Three Unique Ways Seniors Can Conquer Anxiety


Crossing the threshold into life as a senior presents many changes and challenges that can lead to anxiety. According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, between 10 and 20 percent of seniors experience anxiety. Feeling anxious or nervous is common when facing major life changes and many seniors may seek treatment in the forms of medication or drugs.

If your anxiety is not debilitating but you’d just like to feel more like “yourself,” once again, even in the midst of major life changes, you may consider other remedies that will help you face your fears, alleviate your anxiety and empower yourself to face whatever may come next by finding inner strength and greater peace. Let’s explore three drug-free ways to overcome mild anxiety that often shows up with age.

Get a Pet
Not only do pets ease loneliness and help give older people a responsibility that may infuse new meaning in their lives – pets also have stress-reducing benefits. Studies show that having a pet can lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety.

Additionally, according to an article on WebMD. Lynette Hart, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, explains: “Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home.”

If you (or an aging parent) are considering an assisted living facility and are not able to care for a pet on your own, look for a senior community that has resident pets on the grounds, or has animal visits as part of the weekly activities program.

Participate in a Fire Walk
Popularized in the U.S. by life and business coach and bestselling author Tony Robbins, firewalks are an ancient ritual designed to help people tap into their inner strength and face their fears. The lessons learned and emotions experienced prior to, during and after a fire walk can be programmed into our psyche and called upon when we’re feeling anxious or fearful.

Most firewalks are preceded by intense personal development training, whether the training takes a few hours or a few weeks. This overall experience can help calm anxiety –and the effects can last well after the workshop, sometimes even for life.

Tony Simons, who runs an affordable three-hour personal empowerment workshop called LifeCourage Workshops, which culminates in a firewalk, emphasizes, “You need not be ‘new-age-y’ to understand and get value from the workshop. It is really fun to work with people who are very new to the introspection game, and to see the light go on.”

Simons reveals that his mom, age 81, recently participated in a firewalk, and that anyone over the age of 18, as long as they are generally fit and can walk without assistance, can take part. “Older people often become very frightened. The workshop helps with that,” Simons says. “It can also be a great way to embark on retirement and face that life change head on. Several people have come to my firewalks for that purpose.”

Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Another practice often stereotyped as “new age-y” or spiritual in nature, the research behind the benefits of mindful meditation is compelling, and anyone can use it. First, what is mindfulness meditation?

Mindfulness meditation, as defined by researchers in the Perspectives on Psychological Science study, is “the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment.” It involves regulating your attention, maintaining awareness of your body, and regulating your emotions. Techniques, which are often taught on meditation retreats or in private or group classes but can also be learned through self-study using audio recordings and videos, involves mindful breathing, observation of the present moment and the cultivation of positive mental states.

Recent studies show that mindfulness meditation not only makes those who practice it feel better, but it actually lowers their levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Additionally, a group of researchers from prestigious institutes that include Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Arizona, Boston University, the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies and Emory University discovered that meditation produces positive changes in the part of the brain responsible for memory and emotions – even when the person is not meditating.

Learning better control of emotions and having a stronger memory can definitely help reduce anxiety. As you learn the practice of mindfulness meditation, you can call on the techniques whenever you feel stress or anxiety rear its head.

A Note About Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Sometimes, seniors develop Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) characterized by constant, unfounded worry about health, money, family problems or even large-scale disaster.

Other systems of GAD include:

  • fatigue
  • chest pains
  • headaches
  • muscle tension and muscle aches
  • irritability
  • sweating and hot flashes
  • lightheadedness
  • breathlessness
  • irritability
  • Since these symptoms are also present in a number of other diseases or disorders, as well as during menopause, GAD is often misdiagnosed. If you believe you’re suffering from GAD, it’s important to seek the advice of a physician. While the powerful techniques outlined above may work, those suffering from this serious form of anxiety require medical care to determine the best course of treatment.SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (866) 342-4297 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.