Whether you are elderly or beginning to look or feel less youthful, aging can be anxiety-producing and affect the way you feel. Research shows that long-term activation of your body’s stress response impairs your immune system’s ability to fight against disease and increases the risk of physical and mental health problems.
Challenges, which often go hand-in-hand with aging and can cause both short-term and chronic stress. So, how can we prevent stress and improve our health as we age?
Participate in social activities.
As we get older, we often find ourselves spending more and more time at home alone. This isolation can lead to depression and is not good for your health. If you find yourself spending a lot of time alone, try adding a volunteer or social activity to your routine. Social interaction and a sense of giving to your community enhance self-esteem and reduce stress. Participate in activities you enjoy. Have you always wanted to learn a new language? Take up ballroom dancing? Mentor a child?
Now is the time! Activities like these will also help your brain.
In fact, studies suggest that older adults who participate in what they believe are meaningful activities, like volunteering in their communities, say they feel happier and more healthy. One study placed older adults from an urban community in their neighborhood public elementary schools to tutor children 15 hours a week. Volunteers reported personal satisfaction from the experience. The researchers found it improved the volunteers’ cognitive and physical health, as well as the children’s school success. They think it might also have long-term benefits, lowering the older adults’ risk of developing disability, dependency, and dementia in later life.
Keep your mind and body sharp
Do some form of exercise every day. Walks are really great for calming an anxious mind and blowing off steam. Eat nourishing food, and maintain a healthy weight. Keep your mind sharp by doing activities like sudoku or crossword puzzles. Speak with your healthcare professional if your memory loss is significant. They may have some recommendations for you.
Stay focused on positive things and avoid negative self-talk
Such as “I can’t-do that” or “I’m too old.” When your self-talk is negative, you will feel more stress. Instead of thinking what you can’t do, remember what you can do. As with worries about the future, the important thing here is to force yourself back into the present. The past is gone and there is nothing that we can do to change it. So, stop blaming yourself and focus on what you can do in the here and not to live the best life that you can.
The changes in your body during the aging process may not be especially welcome. Your self-perception can take a hit once you realize that age is beginning to take its toll on you, and watching your own metamorphosis can be saddening. It’s up to you how to handle this fear: you can accept it or change your body via exercise/nutrition or, more extremely, plastic surgery. Think about what will bring you lasting happiness and what matters to you.
Seek out positive memories
A great tool is to go back in your mind to times when you felt seriously anxious about a new element of your life. How did things turn out? Chances are everything was just fine, and it’s really useful to remind yourself of this.
Focus on addressing your problems instead of feeling helpless about them
Think of them as “challenges” or “tests” rather than as insurmountable obstacles. Always have something to look forward to. Studies in the book, The Happiness Advantage, show that simply setting a date for an enjoyable event raises endorphin levels in your brain by 27%.
Learn and use relaxation techniques and meditation
A growing body of research supports the immediate benefits of meditation, such as reduced stress and anxiety levels, lower blood pressure, and enhanced happiness. Studies on mindfulness interventions show these effects are common in as few as eight weeks. While these initial perks may be reason enough for us to practice, meditation’s positive impact appears to be even more far-reaching, potentially adding years to our lives and improving cognitive function well into old age.
Activities to Consider
Would you like to get more involved in your community or be more socially active? There are plenty of places to look for opportunities, depending on your interests. Here are some ideas:
Get Out and About
- Join a senior center and take part in its events and activities
- Play cards or other games with friends
- Go to the theater, a movie, or a sporting event
- Travel with a group of older adults, such as a retiree group
- Visit friends and family
- Try different restaurants
- Join a group interested in a hobby like knitting, hiking, painting, or wood carving
Become More Active in Your Community
- Serve meals or organize clothing donations at a place for homeless people
- Help an organization send care packages to soldiers stationed overseas
- Care for dogs and cats at an animal shelter
- Volunteer to run errands for people with disabilities
- Join a committee or volunteer for an activity at your place of worship
- Volunteer at a school, library, or hospital
- Help with gardening at a community garden or park
- Organize a park clean-up through your local recreation center or community association
- Sing in a community choral group, or play in a local band or orchestra
- Take part in a local theater troupe
- Get a part-time job