3 Strategies for Dealing With Anxiety in Seniors
Anxiety disorders can affect up to 14% of people over the age of 65. Symptoms of anxiety can cause a decline in mental and physical health and can decrease your enjoyment of life.
Are you dealing with anxiety in seniors? Learn more about the three key lifestyle changes that can help you handle anxiety.
Anxiety in Seniors
Anxiety: a feeling of fear, nervousness and worry about something that might happen. The churning feeling in the pit of your stomach. The repetitive seeing in your mind of the worst case scenarios and thoughts of “what if.”
Anxiety can cause you, your parent or your senior loved one to worry excessively. To be constantly checking in and to go into a state of panic over minor incidents. You might feel afraid of being alone or going out. Watching the news can cause you sleepless nights.
The National Institutes of Health state that it is important to recognize the difference between common anxiety and an actual anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can affect 3-14% of people older than 65 years. Anxiety can still impact daily life even if your loved one does not have an anxiety disorder. More than 27% of older adults reported having symptoms of anxiety.
Untreated anxiety can lead to a decline in mental and physical health, as well as a loss of enjoyment in life. Anxiety disorders need to be diagnosed by a professional health practitioner.
The good news is that anxiety in seniors is common and also treatable.
How to Find Professional Help for Anxiety in Seniors
The first step is to identify anxiety in yourself, a parent or senior loved one. Simply, anxiety is the excessive concern or worry about things that may happen. Anxiety can interfere with daily functioning.
Health conditions such as cancer, dementia, diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson’s disease can cause symptoms of anxiety. It is good to have a thorough physical examination to rule out any physical conditions.
Anxiety will typically respond to a mix of diet, exercise, medical treatment and therapy. Here are three lifestyle changes you, a parent or senior loved one can make to help reduce the severity of anxiety:
Most cases of anxiety will respond well to a combination of counseling, lifestyle changes and possibly medication. Meeting with a trained professional such as a counselor, social worker or therapist has been shown to be most effective in treating anxiety.
The ADAA has suggestions on how to find a mental health care professional. Talk therapy is a great way to learn ways to stop the worry from circling around and around in your brain.
Many people have also found success in using alternative or complementary treatments. These can include:
- Nutritional counseling
- Relaxation techniques
- Traditional Chinese medicine
Things to Eat to Reduce Anxiety in Seniors
Your brain and stomach are connected. What you eat will directly affect your emotions and how you handle stress. The Harvard Health Blog recommends that you focus on:
- A balanced diet
- Limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine
- Staying hydrated
Drastic swings in blood sugar levels can also cause anxiety to worsen. Remember to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and to skip the simple carbohydrates or sugar in processed foods. A handful of almonds mid-morning can prevent feeling anxious by lunch.
These foods have been shown to reduce anxiety:
- Egg yolks
- Foods rich in probiotics
- Leafy greens like spinach
- Whole grains
By improving your loved one’s diet, you can help improve their mental health.
Using Exercise to Reduce Anxiety
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that regular physical activity can counter anxiety. Just five minutes of aerobic exercise will:
- Improve mood
- Provide a more positive outlook on life
- Relieve tension
- Result in better sleep
Research has shown that being physically active results in lower levels of anxiety and depression.
Organize an outing to a local park or nature reserve on the weekend, put on some music and show off your best dance moves or take a 10-minute walk around the block.
Getting out and moving decreases the likelihood of anxiety by 25%. You can maximize the benefit of exercise by participating in activities with other people and in nature.
Living in an endless cycle of panic and concern is not a normal part of aging. Even if anxiety has been a trademark for years, it is still possible to make changes.
Making changes to diet and exercise, seeing a doctor, talking to a counselor and considering alternative therapies could break through the clouds and let a little more sunshine into your, a parent or senior loved one’s life.
Have you noticed symptoms of anxiety in seniors? What has helped to decrease these anxious patterns? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.
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