Americans are living longer, but moving into what’s considered the best decade of your life may also bring along additional aches and pains. Beyond the physical, aging can also be accompanied by increased anxiety. If you’re feeling anxiety about aging, there are seven simple strategies to rethink your situation, so you have a positive outlook.
Anxiety about aging
The sharp increase in the number of older adults in the US is being attributed to two factors: longer life spans and aging baby boomers. It’s expected the number of Americans 65 years or older will double in the next 25 years, to about 72 million. By 2030, these will account for roughly 20% of the U.S. population.
Anxiety about aging affects 10-20% of the elderly population. But just what has older adults anxious?
It’s the isolation, unknowns, health concerns from chronic disease and an aging body, and concerns about the finality of life.
7 ways to manage anxiety when you’re aging
“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
How do you lower your anxiety when you’re aging? Are you tapping into your mind, talents, creativity, and the people you love as the aging quote recommends?
It’s all about your frame of mind because that is the fountain of youth as Loren so beautifully explains.
Here are 7 ways to improve your mindset and reducing feelings of anxiety and worry.
- Acknowledge your worries.
- Avoid self-medicating.
- Find ways to manage your stress.
- Find similarities with your younger years.
- Take a timeout.
- Reflect on your blessings.
- Choose happiness every day.
Don’t skip number 4. You’ll be surprised how much your life as an older adult is connected to your teenage years.
1. Acknowledge your worries.
Self-awareness of how you’re feeling is the first step in lowering anxiety and worry. Honor your feelings, and address any associated fears.
It’s important to manage your fears so those emotions don’t turn into anger or depression. Stress management is often called fear management because fears are often the cause of all those anxious feelings.
Of course, life is uncertain as you age and uncertainty drives anxiety and anger. Remember, though, life’s always been uncertain. It just wasn’t top of mind in your 40’s like it is in your 80’s. Learn coping strategies to deal with the uncertainty so you can focus on living each day to the fullest.
2. Avoid self-medicating.
If you’re feeling anxious, it’s easy to turn to caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, food, and over-the-counter cold medicines to cope. However, these things can exacerbate physical feelings of stress and anxiety.
3. Find ways to manage your stress.
Since you’re going to avoid self-medicating with food, alcohol, or nicotine you need another outlet to manage your stress. Explore a new stress reduction technique you may have been considering but have not yet tried. Look to powerful exercises like mindfulness or Tai Chi to manage your stress.
Stress management is a journey. Identify your triggers and find coping strategies with this the Be Less Stressed resource portfolio.
4. Find similarities with your younger years.
This is an enlightening exercise and a great way to change your outlook on aging, so you feel less stressed. Use your mind again – – remember it is the fountain of youth. You’re going to imagine you’re young again!
This advice comes from Rhoda P. Curtis, who was 93 at the time, she compiled a list of anxieties that are top of mind for seniors and teenagers, for an article in the Huffington Post.
While those teenage years may be far beyond you, think of your grandchildren, great-grandchildren, or neighbors. You likely know some teenagers. What’s top of mind for them? See any similarities?
|Age of Anxiety: Aging||Age of Anxiety: Teenagers|
|I feel useless, helpless.||My body doesn’t feel familiar anymore. My hands and feet are so big!|
|I feel invisible.||When will I belong? I feel like I’m on the outside looking in.|
|I don’t understand what’s happening to my body.||I have a sense of being invisible.|
|I can’t walk with ease. My hips ache.||I’ll never make it, why try? Do I have to go to school?|
|Is there any possibility that things will go back the way they were?||I feel like I’m drowning.|
|The answer to that is no! So – how do I cope?||Are things going to get better? When?|
|Nobody understands me!||Nobody understands me!|
Give yourself credit. You’ve experienced the same anxiety you’re feeling now when you were a teenager facing puberty and adolescence.
Of course, the specifics are different – older adults may be anxious about dying when they’re watching friends pass away while teenagers are worrying about getting into the right high school, but both groups suffer. How they react to anxiety is what interests me.
Older adults may actually handle their anxiety and worry better than younger ones. The West Health Institute/NORC Survey on Aging in America found there’s real optimism about aging. It actually increases with age. While 46-percent of people age 30 to 39 are optimistic about aging, 66-percent of people 70 and older feel this way.
While the future is more certain for a teenager, the reality is that life is never certain. Obviously death is more imminent as you age than as a teenager, but there’s still plenty of time in life to find happiness. Use these powerful tools to unlock happiness every day.
Seize each day and all the offers of help. Focus on the friendships you’re gaining from offers of help rather than as a sign you’re losing your independence. Find the silver lining in every step of the aging process.
Look to past experiences for help with worries and fears. You’ve probably dealt with similar feelings at some other point in your life whether as a teenager or as a parent. Find those connections to previous moments in your life.
5. Take a timeout.
Fifth, try taking a periodic break from the daily news (TV, newspaper, streaming video etc.), especially media regarding upsetting current events, which could tip you over into feeling anxious.
As our lives are connected more than ever before, a technology timeout is a powerful way to manage anxiety whether you’re aging or in the middle of a stressful career.
6. Reflect on your blessings.
Your life is full of blessings no matter your age. Take time to reflect on the positives you’re enjoying as you experience “receding youth.” Do you have a greater appreciation of life and those you love, greater clarity around that which you value, and a greater recognition of the benefit of self-care? Are you engaging in activities which bring joy?
A gratitude journal can help you reflect on your blessings. Find one thing you’re grateful for each day. Over time, gratitude can transform your outlook on life. There are healing powers to reflecting on all the positive things in your life and also sharing your gratitude with others.
7. Choose happiness every day.
Next, reflect on your blessings. That way you’re choosing happiness every day. It’s just one of 10 ways to live a more fulfilled life.
You’re also saying yes to the life you have even if you’re battling a chronic disease, dealing with loneliness from the loss of a spouse or friends. You can’t change the past or predict the future, but you can accept the life you currently have. Once you accept your life, you’ll lower your anxiety connected to aging.
Aging and anxiety
Remember, change takes time. Try not to spend your energy worrying that you’re worrying. Do try to relax and have faith. Over time and little by little, change is possible.
Aging and anxiety don’t have to go hand in hand if you take small steps today to change the course of your future.
The same principles that guided your life throughout your career, still hold true as you age.
What strategies are working for you to reduce the anxiety of aging?