4 Ways to Overcome Anxiety as You Age

By on October 8, 2015

Our post-retirement years are supposed to be fun and carefree. After all, the idea is that we trade the stress and anxiety from our 9 – 5s for time spent doing things we love. However, aging can come with a significant amount of worry. There’s declining health (your own or your spouse’s), the loss of workplace social interactions, and the potential for money worries, especially if you didn’t save enough prior to retiring.

Left unattended these worries can morph into anxiety, which can significantly affect one’s everyday life. As the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports, it is no longer believed that anxiety disorders decrease with age. They simply go unreported because seniors are more concerned about physical ailments. But, notes the ADAA, anxiety disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), are definitely prevalent in older adults.

Like any physical disease or ailment, mental health issues need to be addressed in order for seniors to live happy, healthy lives. If anxiety is causing your golden years to lose their luster, here are a few tips for overcoming it.

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Make the most of doctor visits

When my father-in-law recently passed away, naturally, my mother-in-law was very sad. She really retreated into herself. She stopped attending the church events they went to together. She wouldn’t return calls to friends or family. And when we visited she didn’t participate in the conversation, just sat quietly watching TV. We were worried that her grief might be turning into depression. So, when I was taking her to a doctor’s appointment, I encouraged her to talk to her doctor about how she had been feeling. “Oh, Patty,” she assured me, “he doesn’t care about things like that. He just wants to check my blood pressure and move on to the next patient.”

Of course, doctor visits are the perfect time for seniors to address their mental health concerns (along with their physical health concerns). The National Institutes of Health provides guidance on how to prepare for doctor visits so that your doctor can provide the all-around care you need and deserve. The NIH stresses that you shouldn’t skip over addressing life changes that may be causing you pain and anguish. Your doctor wants to know what’s bothering you whether your arthritis is acting up or whether you’re feeling down. If you’ve found a treatment that you think you might want to try, such as Finest Labs terpene products, talk to your doctor about them and see if they think this would be a good fit for you before going ahead and ordering anything. 

Eliminate fall worries

“Fear of falling” affects a significant number of seniors, often whether they’ve fallen or not. As Philips Lifeline reports, it’s a dangerous form of anxiety because it can cause an older person to decrease physical activity and withdraw from social interactions, which can lead to “isolation, depression, and anxiety.”

If you’re concerned about falling, one step you can take is making your home safer and easier to get around. As this guide on senior-friendly remodeling notes, one way to address your fear of falling is to transition to single-level living so that you don’t have to repeatedly go up and downstairs. Could you modify your downstairs living area so that it had a full bath, bedroom, kitchen, etc.? If not, the article suggests, you make sure all railings and other handholds are nice and sturdy so that if you do stumble on the stairs the rails will be there to protect you from falling.

Avoid self-medicating

EverydayHealth.com notes that when you’re feeling anxious you may feel compelled to use alcohol or other substances to help reduce that anxiety. It stresses that doing so is a bad idea as it can cause you to become more withdrawn and could even lead to depression. If you feel yourself being consumed by your anxiety, don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you let a loved one in on how you’re feeling, they can assist you in figuring out what steps to take to get treatment for your anxiety.

Consider getting an assistance dog

Today, service dogs are being used to help people manage a wide variety of medical issues—from vision impairments to Alzheimer’s to autism. And yes, even anxiety and depression. If anxiety has you in its grips, as this article on service dogs and anxiety and depression explains, the animals can be trained to provide comfort during a panic attack, block people from approaching you unexpectedly, and on a more basic level, always offer unconditional love.

It’s hard to explain to people who don’t have problems with anxiety just how disruptive and difficult it can be to work through. But the reality is it can be just as harmful to one’s way of life as any physical disability. If you’re experiencing anxiety, let a medical professional, caregiver, or loved one know so that you can get the help you need and make the most of your retirement years.

Patricia Sarmiento channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. A long-time swimmer and runner, she played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their Shih Tzu in Maryland.

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4 Ways to Overcome Anxiety as You Age