The Effect of Stress on the Body
Each age group is affected by stress differently. While the younger generations are more prone to feel stress in the form of panic attacks, irritability or sadness, seniors are more likely to experience chronic muscle aches and pains, headaches, chest pain, a pounding heart, sleeping difficulties, weight loss or gain and an upset stomach.
Not only do seniors suffer from those disabling symptoms, but stress can also lead to strokes and high blood pressure. Moreover, chronic stress is widely believed to accelerate biologic aging and has adverse effects on immune system function.
- Eat a Balanced Diet
- What to do: Pick foods with high vitamin and mineral levels like fresh fruits and vegetables, fish or yogurt.
- How it helps: While fats and carbohydrates are comfort food, they can induce stress. Healthy food will reduce your stress level.
- Relax Your Muscles
- What to do: One-by-one, tense the muscles in your shoulders, arms, fingers, legs, and toes. Then slowly release to relax them.
- How it helps: The convenience and fast-acting nature of this technique make it especially helpful. It works by taking the mind off of anxiety-provoking thoughts and enables you to gain control of your body. Once the body is relaxed, the mind will soon follow.
- Center Your Mind
- What to do: Spend time focusing on the good things in your life or institute some mental silence. Celebrate new accomplishments, pay attention to the now and spend time clearing your thoughts.
- How it helps: Grateful thoughts and feelings cancel out negative, stressful ones. Moreover, the practice of listening to your thoughts and being aware of your body allows you to observe those thoughts and emotions that incite stress, but let them pass without judgment.
- What to do: Get up and moving. Try yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi. Chair exercises, exercise classes, and walking trails are other great alternatives.
- How it helps: Exercise is proven to improve physical and mental health. The hormones released during and after exercise can fight off stress and depression. In addition, the combination of deep breathing and poses of yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi are great for gently stretching and strengthening your body.
- Engage in Conversation and Activities
- What to do: Gather friends, neighbors, and family and spend quality time together.
- How it helps: Both solutions actively divert your attention from the stressors in your life. Likewise, socializing with people you love ensures you have someone to confide in and gives you time to take your mind off things. That acts as its own stress-reliever. Plus, when you’re doing something you enjoy, your mind is being stimulated and will help keep your brain function high.
- Visualize Yourself in Another Situation
- What to do: Imagine doing your favorite activity in a beautiful place with people you love.
- How it helps: This refocuses the mind and will release any tension your body is harboring. It can result in lower blood pressure, reduced headache severity and even strengthened immune functioning.
- Listen to Calming Music
- What to do: Play soothing music.
- How it helps: The calm vibrations are known to trigger biochemical stress reducers and will help reduce fear and anxiety.
- Read a Story
- What to do: Pick up a good book.
- How it helps: Stories shift your concentration from everyday life. The transition from every day to fiction is quick and effortless, and leads to a lower heart rate and eased muscle tension.
- Play with Animals
- What to do: Visit your local shelter, humane society or pet store and spend time with happy cats and dogs.
- How it helps: Pet therapy is proven to improve mental and emotional health. Animals help by releasing endorphins, lowering anxiety and reducing loneliness.
- Volunteer Locally
- What to do: Look up a local soup kitchen, food pantry or organization giving gifts to needy children.
- How it helps: Helping others has been shown to kindle kindness. If you need some uplifted spirits and perspective, this is a beautiful way to do it.
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