Agency on Aging News: Stress relief in these times

By Kay Kaylor
PREVIEW Columnist

I advocate for residents in extended care and assisted living residences as the region’s lead long-term care ombudsman. I also am a Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor, all as an employee of San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA). Information on the many aging and care concerns will be included here.

Stress affects us all in many ways, especially our health, and perhaps daily we feel some level of stress in reaction to something happening. Most people know that meditating, creating art, breathing deeply, exercising, and bird and deer watching help us relax. A few lesser known but simple relaxation techniques follow. 

Consciously breathing in and out and even holding your breath at various counts is one way to calm down, and medical experts suggest breathing in slowly and pursing your lips while breathing out. This helps keep your airways open longer and remove trapped air and is recommended for shortness of breath. 

Tam Cummings, a dementia specialist, advises that when a caregiver is in extreme stress, take a quick, cold shower or, more easily, hold an ice cube in one hand while focusing on breathing. This helps lower blood pressure. 

An arm movement exercise can be done almost anywhere. While breathing in, turn your palms up with your arms at your side and, keeping them straight, slowly lift them up to your shoulders. Then, while breathing out, turn your palms down and slowly lower your arms to your side.

Another technique to calm your mind is to focus on your five senses one at a time. Start with noting what you see and end with things you can touch nearby. This works even if you only try it with seeing and hearing. 

A few questions to ask yourself daily can promote positive thinking when the news is depressing and routines are wearing thin. What am I grateful for? Am I connecting to friends, neighbors or family? Am I letting go of the idea of “normal”? Have I been outside today? Am I moving my joints and muscles? What beauty do I see or hear? 

SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare. For further information, please call or text 403-2165 or send an email to leadombudsman@sjbaaa.org.

This story was posted on July 8, 2020.