I’ve always regretted there was no place on my resume for worrying. I had an advanced degree in worrying, and it never served me well. I wouldn’t say I’m a constant worrier but I do my share.
Now I hear it’s normal for older adults to worry more about things like health, money, family dynamics, etc. Oh, great! Something else to worry about. I admit I have a few friends (a very few friends, mind you), that live by the “if I can’t control it, I let it go” way of living. They sincerely manage their lives with this mantra, and I admire them. But these folks are few and far between. I can worry less short term or about one thing or another, but it’s nearly impossible for me to subscribe to the blanket of getting on with life and not worrying about anything.
Did you know that there was an actual term for those who worry constantly: GAD or generalized anxiety disorder. Those with GAD are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems, or possible disaster. Older folks who experience GAD have difficulty sleeping and concentrating and can startle easily. Further symptoms of GAD can include headaches, chest pains, nausea, lightheadedness, having to go to the bathroom frequently, and feeling out of breath.
Okay, most of us have experienced excessive worrying sometime during the last few years, and perhaps are even now grappling with too much anxiety on this Election Day. So, what do we do?
Mental health care professionals list several ways to reduce worrying. In addition to talk therapy, which is a great way to learn ways to stop the worry from circling around and around in your brain, they also recommend the following: Acupuncture, biofeedback, meditation, naturopath (a system of treatment of disease that avoids drugs and surgery and emphasizes the use of natural agents – as air, water, and herbs), and physical means like tissue manipulation and electrotherapy, nutritional counseling, relaxation techniques, traditional Chinese medicine, and yoga.
A Special Recommendation for Seniors
In a word, food. Your ability to deal with stress and worrying is directly affected by your diet. Therefore, a balanced diet, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine are recommended. Also, as in general good health terms, stay hydrated. So many elders experience enough pain and upset to easily land in the ER to find out their main affliction at that moment is that they’re dehydrated! Staying watered is easy and cheap. Get a water bottle that you can carry around and do it!!
If you have diabetes (like I do), be sure to stay on top of your blood sugar numbers. Significant swings in blood sugar levels can cause worrying to get worse. Specific foods that reduce worrying and anxiety include: apples, avocado, beans, some nuts (cashews and almonds), egg yolks, leafy greens like spinach, salmon, seeds, and whole grains. Sounds like a diet not only for lessening worrying but for good health, in general.
Finally, and I’m sure this won’t surprise you, exercise. Having a daily exercise routine helps to alleviate worrying so much. There are drugs that you can take for worry and anxiety, but the side effects can be detrimental. If we can combat too much worrying through our daily routines, that’s the best.