Anxiety, Stress and Grief Can be Harmful to Your Health
Last updated 5/25/2023 at 4:48pm | View PDF
I am a 73-year-old woman who just lost her husband of 50 years, and I am having a difficult time getting up in the morning. My children say that anxiety, stress and grief can be harmful to my health, is that true?
YES! Many aging adults come face to face with changes such as loneliness and isolation once a spouse dies. It can cause stress, depression, anxiety and grief. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sees loneliness as a serious public health risk affecting a significant number of people in the United States and putting them at risk for memory disorders and other serious health conditions.
A report from the National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine points out that more than one third of adults aged 45 and older feel lonely, and nearly one fourth of adults 65 and older are considered socially isolated.
When you are with your spouse, you have companionship and socialization. Your communication might diminish over time, but just having the companionship of another person in the home helps to make you feel like you are not alone.
When your spouse passes away, you miss the communication that you had with him, but most of all, you will miss his companionship in the room. Having another person across the table from you while you have your meal or someone sitting next to you on the couch while you watch TV is a comfort to you. When that comfort is gone, you realize that you are alone.
Some individuals can feel lonely even if their spouse is still there with them. Every individual is different.
Loneliness creates anxiety, stress and depression, stressors that can put your health at risk. According to the CDC, these stressors can lead to smoking, obesity and physical inactivity, which can cause respiratory disease, heart disease, balance issues and cognitive decline.
Isolation has been associated with a 50% increase in risk of dementia, 29% increased risk of heart disease, and a 32% risk of stroke. Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 400% increased risk of death, 68% risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.
To reduce the potential risk of physical harm, speak to your doctor. Be honest about your anxiety, stress and depression. There are medications that may help you to get back on your feet again. Once you feel like your energy is coming back, get moving. Take small walks and get fresh air. Being outside will feed more oxygen to your brain. Walking will also strengthen your muscles and help with balance issues. Make your daily walks a routine that you do for yourself and your wellbeing.
Eat healthy food. Fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and chicken will give you most of the nutrients that you will need to feed your mind and body. Try to stay away from fried food, packaged food and canned food. Preservatives are NOT our friends.
Find a Grief/Bereavement support group. Quail Park on Cypress has one that is open to everyone in Tulare County, on the second and third Wednesday of the month from 2-3 p.m. The address is 4520 W. Cypress Ave., Visalia. You do not have to RSVP, just come when you can.
If you enjoy art and music or if you want to hear uplifting speakers, check out the My Voice Media Center at the Art Consortium. (See article in this issue) You can call them at (559) 772-0001 for more information.
If you were a church goer, get back to church. Make this an opportunity to volunteer your services and make new contacts and reconnect with old ones. You need that socialization to stimulate your mind. Get back to participating in life again. That will be the greatest gift you can give yourself and your family.
Kimberly Jensen has been working with Quail Park as a Senior Resource Advocate for over ten years and has helped hundreds of families find solutions to their senior problems. If you have a question, you can send it to her at KimberlyJ@QPCypress.com or call (559) 737-7443.