Everyone experiences moments of stress. Whether it’s work, money, or relationships, our lives are full of factors that can cause stress. While it can be inconvenient or annoying, it can also be bad for your short and long-term health.
In addition to eating well, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco, managing stress is one of the main components of preventing chronic disease, including diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. By being proactive about stress management, you can reduce your risk of developing these conditions.
With retirement communities throughout San Antonio, Texas, and the surrounding areas, Franklin Park® Senior Living encourages a healthy and educated lifestyle. We’re sharing some of the connections between stress and your health, and how to avoid chronic illness using stress management techniques.
Stress and Chronic Illness
It may surprise you that short-term stress (also known as the stress response) is actually beneficial for your body; it puts your body in a state of fight-or-flight that can enhance your focus, increase your reaction time, and improve your stamina. However, once your body decerns that you’re not in danger, it goes back to its normal, pre-stressed state.
On the other hand, long-term (or chronic) stress can be harmful to your health and overall well-being. Researchers believe that chronic stress can impact nearly every single system in your body—eventually increasing your risk for chronic conditions.
Older adults are especially susceptible to the adverse effects of long-term stress. As we age, “we tend to have less resilience to stress, and older adults often find that stress affects them differently now,” says Dr. Michelle Dossett at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine (Harvard Health). Some consequences of chronic stress can include:
- Lower Immune System
- Anxiety and Depression
- High Blood Pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease
- Digestive Problems
- Headaches and Arthritis
Eventually, chronic stress can lead to more severe long-term health problems, which can, in turn, cause more stress—creating a dangerous cycle. Fortunately, these chronic health problems and others can be potentially avoided through a healthy lifestyle, including stress management.
Strategies for Stress Management
Unfortunately, stress is a common and inevitable part of life. Even for older adults who may no longer work full-time jobs or raise children, other life experiences can be huge stressors—including health concerns, feelings of loneliness or isolation, finances, and more.
By learning to recognize these stressors and your reaction to them, you can effectively manage stress to preserve your mental and physical health.
Pinpoint Your Stressors. Identifying what is causing your stress allows you to control your reaction more effectively. If possible, try and avoid this trigger; if not, try developing different ways of coping with the situation for the next time it happens.
Practice Thankfulness. Instead of focusing on all the things that cause you feelings of stress, try to concentrate on the things in your life that you are thankful for. Whether it’s good health, a loving family, or a purposeful hobby, try to remember them in a stressful situation.
Socialize with Others (Including Animals!) Sometimes, all you need to do is talk to someone to let out your stressful emotions. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a close friend or family member to share your feelings and stresses. In addition, playing with pets is known to be a great stress reliever!
Speak with Your Physician. Franklin Park® encourages you to talk with your healthcare provider about chronic stressors and health changes. Chronic stress could be having a physical impact that you may not be aware of, so it’s important to have regular check-ins with your doctor.
Chronic illnesses can be intimidating (and stressful) to think about. Still, it’s important to remember that by living a healthy and proactive lifestyle, you can reduce your risk for these conditions. Eating well, staying active, and managing stress are key ingredients in preventing chronic illnesses and living a happy and healthy life. We hope these stress management strategies will help you or someone you know!
Franklin Park® Senior Living promotes a healthy, active, and stress-free life at our resort-style retirement communities in San Antonio, Texas, and the surrounding areas. For more health tips, visit our Franklin Park® Senior Living blog today!