3 Tips for Managing Anxiety in the Elderly
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults each year. With all the stressors of modern life, many of us can feel anxious at some point, however, it can become a debilitating condition for some.
For older adults, anxiety disorders can also become prevalent yet often go unnoticed due to more attention being given to their physical rather than their mental health. As people age, they face unique challenges that may previously have not been an issue. Unfamiliar situations can create feelings of stress and anxiety in the elderly which can be triggered by feelings of isolation as they lose their independence, financial concerns, health conditions and many other reasons.
Medication for anxiety is an option that can help you or your loved one in reducing symptoms such as extreme fear, panic attacks and in calming the nervous system. In this article, we will explore some other methods for managing anxiety in the elderly.
It’s important to keep active in body and mind. There are many fun activities seniors can enjoy which will also keep them mentally stimulated. This could include reading, arts and crafts, puzzles or playing a musical instrument. Many of these activities can be done alone and can help combat feelings of loneliness that may be present.
The benefits of staying physically active as you age cannot be underestimated. Keeping your joints flexible and your muscles strong will help you to stay mobile and independent for longer, while some light cardio is essential for your heart health and in releasing chemicals that can ward off feelings of depression and anxiety.
There are many low-impact exercises for seniors that can help them stay physically active such as yoga, tai chi, swimming, aqua aerobics and simple stretching and strengthening exercises.
Meditation and Relaxation Techniques
Shallow breathing is known to contribute to anxiety so relaxation techniques that incorporate deep breathing can significantly reduce anxiety levels. Diaphragmatic or deep breathing helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which can lower the fight-or-flight response by telling the brain you are safe. Some deep breathing exercises which can help when you are feeling anxious include:
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Lion’s breath
- Belly breathing
- 4-7-8 breathing
- Mindful breathing
Meditation can be another powerful antidote for anxiety. By bringing awareness to your thoughts and feelings you can begin to observe rather than react to them. With practice, you can learn to develop a detached neutrality that fosters a sense of inner peace.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating a healthy, balanced diet gives your body the nutrients it needs to work optimally which can help with overall mental wellbeing. Nutritional psychiatry shows us that what we eat can impact how we feel emotionally.
Certain nutrients such as zinc and vitamin D are essential for the brain and selenium may be important for improving mood. Eating foods rich in selenium can be helpful to lower anxiety and is present in foods such as:
- Milk and yogurt
- Lean meat (pork, beef, turkey and chicken)
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
These three tips can assist you or someone you care about when it comes to coping with anxiety.