Mind

Stress busters for over 60s

Don’t let your worries affect how you live your life.

By Donna Fleming

Stress can affect anyone at any age. But for the elderly, it can be due to circumstances that have changed as you've got older. Different things may get you uptight and the stress-busting methods you used when you were younger may not be as effective – or even possible – any more.

Likely causes of stress in your later years include coping with health issues, looking after an unwell partner or being bereaved and worrying about finances.

Often, people feel they should be able to deal with these situations because they are common at this stage of life. As a result, they don't seek help if what they're going through becomes overwhelming.

But it is important to get on top of stress at any age because not only can it make life miserable, but it is often associated with health problems such as depression and heart disease. It can also lead to an increase in blood sugar levels, which is the last thing you need if you already have diabetes.

One of the more obvious signs of stress in elderly people is insomnia – we tend to sleep less when we are older anyway, but chronic worrying about your situation can lead to even more difficulty dropping off or staying asleep.

Other symptoms of stress can include:

A Harvard University report into stress management in retirement years has found that cognitive restructuring – a fancy way of saying changing the way you think – is a key part of dealing with stress.

Learning to recognise negative thoughts and changing them into positive ones is a big part of that "restructuring".

Reading about mindful thinking, seeing a psycho-therapist for cognitive behavioural therapy or doing a course on the powers of positivity may be useful. Asking advice about dealing
with what is causing you stress is a good way of tackling the problem head on.

For example, if you have money worries, a financial planner or budgeting expert can look at your finances and work out ways you can save cash, easing your concerns.

Exercise is often recommended as a way of dealing with stress because it releases feel-good hormones, but it may be difficult for older people. It is worth finding a form of physical activity you are capable of doing regularly, such as tai chi or swimming, because it can lift your mood, improve your health and reduce stress.

Dancing can be great for older people because it gets you moving and, if you mix with other people at a dance class or session, the social aspect can also help to overcome stress.

Seeking help for stress

If you are dealing with bereavement, you may want to consider counselling or joining a support group.

Being overwhelmed by grief can be devastating and can potentially have a huge impact on your health and wellbeing.

Similarly, if you are stressed by caring for a partner, support organisations can tell you about the help you and your other half may be entitled to.

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