The Bristal Assisted Living Blog

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5 Scientifically-Proven Ways for Seniors to Relieve Stress

Reducing stress is a major concern for seniors, often even more so for those with a chronic illness or a sedentary lifestyle. When we’re under stress, the brain releases hormones that support our “fight or flight” instincts -- a survival mechanism that makes us temporarily stronger and faster.

However, as data from a National Institutes of Health study suggests, “In late life, when the immune system tends to show functional decline, the effects of stress are especially potent. Stress can not only mimic, but also exacerbate the effects of aging.”

Here are some scientifically proven stress relief strategies that may be particularly effective for seniors:

1. Stay as Active as Possible

Make every effort to be as active as you are able to be. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, regular physical activity can improve both your physical and mental well-being, as well as reduce stress.

Take long walks when the weather is good, attend shows and lectures, participate in a book club, or perhaps volunteer for a worthy cause. Go dancing or engage in aerobics or a mild form of sports, if feasible. Your physician would be a great resource to help you plan appropriate additions to your physical fitness routine.

All of these activities provide something to look forward to and may instill a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, which may help counter feelings of stress.

2. Find a Relaxation Response

According to the Harvard Medical School, “a big part of stress management focuses on triggering the opposite of the stress response: the relaxation response,” which helps lower blood pressure, heart rate, and the stress hormones themselves.

Everyone has their own tastes and preferences when it comes to relaxation, but here are some examples of popular method:

• Deep breathing
• Yoga or tai chi
• Meditating
• Listening to relaxing music

There are also several apps that can help facilitate relaxation methods, which you can read more about in this post on The Bristal Blog.

3. Consider Adopting a Pet

Studies such as this one published in BMC Psychiatry suggest that owning a dog, cat, or other companion animal may help to lower stress levels. Having a pet can be particularly beneficial if you experience loneliness or mental health problems.

Adopting a pet is not a decision to be taken lightly, however, as it also comes with extra responsibility. If owning a pet isn’t a possibility for you, there are other alternatives that will still allow you to interact with animals, such as volunteering at a pet shelter, serving as a dog sitter, etc.

4. Establish an Optimal Sleep Environment

Sleep is essential for numerous bodily functions, including stress reduction. Levels of cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, are reduced when you sleep soundly. Ensure that your nighttime environment is as conducive as possible to good slumber by following one or more of these tips from the Sleep Foundation before bedtime:

• Take a warm shower or bath
• Avoid blue light exposure (smartphones, TVs, computers, etc.)
• Limit alcohol and caffeine
• Write in a journal
• Use relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing

5. Eat a Balanced Diet

Focus on nutritious foods and reduce your consumption of processed and sugary products. Emphasize vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and lean protein. Enjoy alcohol and caffeine in moderation. A healthy diet can help the body combat excessive stress.

Also, add...dark chocolate? Yes; according to the Center for East-West Medicine at UCLA, dark chocolate can “help relieve stress at the molecular level,” and also can be beneficial for people “suffering from high levels of anxiety.” While you should still follow any dietary restrictions you may have, partaking in “comfort” foods that may help alleviate stress is also an option.

Looking for More Healthy Lifestyle Tips?

Relieving stress is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Check out The Bristal Blog for more tips tailored specifically to seniors on how to improve your physical and mental well-being.


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