Stress: The Most Dreaded Word

by HelpAge India July 24, 2020 1 comments Uncategorized
Stress- The most dreaded word

In the times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive

-Lee Lacocca-

In today’s fast-paced world, chronic stress is very common, but your mind and body can pay a very high price for the same. Learn to recognize overwhelming stress—and see what you can do about it.

However, when we talk about senior citizens who are rather not in a fast paced world how do we estimate that they are not affected by stress or rather our question why should they be stressed at all? Can any stress affect them in anyway? The answer to that is ‘YES.’

Let us understand what is stress?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of external demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it is real or imagined—the body’s defences kick into a high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the “stress response.”

The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and even alert. Stress can also help you rise to meet various challenges. It is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you are attempting the game-winning free throw, or even drives you to study hard for an exam when you would rather be watching television. Beyond a certain point though, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships, and of course your quality of life.For instance, when you are waiting for your child to call you up and he/she has not done so for over a week. When you start feeling nobody really cares for you anymore or you are not getting the kind of attention you deserve. When you start to underestimate yourself, you feel you have lived long enough and don’t have anything else to prove to anyone in terms of duty or deliverables.

If you frequently find yourself feeling exhausted and even overwhelmed as a senior citizen, it is time to take action to bring your nervous system back into balance. You can protect yourself—and improve how you think and feel—by learning how to recognize the signs and symptoms of chronic stress and taking steps to reduce its harmful effects.

Signs and symptoms of stress overload which are faced by senior citizens
The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get so used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal at times. You do not even notice how much it is affecting you, even as it takes a very heavy toll. That is why it is important to be aware of the common warning signs and symptoms of a stress overload.

Cognitive symptoms: 
• Memory problems
• Inability to concentrate
• Poor judgment
• Seeing only the negative
• Anxious or racing thoughts
• Constant worrying

Emotional symptoms:
• Depression or general unhappiness
• Anxiety and agitation
• Moodiness, irritability, or anger
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Loneliness and isolation
• Other mental or emotional health problems

Physical symptoms:
• Aches and pains
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Nausea, dizziness
• Chest pain, rapid heart rate
• Loss of sex drive
• Frequent colds or flu

Behavioural symptoms:
• Eating more or less
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Withdrawing from others
• Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
• Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
• Nervous habits (e.g. Nail biting, pacing)

The various Health problems caused and aggravated by stress in senior citizens include:
• Depression and anxiety
• Pain of any kind
• Sleep problems
• Autoimmune diseases
• Digestive problems
• Skin conditions, such as eczema, urticaria
• Heart disease
• Weight problems
• Reproductive issues
• Thinking and memory problems

What are the Causes of stress in Senior Citizens?

The situations and pressures that cause stress are commonly known as stressors. We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or even a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on you can tend to be stressful. This includes positive events such as getting married, buying a house, going to college, or even receiving a promotion.

Of course, not all stress is caused by external factors.
Stress can also be very internal or self-generated, when you worry excessively about something that may or may not happen, or have irrational, illogical and pessimistic thoughts about life most of the time.These internal factors are what affect the senior citizens the most. The point is to recognize them and work around them without any dismay or shame in order to eliminate them if not eradicate them fully.

Common external causes of stress for senior citizens include:
• Major life changes
• Relationship difficulties
• Financial problems
• Children and family

Common internal causes of stress for senior citizens include:
• Pessimism
• Inability to accept uncertainty
• Rigid thinking, lack of flexibility
• Negative self-talk
• Unrealistic expectations / perfectionism
• All-or-nothing attitude

Factors that influence your stress tolerance level include the following (These are absolutely applicable to senior citizens as well):

Improvise on your support network. A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against stress. On the flip side, the lonelier and more isolated you are, the greater your risk of succumbing to stress.

Work towards a sense of control If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, it is easier to take stress in stride. On the other hand, if you believe that you have little control over your life—that you are at the mercy of your environment and circumstances—stress is more likely to knock you off course.

Determine your attitude and even outlook. The way you look at life and its inevitable challenges makes a huge difference in your ability to handle stress. If you are generally hopeful and optimistic, you will be less vulnerable. Stress-hardy people tend to embrace challenges, have a stronger sense of humour, believe in a higher purpose, and tend to accept change as an inevitable part of life.

Have an ardent ability to deal with your emotions. If you don’t know how to calm and soothe yourself when you are feeling sad, angry, or troubled, you are more likely to become stressed and agitated. Having the ability to identify and deal appropriately with your emotions can increase your tolerance towards stress and help you bounce back from adversity.

Work tremendously on your knowledge and preparation The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope with. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less stressful than if you were expecting to bounce back immediately from the same.

Improve your ability to handle stress as a senior citizen by:
• Get moving/ Get some Exercise
• Connect with others/ Positive Influencers
• Engage your senses completely
• Learn to relax
• Follow a healthy diet
• Get your doze of rest

Do your best and let the rest go! 

Trishna Patnaik a BSc (Life Sciences) and MBA (Marketing). A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, and has been practicing art for over 14 years. she is an art therapist and healer.

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