According to The American Institute of Stress, chronic stress is widely believed to accelerate biologic aging and support comes from studies confirming its adverse effects on immune system function. So, since too much stress actually hastens the aging process, one must consider the methods to reduce stress in seniors, so as to subsequently minimize the negative effects of aging, as well. Let's review a few of the ways to reduce stress to help improve memory.
Effect of Stress on Memory
When you feel stress your body produces cortisol, a stress hormone. While it is a useful biological reaction, cortisol can damage cells in the brain, and those cells then need to be repaired once the stress has passed.
While small amounts of stress can affect the memory on a short-term basis, a lifetime of stress can play a role in certain memory related disorders, such as Alzheimer’s. And as you get older, the healing process for brain cells takes longer. Thus, the more stress seniors experience, the more damage that could be caused.
How to Avoid Stress
There are many techniques for seniors to implement to avoid stress. Here are just a few suggestions.
Find a Place to Belong
As humans, we need to be able to communicate with others. The experience of our joys and sorrows, the things that make us angry and frustrated, and even the simple day-to-day occurrences that we go through are better when shared. It may be hard for some, particularly seniors who have lost friends to illness or death, to find other people with whom they have things in common, and that can be a cause of stress in and of itself.
Encouraging relationships among the elderly as a way to "get things off the chest," and venting feelings is a wonderful way to alleviate stress. It is well understood that keeping things bottled up leads to unhealthy tension and strain.
Exercise, both mental and physical, is another way to allay stress in the elderly. Physical exercise releases endorphins that act as natural painkillers and help with the ability to sleep, thereby relieving stress.
Keeping the brain sharp with mental exercises like crossword puzzles, word searches, or even the aforementioned discussion with friends and family can keep the mind alert and strengthen neural pathways, bringing self-confidence, well-being, and satisfaction to a senior's mind.
A healthy diet can do wonders in the area of reducing stress. Muscles, bones, organs, and other body parts (including the brain), often lose their strength and effectiveness as age progresses. Eating a proper diet can help to make the body work more effectively and hold up better for the long haul.
For the brain to do its job properly, certain nutrients are essential. Consuming brightly colored fruits, leafy vegetables, fish and nuts can help with mental alertness as one ages, and nutritious meals lead to more energy and even looking better, resulting in a self-esteem boost.
Try implementing a system of organization for your loved one. So many of the stressors of elderly life can come from the many changes and differences in their life. Consider creating a chart for medication dosages and times with a space for checking off. This would allow your loved one to feel both independent and reassured because of a higher level of organization.
Try helping your senior loved one spend time each day relaxing. Allowing time to meditate can provide a huge benefit to seniors who feel particularly stressed. Actively meditating or keeping a gratitude journal can help with relaxation and stress relief, while a daily schedule that looks forward to meditation or journal time can help provide stability further reducing stress levels.
Believe it or not, brain games can reduce stress in the elderly. Interactive games can help seniors develop their creativity and exercise their brain muscles. These games can often be fun, allowing seniors to get a break from their stressors.
Stress is, unfortunately, inevitable at any stage in life, and our elderly population is no exception. With some strategies for healthy living such as the ones mentioned above, however, we can look forward to giving the seniors in our lives the happy and stress-free life that they deserve.
To learn other ways to help you our a loved one improve their memory, take a look at these top 5 memory games for seniors.