1. Ten Easy Ways to Reduce Stress

    November 25, 2013

    Ten Easy Ways to Reduce Stress

    by Beth Wallace

    After years of working hard and raising a family, retirement should be a time to kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. In reality, the ‘golden years’ aren’t always as easy or carefree like the brochures and glossy magazines seem to portray.

    Just because work and children may no longer be primary concerns, doesn’t mean our stress magically melts away. It’s true that stress is a part of everyday life; however, our ability to cope with it can weaken the older we get.

    Whatever the source — financial concerns, the transition into a retirement home, death of a spouse or illness —the effect of stress on the body and mind can be catastrophic.

    Here are 10 easy ways for seniors to reduce stress and live a happier/healthier life:

    1. Walk Away from Stress

    According to a recent study by Statistics Canada, seniors who are physically active in their leisure time are twice as likely to be in good health and have a low level of stress. If you’re looking to add some physical activity into your daily routine and have been give the green light from your doctor, walking is an excellent step — quite literally! Aside from being cheap and convenient, walking for 35-minutes or more a day can help you stay physically and mentally strong. Just remember to stay safe by dressing weather-appropriate, wear bright colors and reflectors if walking in the evening. During the winter months, make sure you wear proper footwear to avoid any slips or falls — one little slip on black ice can have long-term consequences.

    2. Say ‘Om’

    You don’t have to be able to bend it like Beckham to excel at yoga, nor do you have to twist yourself into a pretzel. While some mistakenly believe that yoga is more of a youthful activity, the young at heart can benefit greatly. Deep breathing (a key component of yoga) is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress  — increased heart rate, fast breathing and high blood pressure all decrease as you deeply inhale and exhale.

    3. Go for a Dip

    Swimming is an ideal solution for arthritis sufferers or anyone who wants to keep fit and avoid injury, according to Canadian Safe Step Walk-In Tub Co.’s blog post “10 Ways to Relieve Arthritis Pain Naturally”.  As soon as you take that plunge into the pool, you’ll feel your stress float away while you concentrate on your laps.

    4. Bottoms Up

    In recent years, there have been many reports that have claimed a glass of red wine an evening is ideal for combating stress and lowering blood pressure.  Before you reach for that bottle opener, make sure your medications can be mixed with alcohol —to be safe, always check with your doctor. Once you get that ‘thumbs up’ it’s time for happy hour. Just don’t overdo it!

    5. Four-Legged Friends

    It’s a proven fact that pets can help lower one’s stress level —that’s why there are countless pet visitation programs that exist throughout North America. Those who are physically able to care for a pet, but have shied away from the idea in the past, may want to give it a second thought.

    For seniors or anyone for that matter,  a handful of benefits that come with having a pet are: less depression, sense of security, lower blood pressure and pulse rate, unconditional love and support — all factors that can ultimately lower your stress levels.

    6. On a Happy Note

    A new health and wellness craze that has seniors singing a happy tune in most retirement residences and care facilities is music therapy. While it’s no big surprise that music can help improve one’s mood, this form of therapy has been proven to also improve awareness, concentration, improve memory, reduce tension and promote relaxation. If there isn’t a music therapy programs in your community, you can still benefit from the calming effects of music by simply playing music at home.

    7. Massage Stress Away

    There are plenty of reasons seniors should consider booking a massage with a registered geriatric massage therapist. While it’s not exactly breaking news that a massage can help ease tension in your back, neck and shoulders did you know it can also reduce anxiety and depression? It’s true! Studies show that seniors who go for regular massages have an improvement in their personal well-being and overall health. Sounds like a great excuse to head to the spa!

    8. Reconnect with Nature

    The beauty of nature has always been compelling — it inspires us. Whether it’s your own backyard or a leisurely stroll at the beach or a park, the calming effects of Mother Nature can help promote relaxation. There’s also the added benefit of cardiovascular exercise, which also reduces stress (see #1).

    9. Get Crafty

    Have you ever considered taking up a craft? You certainly don’t have to be the next Martha Stewart to create a hand-made project. Whether it’s woodwork, sculpture, knitting, cross-stitch, etc., an artistic project can be your prescription for good health and lower stress levels.

    According to the American Journal Medical Association, a study of 30 female heart patients showed a significant decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and perspiration rate upon completing a craft project.

