According to a study published in the Journal Psychology Today, high levels of vitamin C can help you deal with acute psychological challenges. In the study, researchers found that vitamin C hinders the secretion of cortisol. Continuous exposure to this flight hormone increases the risk of developing depression as well as impaired memory.

In addition to taking vitamin C supplements, include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet including:

  • tomatoes
  • parsley
  • orange juice
  • papayas
  • strawberries
  • green pepper
  • asparagus
  • sprouts

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is another good stress reliever. It works by enhancing the production of neurotransmitters to help calm the central nervous system. In addition, it cuts the amount of triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins in the blood. This leads to improved blood flow and nourishment of cells.

Get a Pet

For seniors who live alone, keeping a pet is a good way to cope with potentially stressful situations. A study carried out by researchers from the State University of New York at Buffalo found that owning a pet lowers blood pressure. If you cannot keep a pet, however, visit a friend who has one and spend some time with it. A report in the Harvard Health Publication says that having a pet can reduce both asthma attacks and allergies, too.

For most elderly citizens, dealing with stress is not easy. However, you can take steps to help a senior citizen cope with stress. A companion care worker can not only provide a much-needed social presence at a senior’s home, but can also accompany a senior on walks through parks or help them with simple relaxation exercises.

For More Information

To learn more about the causes and effects of stress, and tips for handling it all, visit these resources:

Health Canada – Coping with Stress
Canadian Institute of Stress FAQ
Canadian Mental Health Association – Aging and Mental Health

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