May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and ending the stigma of mental health issues may well need to begin with older adults.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it has long been thought that the incidence of anxiety declined with age. However, the Association notes that healthcare data shows that seniors tend to emphasize physical issues while minimizing mental health worries, even when they are present.
Wondering if you may be dealing with senior anxiety but not sure what to look for, what to do or how to approach this with your doctor? Use this guide to learn more about senior anxiety and figure out your next steps.
Learn Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety is different from everyday forms of worry. With everyday worry, an issue occurs, your mind spends some time trying to work it out or wondering at the outcome and then life moves on. When you’re suffering from anxiety, after an issue occurs, your mind latches on to it and just can’t let it go.
Small problems become exaggerated. Easily solved problems suddenly have no solutions. Your normal sense of calm is shattered, and you’re left breathing hard, with shaking hands and a racing heart. You’re suddenly left a nervous wreck, and, sometimes, you may not even know what triggered your anxiety.
Does any or all of that sound like it’s describing you? If so, you may have anxiety. Don’t panic (any further, that is) — you can address anxiety on your own as well as with your healthcare professional.
Embrace Self-Help Techniques
Your first step with anxiety doesn’t have to include seeking medication or therapy. While those are sometimes necessary, you can also address minor anxiety on your own, often quite effectively.
Note: If anxiety is already interfering with your ability to perform normal activities of daily living, if you have thought of harming yourself or if you feel disconnected with life and unable to move on, you should seek professional help. Reach out to your assisted living staff for immediate help.
These self-help techniques are meant for mild anxiety that can be addressed outside of healthcare channels.
Try these ideas to get started.
- Begin with breathing exercises. This is more than simply taking deep breaths. A common exercise is to breathe in over a span of 5 seconds, hold your breath for 5 seconds and then slowly let out your breath over another 5 seconds. The extra oxygen helps to calm your fight-or-flight response, and concentrating on counting out each step can distract your mind.
- Move on to grounding techniques. Look around your room and identify 5 objects that are blue. Think about the people you know and name 5 women. Visualize your next meal and come up with 5 items that will be on the menu. Continue to come up with things you can name 5 of to further ground and calm yourself.
- Use music and meditation therapy. Find tracks of music that you find calming when you aren’t battling anxiety and listen to them the next time your anxiety kicks up. You might also find guided meditation or Scripture recordings helpful.
When and How to Seek Help
If your anxiety is already interfering with your everyday life or you don’t find any self-help techniques that are effective, it’s time to seek medical intervention. You can begin by speaking with staff members here at The Gardens or with your Kansas City-based doctor. Be brutally honest in describing your symptoms and their impact on your life. Work as a partner with your doctor to develop a regimen of practices, medications and therapies to reduce or eliminate your anxiety so you can get back to living your best life.
Posted on Fri, May 25, 2018
by Shawn Deane filed under