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From its inception, the goal of the National Care Planning Council has been to educate the public on the importance of planning for long term care. With that goal in mind, we have created the largest and most comprehensive source of long term care planning material available anywhere. This material -- "Guide to Long Term Care Planning" -- is free to the public for downloading and printing on all of our web sites. Learn More...
Here are some strategies to reduce stress for aging seniors and where applicable for their caregivers.
Pursue diversions, hobbies and relaxing activities
A simple way to reduce stress is to distract yourself -- go to a movie, play a sport, immerse yourself in a hobby, listen to some favorite music or take a walk. It cannot be emphasized enough how important it for caregivers to spend some quality time alone every week, doing exactly what it is they like to do.
Try taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications
Dr. Kiecolt-Glaser points out that anti-depressants lower IL-6 levels in chronically depressed patients, so they might be useful. She also said there have been suggestions that cholesterol-lowering statins might reduce IL-6, because they seem to reduce inflammation
Being overweight (eating too much)
Many people react to stress by eating. Eating too much for a long period causes obesity. This causes your heart and lungs to work harder, overloads your organs and reduces stamina. Studies show that fat cells excrete IL-6 and that overweight people have high levels of IL-6 in their blood. This in turn leads to the IL-6-associated illnesses such as heart disease, immune disorders and diabetes.
Not eating properly
Some people react to stress and stress-induced depression by not eating or eating poorly. If you eat a good, well-balanced diet, your body will be receiving all the nutrients it requires to function properly. On the other hand, if you are eating an unbalanced diet or not eating enough you may be stressing your body and contributing to stress-related complications by depriving yourself of essential nutrients.
Coffee, tea, caffeine soft drinks and chocolate
Caffeine is a stimulant. One of the reasons you probably use it is to raise your level of activity. This chemical actually enhances the stress response and thus increases your existing stress. Small quantities probably do little harm but large quantities over a long period produce excessive stress and lead to many of the physical ailments attributed to chronic stress. Too much caffeine can be dangerous. If you are drinking many cups of caffeine products a day, then you may find you can reduce a lot of stress and save your health by switching to caffeine-free products for a portion of your daily intake.
Some people react to stress by imbibing in alcohol. In small amounts, spirits may help you relax. In larger amounts alcohol may increase stress as it disrupts sleep. Over the long term, alcohol will damage your body. Alcohol is also a depressant. If you're prone to depression, alcohol will only make it worse. Studies show that depressed people have eight times the level of IL-6 as compared to the general population. As we have seen, high, prolonged levels of IL-6 are a marker for debilitating illness and early death.
In the short-term tobacco use seems to relax people but the toxic effects of nicotine raise the heart rate and enhance the stress response. If you smoke, try taking your pulse before and after a cigarette, and notice the difference. After the initial period of giving up smoking, most ex-smokers report feeling much more calm.
Sugar and refined flour
Sugar can be a stimulant for people experiencing stress and stress-induced depression. Sugar-rich foods (the starch in refined flour is also a form of sugar) can raise your energy level in the short-term. The problem is your body copes with high levels of sugar by secreting large amounts of insulin, which in turn, quickly reduces the excess amount of sugar in your blood stream often causing blood sugar levels to swing too low.
These up and down spikes in blood sugar can cause agitation, mood swings, irritability and fatigue, which in turn can contribute to the creation of additional stress. The ups and downs of sugar spikes also contribute to depression. And of course, excess sugar is readily converted to body fat thus causing obesity. Consuming sugar in the form of complex carbohydrates--whole grains, fruits, vegetables and tubers--forces the digestive tract to release blood sugar more slowly and keeps insulin and blood sugar levels more normal. Avoid fruit drinks, sugar drinks, candy, pastas, white bread and pastries.
There are thousands of supplement suppliers and scores of books that claim success with managing stress by using herbs, herbal extracts or synthesized biochemicals. These compounds often come with the claim of enhancing mood or strengthening the immune system. Since there are so many different competing claims, you must decide for yourself which supplements help and which don't.