Stress Management Tips for Senior Health
By Denise Austin
40-Year Fitness Icon
Creator of Fit Over 50 Magazine
Each phase of life brings with it new stressors. Shifts in family, health changes and loss are only a few of the anxiety-producing challenges seniors face. Despite the difficulties that come with aging, there are also tremendous joys unique to the senior experience. In an effort to spend more time celebrating the best parts of life, consider these activities to keep calm and kick stress.
Reducing Stress for Older Adults
Through the pathways of the five senses, senior adults can leverage the brain and body’s connection for greater stress relief. These activities are perfect for daily use.
Unwind with Aromatherapy
The brain’s ability to facilitate positive emotion through scent is truly powerful. When it comes to mitigating stress, your sense of smell could be one of your most underutilized resources.
Studies show that the use of aromatherapy can play a helpful role in easing a person’s appetite—often one of the first things to go when overwhelm strikes. The National Cancer Institute reports cancer patients suffering significant physical pain and stress found relief when using essential oils in multiple studies.1
Patients saw improvements in anxiety, digestive issues, appetite, stress and pain. Oils can achieve these results through the pathways of the nose and respiratory system. When these systems discover the fragrance,
multiple mechanisms of action signal and stimulate parts of the brain to deescalate stress’ tidal wave on the body.
You can bookend your busy day with stress relief when you follow these aromatherapy tips:
Morning Use — Behind the Ears: Because of its convenient proximity to the nose, the base of the ears is a prime spot for a drop of essential oil. This small, subtle application can give you multi-hour enjoyment anywhere your day takes you. Ylang-ylang, chamomile, lavender, and peppermint oils are popular choices for on-the-go use.
Evening Use — On Your Feet: Right before bed, rubbing a drop of oil on the bottom of your feet may help you relax enough to fall asleep. Or take a gentle soak in a warm bath with a few of your favorite fragrant drops.
Sip some herbal tea and let the stress of the day and tension in your body seep out to its rightful place…down the drain.
The Healing Soundwaves of Music
Hearing is a remarkable resource that older adults can tap into for stress relief. Because of its incredible studied benefits, music needs a category unto itself. Some of life’s greatest feel-good memories can be re-lived within the bars of a song, and soaring melodies possess the power to trigger your brain’s pleasure center, marginalizing negative emotions like stress.
The Montreal Neurological Institute published an interesting study concerning the phenomenon of “chills.”
As study participants listened to powerful music, their brain activities were monitored.2 The melodies provoked a “shivers down the spine” sensation and euphoric feelings when the pleasure and reward centers of the brain responded. This study suggests we stand to receive help from music’s potential mental health and emotional benefits.
While stress can overwhelm in incredible physical ways, you may find it hard to remain within the grip of negative emotion if you are engrossed in a well-composed song. Whether that is a blend of classical music, Broadway-level vocals, or a soundtrack of ocean waves or chirping birds—our brain responds well to the healing sound waves of music. Incorporate music into your life’s daily rhythm to help keep you calm.
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Early Morning Sunlight
Movies often portray a well-rested person jumping out of bed to immediately fling open the curtains. That kind of scene seems farfetched to be anyone’s first morning move, but there is some truth hidden in this scenario.
Vitamin D is incredibly important for many things—particularly mood—and it is a common deficiency in seniors.3 If you are someone who rolls out of bed stressed, you may like to incorporate a sunlight-driven morning activity to center you emotionally.
Gardening, golfing, reading a book on the porch or a daily walk in the early morning, can help minimize your stress all while helping you catch some necessary rays.
In addition to the mood-boosting qualities4 of Vitamin D, you’ll also enjoy the helpful perks of a more regulated circadian rhythm, and who wouldn’t benefit from a better sleep cycle? The key is to experience natural light as quickly as you can upon waking. You can still wake up gently if you are not a morning person, but letting the sunlight help you at the start of each day could translate into less cranky mornings.
Who knows, once you find your grove, you very well might find yourself flinging open the curtains too.
Consistent daily exercise continues to be one of the greatest means of stress regulation in older adults, and all know it. It is often the simple and easier activities that promise benefit that we overlook. Stretching is an effective, simple way to dial back overwhelm and reach for a state of calm.
One study published in the medical journal Psychoneuroendocrinology5 showed that yoga helps reduce morning and evening cortisol levels and offers a host of other benefits. Yoga and stretching have a unique ability to create mindfulness and release tension that stress tends to store within our bodies.
Additional clinical studies recommend meditation for elderly people who struggle with stress, caregiver-burnout, loneliness, anxiety and depression.
If you are suffering, it is best to speak with your doctor to get the help you need. To help you navigate this issue with your physician, review this Ensurem blog concerning Medicare and the treatment of anxiety and depression.
After you’ve enjoyed a long soak in the tub, my guided exercise video “Healthy in a Hurry PM Stretch” will get you relaxed for a great night’s sleep. With these tips, you can maintain a new way of living—centered, not stressed.
Denise Austin is a best-selling author and creator of Fit Over 50 magazine. A 40-year wellness ambassador,
Austin has sold more than 24 million exercise videos and DVDs and a champion for people who aspire to live their best life, regardless of their age or current health conditions.
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1 “Aromatherapy With Essential Oils (PDQ®)–Patient Version,” National Cancer Institute (accessed 4/10/23)
2 “Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion,” PubMed (accessed 4/17/23)
3 “Vitamin D Deficiency, Its Role in Health and Disease, and Current Supplementation Recommendations” PubMed (accessed 4/17/23)
4 “Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood” PubMed (accessed 4/18/23)
5 “Yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction and stress-related physiological measures: A meta-analysis” PubMed (accessed 4/17/23)
6 “Meditation for older adults: a new look at an ancient intervention for mental health” PubMed (accessed 4/21/23)
Denise Austin, 65, Ensurem Ambassador
Best-Selling Author, Creator of Fit Over 50 Magazine
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