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Stress Relief Activities for Seniors

Old age comes with wisdom, clearer priorities, and more time to do things you truly enjoy. But it also comes with a new set of challenges that could trigger stress, from loved ones moving away or passing on to rising medical bills.  

Even after retirement, there will be many events that could trigger negative emotions. These responses to stress could manifest as physical symptoms, such as headaches, an upset stomach, and chest pain. 

Fortunately, there are many stress relief activities for retirees that can improve their overall well-being, boost cognitive function, and encourage much needed socialization. Read on to know eight helpful activities to ease stress.

1. Breathing Exercises

One of the most convenient stress relief activities for adults are breathing exercises. In fact, people of all ages can feel relaxed by doing this type of exercise. It reduces tension in different parts of the body, allowing seniors to experience better sleep quality.

People inclined to poor breathing techniques have a high risk for decreased immune response with an increase in infections and lack of concentration. Belly breathing and the focused breathing technique are some of the breathing exercises that are easy to do but can do wonders for one’s well-being. 

To execute diaphragmatic or belly breathing, sit in a comfortable position, put one hand on your upper chest, then place one hand over your belly. This allows you to feel the diaphragm’s movement. Gradually, breathe in through your nose and feel your stomach with one hand. After that, exhale slowly using pursed lips. Repeat this exercise up to 10 times and feel instantly relaxed.

2. Eat Healthily

Eating healthy food is one of the lesser-known stress management techniques for older adults since people tend to forgo a proper diet as they age. However, seniors need to be aware of their special nutrient needs. This way, they can feel energized throughout the day and even for longer periods.

People who neglect their dietary needs tend to experience rapid mood swings and decreased mental functions since food plays a crucial role in everyone’s daily life. Poor nutrition can also bring feelings of guilt and dissatisfaction. Hence, older adults need to eat healthily for improved physical and mental well-being.

Special nutritional needs include fiber, which is responsible for proper digestive health. You can eat berries, pears, oranges, broccoli, carrots, nuts, and seeds to satisfy the body’s need for fiber-rich food. Besides, seniors need to maintain a high intake of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D for strong bones and muscles. They also prevent diseases, which cause stress among seniors.

3. Meditation

Seniors looking for ways to manage stress often find themselves in a meditation-focused website or book. That’s because meditation provides instant and long-term benefits for anyone’s mental health. By practicing mindfulness, you can calm your mind, ease worries about the future, and focus on the now. Most stressful thoughts come from fear of the future and regrets about the past, and meditation allows people to manage such worries.

Besides, it lowers the risk of stress-related illnesses, such as hypertension and diabetes. This activity even decreases muscle aches commonly associated with anxiety. Older adults also notice normal blood pressure after continued meditation.

Mindfulness offers the perfect stress relief for seniors since it doesn’t require special tools and equipment. First, sit still and focus on your breathing. Second, keep your attention on where you inhale and exhale. Lastly, inhale deeply to expand the diaphragm, then exhale in a slow manner. Meditate for at least 15 minutes each day to clear your mind.

4. Massage

Stress affects muscles, causing them to tense all at once. Due to feelings of anxiety, most seniors experience neck pain, headaches, and back discomfort. One way to prevent stress-related muscle aches and tensions is by getting a massage. It increases blood flow to most body parts and facilitates the production of positive hormones like serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine.

There are different types of massage for easing stress. One of them uses aromatherapy for an emotional healing component. During an aromatherapy massage, a therapist utilizes essential oils and applies gentle pressure to soothe tensed muscles. In 60 to 90 minutes, you’ll already notice a difference.

Besides, seniors can also opt for a hot stone massage to promote relaxation. Like Swedish massage, a therapist uses deep circular motions, passive joint movements, and flowing strokes to provide gentle full-body massage. As its name suggests, this therapeutic massage uses heated stones instead of hands. In some cases, a masseuse or masseur can also use both hands and cold stones. It also lasts for up to 90 minutes.

