It’s natural to become anxious, especially when faced with life stressors such as the death of a loved one, financial insecurity, insomnia, limited physical mobility, and speaking in public. But when anxiety becomes persistent to the extent of making one’s life significantly difficult, it might be a sign of a mental disorder.
An Overview Of Anxiety In Older Adults
Anxiety is a mental health disorder that makes it difficult to get through the day. According to an article published by the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, around 10–20% of older adults have anxiety disorders. Common symptoms associated with anxiety include restlessness, worrying, problems concentrating, difficulty falling or staying asleep, unexplained pains, and muscle aches.
Like depression, anxiety has many adverse effects on the well-being of older adults. For instance, it can affect their physical health and hurt their ability to perform daily activities. It can also lead to hypertension and diabetes. All these can negatively impact their functioning and overall health.
Sometimes, anxiety might be a sign of an underlying health condition. It can also be a side effect of medications an older adult is taking. A mental health professional can help identify and address any underlying condition causing anxiety. However, you should find an experienced behavioral health services provider. You can click here to consult with a specialist and seek help for an older adult you know is struggling with anxiety.
Ways Older Adults Can Manage Anxiety
Aside from seeking professional help, there are other steps older people can take to manage anxiety. These include the following:
- Participating In Physical Activities
Most older adults have mobility issues and don’t get enough exercise. But physical activity is one of the most effective ways of managing anxiety.
But one may ask: how do physical activities help alleviate anxiety? Here are three ways:
- Physical activities divert their attention from the things they’re worrying about.
- Engaging in physical activities can decrease muscle tension contributing to stress and anxiety.
- Regular exercise triggers the body’s production of feel-good hormones called endorphins and other natural brain chemicals that can reduce stress and improve mood, thereby enhancing overall mental well-being.
There are various physical activities older adults can consider to ease anxiety. These include walking, jogging, tai chi, yoga, swimming, dancing, gardening, and low-impact workouts. Ensure that the type of activity is something your aging loved one enjoys doing and matches their fitness level.
- Eating The Right Diet
Another effective way for older adults to manage anxiety is by eating a well-balanced diet. For enhanced physical and mental well-being, it’s essential to maintain a diet high in vitamins, proteins, and carbohydrates, which can help ease anxiety.
In addition, it’s best to consider food items rich in magnesium, omega-3, L-theanine, and other minerals, as advised by a doctor or nutritional professional.
However, note that some food products can trigger anxiety. These include foods high in sugar, alcohol, caffeine, saturated fats, and processed products such as ready-made meals, chips, and frozen foods. Avoiding or limiting the intake of these food items can help produce a more relaxed state of mind. The more relaxed your older loved one is, the better they can manage anxiety.
- Engaging In Social Interaction
One of the causes of anxiety in older adults is loneliness. As noted earlier, many of them have limited mobility. They can no longer go to places independently like they used to.
Many older adults live alone, contributing to anxious thoughts and uneasiness. Social isolation can also take a toll on their physical health, leading to a weakened immune system and poor cardiovascular health in some cases.
There are many ways to help older people deal with loneliness and isolation. For instance, paying them regular visits can keep them from dwelling on negative thoughts. If you’re busy working during the day, you can come by your older loved one’s home in the evening after work. You can also consider visiting them during weekends. Even a one-hour visit can go a long way in easing anxiety in aging adults.
If you can’t visit them for one reason or another, you can video call them as often as possible. Regular communication can make them feel you value them, improving their mood and overall well-being.
Another way to help your older loved one cope with loneliness is to find opportunities for social interactions in local senior support groups. Another option is to consider a facility that can meet your senior loved one’s behavioral health needs, whether inpatient or outpatient. These programs offer specialized treatment for aging adults and provide opportunities for them to interact with others and get medication for various ailments, including anxiety.
- Getting Quality Sleep
Getting quality sleep will help an older adult manage stress and be calmer. It works by restoring the brain’s prefrontal mechanism that regulates one’s emotions and prevents the feeling of anxiety. For this reason, doctors recommend that aging adults sleep between seven and nine hours each night.
Here are some ways that can help older adults get enough sleep:
- Use a supportive pillow to help align the body with the bed and reduce discomfort while sleeping.
- Engage in moderate exercise to help improve sleep quality and quantity.
- Establish a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
- Create a bedtime routine that helps you relax, such as listening to calming music or taking a warm bath.
- Make the sleep environment comfortable, dark, and quiet.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine close to bedtime, as these can negatively affect sleep patterns.
- Practice relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing.
Getting adequate sleep can help older adults better manage stress and anxiety.
Anxiety can hurt the overall well-being of an older adult. It can lead to chronic depression, hypertension, diabetes, and other health problems. This is why they should find effective ways to cope with anxiety.
Participating in physical activities, eating the proper diet, engaging in social interaction, and getting quality sleep every night are recommended ways to manage anxiety in older adults.