Stress is Normal, But…
Our bodies were made to experience and react to stress. Feeling occasional stress is normal and a sign that your reflexes are functioning properly. Cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, the stress hormones, get us to act quickly when faced with danger and often save our lives. However, these hormones are helpful only for immediate, short-term challenges. Prolonged stress can have negative effects on our health.
Chronic stress (when the body experiences stressors with such frequency or intensity that the nervous system doesn’t get a chance to relax) can cause
● High blood pressure and blood sugar
● Decreased immune function
● Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
(For information on the causes of chronic stress and how to recognize the signs in your loved one, read our article, Helping Seniors Manage Stress: A Guide for Caregivers.)
Here’s a list of simple, practical things that can relieve stress for yourself or for your loved one.
Putting physical “stress” on your body can actually reduce mental stress. Exercising regularly lowers your body’s stress hormone levels and encourages the release of endorphins. (Endorphins are the hormones that improve your mood, naturally.)
Exercise also improves the quality of your sleep. This can be helpful to those whose stress is affecting their sleep.
Find an exercise style that suits your physical capabilities and that you enjoy. There are so many options to choose from, such as walking, jogging, dancing, biking, swimming, yoga, pilates, and more!
Yoga is known to be particularly soothing and relaxing, as it has a meditative effect. According to studies, yoga can enhance your mood and may even be as effective as antidepressant drugs.
You can work out on your own when you have time off, join a class, or have senior-and-caregiver exercise time! Put on your workout clothes and get going!
Who doesn’t love the sound of music?
Music can help relieve stress, especially classical, slow compositions. It can slow your heart rate and pulse, lower your blood pressure, and decrease your levels of stress hormones. Music also acts as a distraction, making it easier for you to relax, sleep, or meditate.
Whether you’re a senior or a caregiver, you can find music you love and listen to it whenever you can. Listen to music before you go to bed, when you’re washing dishes, walking the dog, or driving. Find ways to incorporate the music you enjoy into your everyday life.
It’s time to get in touch with your inner artist! Adult coloring books with intricate geometric patterns have recently become a popular stress-relief tool, and for good reason.
Research shows that painting, coloring, beading, and similar activities can have a meditative effect on your mental state. Getting creative and becoming deeply engrossed in the activity at hand can help you relax and relieve your stress. Seniors and their caregivers can benefit from getting creative together or during the caregiver’s off time.
At the end, you’ll have something beautiful to show for it! Now, where should we hang the newest painting…
Feeling overwhelmed? Get a hug from a loved one.
Social support and meaningful connections can help relieve your stress, whether you’re a senior or a caregiver. It can give you a sense of belonging and value.
In addition, the positive physical contact of family and friends can help release oxytocin and lower cortisol. This can help lower your blood pressure and your heart rate.
You can also talk with family and friends and the phone or over video calls. If no one is available for a cuddle or a call, even interacting with a pet can have stress-relieving effects.
#5: Deep Breathing
Take a deep breath in through your nose, Now let it out, slowly, from your mouth.
Simply focusing on your breathing or changing your breathing pattern can make a huge difference to your overall stress levels.
You can take just three to five minutes during a stressful meeting or in a crowded space to focus on and slow your breathing to help you relax.
There are many breathing techniques and patterns. Here’s a simple one: Breathe in through your nose and watch your belly expand with air. Count slowly to four as you inhale. Hold for one second and then slowly breathe out through your mouth as you count to four again.
You can practice this technique anywhere, anytime. And no one has to know that you’re doing it. Breathing exercises could be key to reducing your stress.
#6: A Healthy Diet
Take a good look at what you’re feeding your body. (If you have a hard time keeping track of your diet, consider starting a food journal and write down what and when you eat.)
The first thing to do is reduce your caffeine consumption. Caffeine is okay and even helpful in small amounts, but large amounts of caffeine may worsen stress symptoms in people already prone to stress and anxiety.
Emotional eating and eating lots of sugars and fats can provide a temporary feeling of relief. Yet in the long-term, it only adds to your stress.
Refined carbs (white bread, pastries, potato chips, etc) can cause a spike in your blood sugar. When your blood sugar subsequently crashes, you may experience more stress.
The good news? Specific foods like salmon, eggs, avocado, yogurt, dark chocolate, almonds, and walnuts support mood regulation and energy balance. So go ahead and add plenty of those to your diet!
“Laughter is the best medicine.” Research has proven this correct time and time again.
Laughter relaxes your tense muscles and relieves your nervous system’s stress response. Laughter also enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
Watch comedy shows, spend time with people who make you laugh, and simply find the humor in everyday life.
This is one prescription you don’t have to pick up at the drugstore!
When You’re Feeling Blue
Stress is a part of life. But when it becomes chronic, you need to take control and implement stress-relieving techniques. Seniors and caregivers are more prone to stress than other groups of people.
Feeling stressed out? Here’s a quick round-up of the above:
1. Go for a brisk walk.
2. Play classical music.
3. Take out a coloring book.
4. Hug a loved one.
5. Do deep breathing exercise for five minutes.
6. Eat some salmon, eggs, avocado, yogurt, dark chocolate, almonds, or walnuts.
7. Listen to a comedian you like.
Looking for more helpful resources? Community Home Health Care has a caring, experienced staff of trained in-home caregivers, including personal care aides, registered nurses, and home health aides.
Explore our website and fill out the online form to receive more information about the medical assistance, personal care, and friendship we provide. You can call (845) 425-6555 with any questions you have, and we’ll be happy to help.