Stressors affect older adults are more often to be chronic, including change in social and family relationships/roles, loss of physical abilities (i.e., vision, hearing, memory, mobility) , dealing with medical conditions and health care decisions, suffering pain of loneliness and loss of loved ones. Improving lifestyle and behavioral choices are essential steps toward increasing overall health and managing chronic stress. As individuals react to stress differently, stress can impact our lives positively or negatively.
When the brain senses danger or a need to fight, it sounds the alarm for action: it tells the muscles to tighten and signals the adrenal glands to release stress hormones—such as adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol is the classic stress hormone and is reliably elevated in response to psychological and psycho-social stress. Levels rise with aging and are higher in older females than males.
Stress hormones make you breathe faster, getting more oxygen to your muscles, and they trigger the release of sugar and fat into the blood, giving your cells more energy. To accommodate these needs, your heart beats faster and your blood pressure goes up. These physical changes are all part of the stress response, which is helpful if you need to jump out of the way of danger. Once the brain senses safety, body function returns to normal.
Stress hormones provide energy and focus in the short term, but chronic stress can throw your system off-balance. Overloads of stress hormones have been linked to many health problems.
Stress-related inflammation has been implicated in insomnia, late-life depression, anxiety, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Aging is accompanied by a 2- to 4-fold increase in plasma/serum levels of inflammatory mediators, such as cytokines and acute phase proteins. In addition, chronic inflammatory processes are implicated in diverse health outcomes associated with aging, such as atherosclerosis, insulin resistance, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. A proinflammatory factor (IL-6) whose concentration generally increases in the blood with age, has been linked with Alzheimer disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer, and it is prospectively associated with general disability and mortality in large population-based studies.
Chronic stress results in increased secretion of cortisol that causes a rise in blood sugar and blood pressure and reduces inflammation and immune system resistance to infection. Chronic stress is widely believed to accelerate biologic aging and support comes from studies confirming its adverse effects on immune system function, as well as how we respond to hidden inflammation. It has been well established that stress destroys cells in the hippocampus, a brain site responsible for memory storage and retrieval. Elevated levels of cortisol in aging are associated with higher levels of psychosocial stress, poorer cognitive performance, and atrophy of memory-related structures in the brain such as the hippocampus. Long term emotional distress increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
1. Identify the negative stressor and source, including acute and chronic stressors. Also look closely at personal habits, attitude, how you react to it and what you can do about it.
Change your thinking and put things in perspective - If you can't change a stressful situation, try to reframe your point of view to reduce the stress and keep a positive attitude with gratitude.
Be assertive instead of aggressive. Express your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, defensive, or passive.
Set limits appropriately and learn to turn down requests that would create stress.
Accept your responsibility and understand there are events that beyond your control. Focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems. Actively seeking information and process facts to resolve what you can, then let go the rest.
Some sources of stress are unavoidable, such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. The best way to cope is to learn adapt and accept. The best healing tool is time. The hard time will pass and keep the hope on.
2. Mind and body regulation
Mental exercise for the brain promotes brain function and improve memory, such as learning new knowledge and skills, brain-boosting activities, and hobbies for leisure.
Learn and practice relaxation techniques; try mindfulness meditation, yoga, or tai-chi, musical instrument practice or listen to soft music.
Calm down and use humor, laugh relieves emotional and muscular tension
Connect with nature and appreciate outdoor experiences – an outdoor walk will benefit more than burning calories.
For acute stress, apply quick stress-relieve techniques, such as deep breathing, tasting a piece of gum or a cup of hot tea, gets some fresh air, etc. Using your senses—seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, or through a soothing movement will help you quickly relax. The key to quick stress relief is to experiment and discover the unique sensory experiences that work best for you.
Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. Unload your emotions; not to let the heaviness build-up. Keep in mind that the people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix your stress. They simply need to be good listeners. And try not to let worries about looking weak or being a burden keeps you from opening up. The people who care about you will be flattered by your trust. It will only strengthen your bond.
Make time to focus on learning, develop new interests, and/or hobbies.
Ensure sufficient daily rest and sleep.
Appreciate the growing plants, pets, and wild lives around you will inspire positive emotions.
Reduce anxiety and stop ineffective coping, including use alcohol, drugs, abusive and compulsive behaviors to reduce stress.
The good news is that with the knowledge of stress and aging, you can learn to manage and reduce your stress load for longer and healthier life. The key to managing stress is recognizing and changing the behaviors that cause it. Although behavior change can be challenging, it is under your control. You are not alone; stay connected with QualityLifeForum and health coaching programs are available. Well-managing stressful life situations will lead to peaceful mind and life satisfaction.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Consult your healthcare professional for personal conditions.
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