5. Yoga and Tai Chi

Yoga and tai chi provide ways to relieve stress among older adults. Like getting a massage, practicing yoga promotes the release of endorphins to help individuals deal with worrisome thoughts and feelings. Moreover, it increases concentration and helps improve memory, thus improving one’s quality of life.

Most instructors would recommend hatha yoga to older adults since it involves slow-paced sitting and standing poses. It focuses on proper breathing techniques and stretching different parts of the body. Hence, it doesn’t require complex stances and challenging postures.

Another low-impact activity that retirees can do is tai chi. It improves balance and increases a person’s self-esteem. Commonly known as shadowboxing, a tai chi session comprises mainly gentle stretching exercises without pause. Hence, the body keeps on moving. Due to the continuous movements, people often refer to tai chi as meditation in motion. Besides, doing tai chi with friends boosts mood and strengthens social relationships. It then encourages them to connect with other people.

6. Light Exercises

Exercise improves a person’s physical and mental health, regardless of age. Since seniors can be prone to injuries, it’s crucial to note activities that help reduce stress levels while lessening the risk for accidents. Hence, light exercises with a group can encourage positive feelings among older adults.

For instance, walking promotes high self-esteem, improves sleep quality, and boosts mood. Walking with friends or a group also provides instant relief from stress because it produces a runner’s high that replaces negative thoughts with feelings of excitement. You can also bring an audiobook or set a playlist that you can listen to while roaming around a park. It helps clear the mind and trains the brain to calm down, even after experiencing stressful situations.

Another low-impact activity that older adults can engage in is pilates. Aside from strengthening the core, it focuses on proper breathing techniques to help manage stress. It requires chairs, mats, inflated accessories, and pilates balls to aid in various stances and positions. Pilates exercises for seniors include single leg pull, leg slides, and chest expansion.

7. Brain Teasers

Concentration can be a challenge for seniors, but it shouldn’t always be the case. You can still challenge your minds through cognitive games. Besides increasing productivity and enhancing memory functions, these puzzles are used for improving problem-solving skills. They provide seniors with the ability to deal with upsetting situations and focus on what they can learn from such events.

For instance, trivia and board games with friends and family members help the mind to stay active. They also provide ways to strengthen social relationships. Scrabble, chess, and checkers are classic examples of brain teasers. Trivia games based on your interests and hobbies can also turn your attention to past and happy memories.

If you want alone time while dealing with stress, you can answer Sudoku puzzles, word search games, and crossword puzzles to stimulate brain activity. You can also listen to relaxing music and drink your favorite beverage while solving puzzles. Moreover, playing cognitive games offers an affordable and instant way to relax.

8. Community Service

Aside from helping other people, volunteering also brings a positive impact on a person’s overall well-being. It allows people to see a different perspective regarding their situation. Community service also enables people to build meaningful connections with other individuals while giving a sense of purpose.

Some volunteer works include preparing food, distributing meals, and initiating fundraising activities. Since older adults possess more wisdom and knowledge, you can teach the youth about various topics. Seniors who are into arts and crafts can also make novelty items, sell their creative outputs, and donate to charities.

Moreover, this type of activity provides an avenue for meeting new people. Most seniors might think that they no longer have the ability to forge new relationships, but joining community service urges them to believe otherwise. A shared hobby can also strengthen existing bonds through improved social skills.

Take Charge of Your Mental Health

Stress is part of an individual’s daily life, including older adults. It can lead to myriad diseases and prevent you from enjoying retirement. Fortunately, there are various ways to reduce stress levels, such as performing breathing exercises, eating healthy food, practicing mindfulness, getting a massage, doing yoga and tai chi, executing low-impact activities, solving brain puzzles, and engaging in community service. Incorporate any of these tips into your everyday schedule to improve your mood and manage upsetting feelings.

Explore the LifeClinic blog to get more health and stress relief tips.

Dr. Reza Alizadeh

Dr. Reza is the visionary behind LifeClinic. His leadership is the foundation for the patient and team member experience, and overall direction of the LifeClinic. As the creator of IMJT, Dr. Reza continues to be the primary teacher on this technique.

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