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We seniors have no need to stress out. After all, many of us are retired, living the life of Riley and doing nothing but enjoying a stress-free life, aren’t we?

Not so.

Even seniors have plenty of reasons to build up stress. There are relationship issues, financial pressures, aging and health problems and the state of our world with all of its ups and downs.

Stress is the pressure put on our minds and bodies when some problem or issue threatens the normal balance in our lives. It may be something as simple as lack of sleep or a deadline to meet, or it may be a larger, more challenging problem such as a health crisis.

No matter the issue, our minds and bodies can’t always distinguish between a serious threat and just a bad day. When we become stressed, our bodies react. Our adrenal glands release adrenaline, our hearts may pound, blood pressure increases, muscles begin to tense and the pupils of our eyes dilate.

In some cases stress causes aches and pains, anxiety, chronic fatigue and eating disorders. It can lead to depression and a host of other problems. We seniors really can’t afford to ignore the problem when we recognize stress in our daily lives. What to do?

Common Sense and Taking Control

Everyone deals with stress. But a concurrent problem for seniors can be an increasing lack of independence and control of our lives. It’s important to first recognize the levels of stress in our lives, identify them clearly and then take positive steps to decrease the effects on our minds and bodies. It’s important to take control.

Take the time to evaluate the sources of stress in your life. Name them. Once identified, go on to list those activities, attitudes and practices that you know make you feel better. When you’re intentional about taking good care of yourself, it will soon become standard practice to move from stress to stress-reducing activities.

Here are some simple, but important ways we can reduce the levels of stress in our daily lives.

Make a list of your favorite de-stressing strategies and post it where you can see it daily. It may include inspirational sayings, your favorite activities, a list of friends to connect with or a reward you enjoy when you’ve accomplished important tasks.

Choose to be active. A sense of heaviness and gloom can overcome us when we remain inactive over periods of time. Go for a walk, work in the yard, take a drive, lunch beside a lake or in a beautiful park—get out of the house and into the beautiful natural world. If you play a sport, work that into your weekly schedule.

Connect with people. You know the people you enjoy spending time with. Be intentional about getting together for coffee, lunch or merely talking on the phone. Keep in touch with your family members and friends. Distancing yourself from people is counterproductive.

Take care of your health. Eat properly, including small, healthy snacks. Get regular exercise. Take prescribed medications and see your doctor for regular check-ups.

Build rewards into your schedule. If you’ve met your deadlines, done your work, finished up a big project, by all means reward yourself. The rewards might be as simple as listening to a favorite CD, watching a favorite movie, or indulging in a favorite dessert.

Challenge yourself. Sometimes our senior lives become a bit predictable. Why not set yourself a new challenge? Take an art course, begin writing in a journal, learn a new language or embark on a seniors’ cruise. Put a spark in your day to day routine.

Find ways of serving others. There is nothing better for the blues than getting our minds off of our own situation and doing something kind for others. Every community has many, many needs and you can be the answer to someone’s problem.

Yes, even senior living can keep us “running on empty.” Don’t let that happen. Identify the stressors in your life, make a plan and be proactive about adding healthy, de-stressing attitudes and activities into your schedule.

Stress Symptoms, Mayo Clinic

What is Stress?