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Apr
26

Seniors and Stress – How Physical Therapy Can Help

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We all have stress in our life. As we age it seems our stresses become larger, but then we reach a point where society assumes that as a “retired” senior life must be pretty good. However, the stresses of a senior may be intensified in their minds because they often deal with health issues and have more “time on their hands” to dwell on their stresses. As a society we must not only recognize that seniors have stress but, we have to learn to empathize with them and try to understand what they are going through.

As a physical therapist I am often brought into a situation where a senior and their family are stressed about health issues. Even if the senior is in excellent health, there are certain aspects of their life that may bother them regularly; financial security as they age, whether or not they will be able to maintain a home as they age, or even whether or not they worry about aging in itself as a problem are just a few of the stresses seniors may face.

It is a proven fact that exercise can help when dealing with stress. As a physical therapist I obviously see the effects of something we PTs refer to as “active aging.” Active aging isn’t necessarily being one of those seniors you see in the paper that runs marathons or wins weightlifting contests at theactiveaging_angled age of 80. Active aging refers to being active and moving as you age and can include very moderate activity. Because GO PT is an in home physical therapy clinic we come to wherever you are and assess how a regular routine of movement can help you personally; assessing your abilities, stability, weaknesses and strengths before a personalized program is created specifically for you. This assessment will result in a one-on-one routine that can be referred to as an exercise routine; however I often dislike using that term “exercise” because those who have never exercised regularly throughout their life will often be put off by that word. Anyone who exercises should understand that “exercising” is any form of movement that helps strengthen your body and/or increases blood flow, generally by increasing your heart rate from that of a sitting, sedentary position. The term active aging just seems more appealing, especially to those who don’t regularly exercise.

The benefit of active aging with GO Physical Therapy & Wellness is that we will come to you for an initial assessment and create your one-on-one routine at home. As you begin to move you will notice that you start getting stronger, more stable, and even happier. By releasing endorphins created by your activity it can help to reduce stress in your life. Endorphins tell the brain it’s happy, euphoric. The time that is spent with the physical therapist takes your mind off of many “problems” you may have otherwise simply sat around, thinking about. As one of our physical therapists visits regularly you will begin to feel a sense of camaraderie and bonding. You will look forward to our visits, just as we look forward to seeing you. These things all lead to you being less stressed.

It’s a win/win situation when you choose to age actively. Your body begins to get stronger, your mind begins to get stronger, and you begin to feel better. While nothing will ever erase your stress completely, taking the time for yourself to simply move safely and with purpose will help reduce your stress. Reducing your stress will not only help you mentally but physically; as stress takes a big toll on your body. You will also quite often see a reduction in pain symptoms as the routine we create for you will address inefficiencies that you may not even realize you have (for example an aching back is not just a typical sign of aging but instead a sign of some weakness in your body that we can address).

Along with having your own personal expert physical trainer come to you on a regular basis here are few other options to help reduce the stress in your life at any age:

  • The Power of Oxygen – learn how to deep breathe. Focusing on your breathing not only supplies your mind and body with the oxygen it needs but takes your mind away from stressful thinking and puts it on concentrating on breathing deeply in and out.
  • The Power of the Mind – you can be in any place at any time and refocus your mind by closing your eyes and thinking of a special place you love. Perhaps you simply love to swim and think about being in a serene pool with the water enveloping your body as you float. Maybe you have a special place you love to visit and can picture that place in your mind as you close the world around you out.mind_body
  • Yoga & Tai Chi – it’s never too late to learn the power of relaxation behind the ancient art of Yoga or Tai Chi. Many senior centers and local specialty businesses offer courses specifically for seniors. The Arthritis Foundation offers special Yoga & Tai Chi classes on DVD for those who have arthritis; creating an atmosphere that is safe and easy for both those who suffer from arthritis and seniors.
  • The Power of Speech – make time to sit with a friend or family member just to talk. It doesn’t have to be a session of complaining; although sometimes talking about the things you are stressing about can be beneficial because you have another point of view to see the issues you’re dealing with. Talking things out and even taking the time to talk about events in the past that have given you pleasure can often help reduce your stress.
  • Bathe Away Stress – if you can safely soak in a warm bath, even for 10-15 minutes it can help you to just relax and relieve stress. Look up various natural ingredients to add to your bath water (lavender for example) that can add aroma. Aroma therapy is a known way to relieve stress and change your overall outlook on life.
  • Do What Makes You Happy – if you are a person who loves to bake and haven’t done so in a long time, perhaps it’s time to break out those mixing bowls. If you haven’t baked because it’s just you or you and your partner, or perhaps you don’t want to indulge in too many goodies you can freeze small portions to treat yourself or take them to a neighbor, a family member or your church. Maybe painting or drawing is something that you’ve put aside and never picked up again. You can always pull out the brushes or pencils and paper to create some art. Whatever it is that bring you happiness, making the time for yourself to take part in these actions can make a world of difference and take your mind off of your problems. If you haven’t done something you love because it’s too hard to do, ask a family member or friend to help you.

As we age our stresses change. Whatever your stresses are, remember that activity inspires a positive attitude, better sleeping, and overall happiness. Having a professional physical therapist by your side to guide you and ensure your safety is the best way to start being active. It’s time to reduce your stress and enjoy your golden years. Let us help. Go Physical Therapy & Wellness will come to your NY home and create a wellness program just for you.

 

Dedicated To Your Health & Well-being (and safety),

Mike

 

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