Are you feeling anxious about getting older? Beyond the physical aches and pains of aging, stress and anxiety can be overwhelming. You can overcome those normal challenges by changing your mindset. Try these 7 techniques to shape a positive outlook on aging.
Z Colette Edwards, MD, MBA, known as “The Insight Doctor,” shares her insights on anxiety and aging with Supportiv. Edwards provides seven strategies to help you turn anxiety into action, adapted from her original article on PeopleTweaker.com.
7 ways to manage anxiety when you’re aging
We often hear about the fountain of youth, but it’s not just a saying. It exists.
“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” – Sophia Loren
Italian actress, Sophia Loren, is recognized by many as one of the country’s most beautiful women.
While many movie stars use plastic surgery, fillers, and other cosmetic procedures to hide their age, Loren often talks about aging gracefully by finding internal joy. For Loren, beauty is just a number. It doesn’t define you.
So, let’s tap into the “fountain of youth,” meaning not your age but your mind, talents, and creativity.
Below are 7 ways to improve your mindset and reduce feelings of anxiety and worry.
1. Recognize how you feel and acknowledge your feelings without judgment.
Anxiety as you age is likely driven by the uncertainty of life, especially during an ongoing pandemic. Remember, life has always been uncertain. It just wasn’t as top of mind as it may be now.
Think about the times in your life you overcame uncertainty. Whether it was an illness, major life change, or even COVID-19. There are defining moments throughout your life where uncertainty reigned supreme.
You managed and conquered those moments, and you will do the same as you age.
Try these coping strategies to manage your mindset around uncertainty.
Tap into why you’re feeling the way you do. Is it fear? Anger? Track your anger so you can identify the triggers.
Overwhelming fear and anger can impact your health. Manage these intense emotions so they don’t lead to more stress or even depression.
Being self-aware of how you feel can help you identify the reasons behind those emotions.
Recognizing them, without judgment, can help you regain a sense of control and lower anxiety.
2. Maintain a healthy diet.
Second, stress and anxiety naturally lend themselves to unhealthy habits and changes in behavior.
You may sleep less, drink more caffeine or alcohol, smoke or use other nicotine products to calm your emotions, eat, or take over-the-counter medications. These so-called coping strategies can be harmful to your health and won’t address the underlying reasons you’re feeling stressed or anxious.
They’ll mask the root causes.
Focus on healthy eating, balanced meals, and drinking lots of water. Food is medicine, and that does not change as you grow older. But, it’s not the only thing you need.
Ever heard of “Blue Zones”? They’re designated regions of the world where people live long and healthy lives with fewer physical limitations and greater happiness, often to age 100 or even older.
The people in these locales focus on healthy eating, social engagement, and a family-first mentality to lead them to the century mark. Tap into the secrets of the Blue Zone to age gracefully.
They also engage in regular physical activity. It doesn’t have to be high-impact aerobic exercise or heavy weight-lifting. Recent studies have demonstrated that some movement of your body is better than being a couch potato. It positively impacts your physical and mental well-being and helps to reduce the risk of premature death.
Try low-impact exercises like Tai Chi or Qigong, or yoga.
3. Find ways to manage your stress.
When you’re feeling stressed, how do you release those emotions?
Do you exercise, walk, read, or listen to music?
Find an outlet for your stress.
Ease the tension by being mindful of the present moment. Mindfulness doesn’t have to take a long time. The practice can have a noticeable impact on your life in as few as five minutes a day.
4. Find similarities with your younger years.
Believe it or not, you’ve been here before. When you were a teenager.
There are many similarities between many of the anxieties of the teenage years and the concerns of “receding youth.” At the age of 93, Rhoda P. Curtis, compiled a list of similarities between teenagers and seniors for the Huffington Post.
If you feel like you’re living in a foreign body, you probably felt this way as a teenager too. Remember the acne, growth spurts, and other teenage body changes?
The sudden life changes of aging and the teenage years probably may have you thinking about yesteryear when life was (theoretically) simpler.
The sense of feeling lost or not belonging may also ring true again, as is often the case for many during the teen years.
Finally, Curtis rounds out the list with “Nobody understands me!” Remember saying that in your teens?
Again, tap into past experiences to provide optimism and hope for the future.
5. Take a technology timeout.
Depending on when you grew up, this may be an easy one, as technology may not be a welcome friend anyway!
Take a technology timeout. Reduce the time you watch television or engage with social media.
Take a lesson from the Blue Zones, where interpersonal friendships and social time, not time spent on social media, matter most.
Engage in authentic conversations with friends and loved ones. It’ll be more rewarding than any so-called “social” aspect of media.
6. Reflect on your blessings.
Interpersonal communication with friends and loved ones also forces you to reflect on your blessings, because they’re front and center in the conversation.
Beyond your friendships and connections with acquaintances as well a more seasoned relationship with yourself, what are your other blessings?
Do you have more time to appreciate each moment, take care of yourself, travel, and engage in activities that bring you happiness?
Use a gratitude journal to reflect on your blessings. Gratitude can also lead to positive health outcomes.
Remember what Sophia Loren said – tap into your talents to find the fountain of youth. Recognize your talents and embrace them. Better yet, get a double dose by sharing them with others.
7. Make happiness a priority.
All these activities will push happiness to the forefront of your mind.
Also, take time to reflect on your blessings and how you feel. Choose happiness every day.
No matter your aches and pains or dreams which did not materialize, this is your life for now. Take steps to improve your health and well-being and say yes to the life you’ve been given.
Count each day as a blessing and appreciate the greater perspective gained from the wisdom and clarity of what’s really important to you that often accompanies with adding birthdays to the calendar.
You still have a lot of life to live!
Aging and anxiety
Tackling these coping strategies all at once may only add to your anxiety.
Take small steps by tackling one habit at a time.
Some of these are physical habits, but the majority are related to your mindset, which has a powerful impact on how you feel both physically and mentally.
Age is a number. You have the power to decide how you move forward with the time you have already been given and the time ahead.