Understanding Anxiety: Coping Strategies For Seniors

More than 2 million Americans over the age of 65 reportedly suffer from some form of anxiety or depression. This age group may be particularly prone to these conditions as they are often triggered by major life changes such as the death of a loved one, disease, a bad fall or an accident. Global events that disproportionately affect seniors, such as the Coronavirus pandemic, are anxiety provoking as well. Sometimes anxiety is also linked to genetics or to underlying issues such as: heart disease, thyroid conditions, chronic pain, respiratory conditions such as COPD, the side effects of certain medications, alcohol abuse or addiction to opioids or other pharmaceuticals. Read on to learn how to identify anxiety and explore several coping strategies.

Identify and Acknowledge Anxiety
Anxiety is an intense feeling of tension or worry that can alter overall well-being and cause negative physical reactions such as increased blood pressure. Although some feelings of anxiety are considered healthy and normal in humans, frequent and persistent feelings of worry and fear could point to an anxiety disorder. Developing coping strategies is critical in order to fight the negative effects of anxiety which include fatigue, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, labored breathing, difficulty focusing, excessive perspiration and more.

If you suspect that you or someone you love may be suffering from anxiety, it’s important to identify the underlying cause(s) and work to develop appropriate strategies to handle the situation. Signs that someone may be experiencing anxiety are varied and include items such as: 

  • Expressing irrational fears. 
  • Suffering from panic attacks. 
  • Experiencing feelings of isolation or avoiding social situations. 
  • Exhibiting irritable or agitated behaviors, such as uncharacteristic aggression or anger. 
  • Being extremely restless. 
  • Having extreme fatigue.
  • Struggling with focus and concentration. 
  • Having memory issues. 
  • Being unable to fall asleep or remain asleep.
  • Experiencing excessive worry.

Try Different Coping Strategies 
There are many strategies that can be helpful in battling anxiety. For example, simply eating a healthy diet, getting daily exercise and having one good laugh every day can be extremely beneficial. In some cases though, additional approaches may be necessary. Since coping strategies are not “one size fits all”, it may be helpful to try a number of different techniques.

Do Calming Exercises 
There is a very real link between one’s mind and body. To combat anxious or worried feelings, try listening to soothing music or download a meditation app. Yoga or Tai Chi classes can provide multiple benefits including calming the mind, lowering blood pressure and increasing respiration. If these options sound too difficult or unappealing, find a quiet, comfortable place like the sofa or even your bed and try doing simple, calming breathing exercises, like this one.

Stick to a Routine
The consistency of a normal routine can be calming and comforting, and sometimes is enough to mitigate the effects of anxiety. Just the normalcy of the daily tasks of getting dressed, taking care of personal hygiene, participating in daily exercise, socializing and reading the paper, for example, can help reduce anxiety.

Get Good Sleep 
Sleep quality and duration can play a surprising role in exacerbating the symptoms of anxiety. To improve sleep hygiene, select very comfortable bedding and pillows, establish a soothing bedtime routine, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, avoid a heavy evening meal and tune out the digital world a few hours before bedtime. Melatonin is a natural supplement that may also be helpful, upon the consent of your physician, in improving sleep quality. 

Seek Social Support 
Anxiety can lead to feelings of isolation and depression, so if you’re experiencing anxiety, it’s important to reach out to others as soon as possible. Connecting with friends and acquaintances or just being around other people can be a very effective antidote to anxiety. If you are currently “sheltering in place” it’s understandable to feel a bit isolated. Visiting a friend by FaceTime or Skype, watching a streamed service from a house of worship or participating in an online yoga class can help foster feelings of connection. 

If you are suffering from anxiety, consult with your doctor to discuss coping strategies. At the Maples of Towson, we understand the importance of building new friendships while also maintaining connections to your family and community. Our community is filled with celebration and opportunities to lead to a fulfilling lifestyle. Contact The Maples of Towson to learn more or to schedule a virtual tour.