When we think about stress images such as loss of a loved one, moving, beginning a new job, and even the financial burdens can come to mind. Although stress is a normal part of life and something we will all have to deal with in some capacity, it is important to take steps to manage it especially as we get older. According to the American Medical Association, up to 80% of diseases can be traced back to the effects stress has on the body. This April is Stress Awareness Month, and eternalHealth wants to provide you with information so you can start to reduce stress in any way you can.
What is Stress?
One of the most important ways to manage stress is to recognize what stress is. Stress is the body’s psychological and physical response to anything we perceive as overwhelming. It is a natural human response that challenges us to address things or moments in our life that may be causing some anguish. There are four different types of stress to be aware of which include:
- Physical Stress- One of the most common types of stress, physical stress presents itself in the form of headaches, increased heart rate, muscle tension, and even nausea.
- Mental Stress- Mental stress is also common, with symptoms such as anxiety, inability to concentrate, and sometimes forgetfulness.
- Behavioral Stress- Behavioral stress is commonly indicated by changes in our normal habits, such as lack of sleep, eating more or less than usual, and avoiding typical responsibilities.
- Emotional Stress- Typically referred to as a “fight or flight” response, emotional stress can present itself as moodiness or increased agitation.
Now that you know the definition of stress and how it can present itself, let’s look at some information on how stress affects us differently as we age.
Stress As We Age
Stress affects everyone of all ages, but it’s important to realize that as we get older, stress can affect us differently. Stress can manifest in a more physical manner, as opposed to emotionally or behaviorally. These physical effects of stress can include things like muscle tension, chest pain, insomnia, fatigue, sleep problems, nausea, bloating, upset stomach, and more. Coupled with those who have chronic illnesses, these common symptoms of stress may not be as obvious, and can potentially lead to even more severe health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. In addition, those who are frequently living under a constant state of stress have an increased risk of developing a cold or the flu, and it can also lead to some vaccines not working as well as they could.
While we can all think of a number of things that can cause us stress, there are some situations that seem to affect us more as we get older. Some of these include things like isolation, living on a fixed income, concern of affording important medications, dealing with pain or other chronic health issues, and coping with different types of losses, like those of loved ones, financial stability, and even freedom. These challenges can lead an aging population to find ways to cope and find ways to relieve this stress
Coping with Stress
Recognizing one’s stressors is the first step in coping with and avoiding stress as much as possible. It is important to recognize the situations in which we find ourselves getting stressed, because it really varies from person to person. Something that stresses out one person may not stress out another, so it is good practice to start recognizing and recording these events and work to avoid them when possible. Some of these things, however, are unavoidable so there are a few ways you can work to relieve these feelings and work towards a stress-free life.
- Exercise– Physical activity is an excellent way to reduce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, and even releases endorphins which are considered stress-relieving brain chemicals shown to improve mood. Try implementing some exercises into your daily routine such as walking, yoga, swimming, or stretching to reduce stress and become an overall healthier person. Not sure where to begin? With an eternalHealth Medicare Advantage plan, our fitness benefit gives you access to national and local gyms, at home fitness kits, over 28,000 on demand and live workout videos, and more!
- Strengthen your support system– Emotional support is a crucial factor in dealing with life’s uncertainties, and as we age it’s possible that our support system can get increasingly smaller. A 2022 study found that social support allows for resilience in stressful situations. It is crucial to identify those to turn to during stressful situations. Friends, family, neighbors, and social groups can be great people to turn to in times of need, but sometimes those groups are unavailable. With an eternalHealth Medicare Advantage plan, receive up to 60 hours of in-home support through our partnership with Papa Pals. You can use your pal for anything from technological support and grocery shopping to general companionship and just having someone to talk to. Don’t let this benefit go to waste!
- Eat Nutritious Foods- Having a well-balanced diet full of nutritious foods is a great tool to start to combat stress. When our diets lack proper nutrition, stress can put an even greater toll on our health. Eating healthy foods can repair cells and increase our immune systems which can be depleted by stress and can also give us the energy to deal with stress. Additionally, foods full of vitamins like Omega-3s and other polyunsaturated fats such as vegetables and salmon can reduce cortisol levels. Don’t forget about the healthy grocery benefit* with an eternalHealth Medicare Advantage plan, where you can receive a quarterly allowance to use towards healthy groceries!
- See Your Doctor- As much as the previous few tips can be great ways to increase your overall health and reduce stress, there may be times where that’s just not enough. Seeing a doctor if stress symptoms start to interfere with your daily life can offer a number of different solutions. Often, these include therapy to develop strong coping skills, medicine to help ease feelings of worry, and even teach meditation skills to help you become more mindful and present. eternalHealth is here for you when it comes to doctors’ appointments, with low copays and useful benefits such as our transportation benefit. We can get you to and from doctors’ appointments and pharmacies quickly and safely, so you never have to miss another appointment.
Stress will always be a part of our lives, and as we age, there are more and more things to consider about how stress will be affecting our overall wellbeing. Having the knowledge of what stress is, what our particular stressors can be, and how to manage them is a great first step in reducing the effects that stress has on us. Let eternalHealth help you take your first steps towards a stress-free life with our robust Medicare Advantage Plans, built specifically with you in mind. Give us a call today at 1 (800) 831-9218 (TTY 711) or visit us at eternalHealth.com to learn more about our Medicare Advantage plans today!
To learn more about Medicare Advantage plans, visit eternalHealth.com or call 1 (800) 831-9218 (TTY 711).
*The benefits mentioned are a part of a special supplemental program for the chronically ill. Not all members qualify.