By: Dr. Beth Templin
Everyone is affected by stressful situations. Our daily life can be full of challenges that bring on stress. We can experience both "good" stress and "bad" stress in our lives.
Examples can vary from the stress of your job to retiring from your job, the birth of grandchildren to helping raise them, to watching them graduate and get married. Other big changes in your life can also cause stress including down-sizing your home, managing finances, or being worried about your health or the health of your loved ones.
It's interesting to know that stress affects seniors differently than it does younger folks. As you age, it's not as easy to manage stress because of normal age-related changes your body experiences.
When you experience stress, your body undergoes a stress response in reaction to the stress. You prepare for "fight or flight" by releasing stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline, which increase your blood pressure and heart rate and cause you to breathe faster.
These are normal responses to stress, but as you age, your body's ability to make and tolerate these changes diminishes. This means the same response you had 20 years ago to a stressful event is much harder on your body now.
According to Harvard Health, prolonged stress can even lead to high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression and insomnia. So what can you do?
There are a few different ways to combat stress. The main goal of all of these techniques is to reverse the stress response and focus on a relaxation response. This response will help you focus on lowering your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, reducing your stress hormones and slowing down your breathing back to normal levels.
Practice Relaxation. There are many options to practice relaxing, including deep breathing exercises, meditation and Tai Chi. These help you connect your mind and body and work to decrease the stress response your body is having.
Daily Gratitude. Start each day with a focus on positive thoughts and what you are thankful for. This helps you to focus on what brings you joy and happiness.
Set Boundaries. Set aside time each day to do the things that are most important and learn to say "no" to things you do not want to do or make you feel stressed.
Exercise Regularly. The benefits of exercise are numerous, but they help with stress management by releasing hormones that help the body manage stress. Exercise also helps to promote lower blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rates at rest.
Eat Well. Avoid processed food and foods high in sugar. Eat more fruits and vegetables to help your body better manage stress.
HouseFit has several ways to help. Our Tai Chi Program, our Online Exercise Classes and our Nutrition Program are great ways to help combat stress!