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Managing Stress

Stress is the body’s way of dealing with less-than-ideal situations – think fight or flight responses. It is something we all experience, but as we get older, these circumstances seem to be harder to deal with.

“We tend to have less resilience to stress, and older adults often find that stress affects them differently now,” says Dr. Michelle Dossett, an internal and integrative medicine specialist at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine.

Things like losing a loved one, too much unstructured time on our hands, changing relationships with loved ones or a loss of physical abilities like vision, hearing, balance or mobility, all become more difficult to handle.1

Effects of Stress

While stress can be good in small doses, continued stress over longer periods of time can have major effects on our bodies and quality of life. It can cause the following:1

  • high blood pressure
  • weakened immune system
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • insomnia
  • heartburn
  • indigestion
  • increased risk for heart disease

Managing Stress

Stress is everywhere, especially as we get older. While we may not be able to avoid it, we can learn to deal with it. There are many practices to combat the response stress has on our bodies including yoga, tai chi, meditation, guided imagery and deep breathing. 1

Try the following techniques to help you manage your stress:

  • Mindfulness. Quiet your mind and focus on the present. Relieve stress with this breathing practice.
  • Exercise. Physical activity can help increase lung capacity, bone density and overall longevity, but it can also improve brain health, which is where stress originates.3
  • Body manipulation. Activities like yoga and tai chi can help relieve stress as you focus on your body’s movement.
  • Sense of community. Good, meaningful relationships and feeling a sense of community are critical to our mental and physical health throughout our lives.
  • Eat nutritional food and avoid sugar. It is vital that we eat foods full of vitamins and minerals to help our bodies and brains function properly. Try these feel-good eating habits to beat your stress.

You can also try cognitive behavioral therapy, a practice where you replace negative thinking with positive thoughts.1

Get active with SilverSneakers

Exercise can be a key to helping manage stress. SilverSneakers®, a lifestyle and fitness benefit designed specifically for seniors, can help you get active to better handle your stress. Check with your health care provider to see if it is included in your health plan at no additional cost. SilverSneakers is more than a fitness program – it’s a way of life.

If you enjoyed this article, visit SilverSneakers

Go to to see if you are eligible today. And check out articles about stress relief on the SilverSneakers blog.

About SilverSneakers

SilverSneakers, by Tivity Health, is the nation’s leading community fitness program for Medicare eligible Americans. The program was founded in 1992 and is available to more than 16 million Americans through many Medicare Advantage plans, Medicare Supplement carriers, and group retiree plans. For more information, to check eligibility or to enroll in the program or sign up for a SilverSneakers newsletter, go to

Always talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

  1. How stress affects seniors, and how to manage it
  2. Stress relief tips for older adults
  3. Hunt, S. J., & Navalta, J. W. (2012). Nitric Oxide and the Biological Cascades Underlying Increased Neurogenesis, Enhanced Learning Ability, and Academic Ability as an Effect of Increased Bouts of Physical Activity. International journal of exercise science, 5(3), 245–275.

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