    10. Laugh out Loud

    There’s no denying that a good hearty laugh can make you feel great and forget your worries—that’s why the phrase ‘laughter is the best medicine’ has been used for centuries. In recent years, laughter has inspired a whole new form of therapy called Laughter Yoga — a revolutionary activity that combines yogic deep breathing with laughter exercises. For seniors, this is a safe and effective way to release energy, and reduce negative thoughts, which can in turn reduce the risk factors of cardiac diseases due to stress.

    While it’s impossible to reduce all stress from our life, especially as we age, there are countless ways seniors can counteract the negative, harmful effects. With these 10 stress busters, you’ll be feeling relaxed in no time. Ready, set, relax!

    Image Credit: Ryan Forsythe @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/16135068@N00/304753195

  2. The First Step to Coping with Stress

    July 27, 2013

    coping with stress

    by Andy LaPointe

    The first step to coping with stress is to better manage your sleep cycle. According to a survey conducted for Targeted Medical Pharma, 83% of Americans do not get enough sleep. This means only 17% of the entire U.S. population feels rested and ready to conquer the day when they awake. The results of this survey was revealed at the Sleep 2013 conference in June.

    So how does getting a poor night’s sleep affect an individual’s ability to cope with the stress of daily life? When dealing with a stressful situation, either real or perceived, your body immediately goes into the primal “fight or flight” mode. Stress does cause physical changes in your body including shallow breath, heightened sense of awareness and the release of adrenaline. All of these changes are preparing your body to immediately run from danger or face the threat head on. Unlike days gone past, when stress was usually caused by being confronted by a predator or other physically harmful situation, today the majority of stress is caused more by non-physical confrontations liking missing a deadline at work or arguing with the kids.

    However, since physically fighting or running away with co-workers or your kids wouldn’t be appropriate in today’s modern world, your body still reacts the same way. Thus, if your body’s stress is triggered several times per day and you don’t resolve it, you may end up with chronic stress. Chronic stress is where your body is continually in a “stress-out” state. This makes dealing with simple everyday situations (traffic jams, being late for an appointment, car repair issues, etc.) difficult to deal with and more complex issues, (relationship conflicts, work-related issues, etc.) nearly impossible.

    As time passes and stress continues to build, the individual may soon find it difficult to relax. Since relaxation is vital to enjoying a restful night’s sleep, falling asleep and staying asleep becomes more difficult. “Losing sleep” over a real or perceived situation not only makes it difficult to fall back to sleep but an individual may also find themselves waking up several times during the night.

    Strategies to Getting a More Restful Night’s Sleep 

    Several simple strategies are available to get a more restful night’s sleep naturally. The first strategy is to create pre-sleep meditation or night-time rituals. For example, avoid watching television and using electronics (computers, iPad, iPhone, etc.) at least an hour before bed. Electronic devices stimulates brain activity and prevents your mind from slowing down and relaxing, which is vital to falling and remaining asleep. The second strategy would be read a non-business related book to slow the mind prior to going to bed. In addition, avoid alcohol within a few hours of going to sleep.

    According the published research in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research drinking alcohol prior to going to sleep increases your chance of waking up during the night. In addition, it has been long known alcohol also reduces REM sleep, thus lowering the overall quality of sleep.

    Finally, drink a glass of tart cherry juice before bed. Tart cherries are Mother Nature’s top source of naturally occurring melatonin. One ounce of tart cherry juice concentrate mixed with seven ounces of water delivers over 130ng (nanograms) of melatonin. According to Dr. Russell Reiter from the

    University of Texas, to date no other fruit or vegetable has been discovered that provide more melatonin than tart cherries.  Dr. Russell Reiter is often referred to as the “Dean of Melatonin” by his peers.

    In addition to Dr. Reiter’s work on tart cherries, in 2010 Dr. Wilfred Pigeon a researcher at the University of Rochester conducted sleep research with tart cherry juice, too. The results of the research showed the participants who drank the cherry juice, slept an average of 17 minutes more. According to Dr. Pigeon, ‘Given the side-effects of some medications, it is encouraging to have a natural alternative.’

    So the next time stress and anxiety are preventing you from getting a better night’s sleep, create a nightly ritual, avoid drinking alcohol and enjoy a glass of tart cherry juice each night before turning in.

    Image Credit: Jöshua Barnett