Helping Your Parents Deal with Anxiety

Have you been worrying about your generally calm mother’s constantly worried state nowadays? Have there been sudden irritated outbursts at seemingly minor issues?

There are times when my 75-year old “strong” father literally goes into a panic over something as little as an umbrella left in a cab during a shopping trip. I have seen my absolutely “positive forever” mother, now think more of the “worst that could happen” or the “what ifs” first. It leaves them reeling and exhausted. It leaves me wanting to do more to bring them to a happier, more secure state.

All these symptoms can be classified as anxiety - 'a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome’.

And, no, they do not have to be suffering from anxiety disorder to feel frequent simple anxiety. While there is a large percentage of older adults who are relaxed and happier in the twilight of their years, 10 to 20% of them may be on the other side of the ‘happiness spectrum'. Many may feel that there are justifiable reasons for being held down by anxiety -

  • Empty nest syndrome
  • Passing away of spouse
  • Medical conditions
  • Side effect of certain medications
  • Feelings of helplessness because of one’s physical conditions

Fortunately, there are ways to eliminate this anxiety - And there is a lot that children of older adults can do to help build a strong and secure base:

Visiting often: Being busy is a good only as long it is balanced well with the upkeep of relationships – otherwise the cracks start appearing and the repair is a long process. Make sure that you take time out for your parents and visit them often. A schedule always works well such as, a Sunday brunch, if you are close by. Or, maybe more frequent planned trips to each other, just to be together.

Book a holiday together: Even if it is once a year, relaxing together should suffice. Just the thought of impending holidays with your loved ones can elevate moods even months before it is time to actually start packing.

Counselling: A mental health professional, such as a geriatric counsellor or a psychologist can help determine the causes of anxiety and provide suitable measures to settle the symptoms. Accompany your parents to one; be with them in sorting it out; they won’t feel alone, and they’ll appreciate you for your gesture. These are simple ways in which you convey your concern.

Suggesting stress management techniques: Do your research and find out about relaxation activities/classes that your parents would enjoy, close to your parents place - meditation, prayer, deep breathing, chanting and Yoga; libraries, laughter clubs, seniors evening clubs, movie-goers groups, the choices are many.

These will not only help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, but also make their days livelier.

Eating healthier: A lifestyle that’s well hydrated and low on alcohol intake is ideal to keep stress and anxiety at bay. Along with that, well-timed balanced meals rich in foods that are known to reduce anxiety, ensure that swinging sugar levels or hunger do not take away the calm – almonds, apples, berries, probiotics, greens, nuts, whole grains and more.

Exercising: A little aerobic activity in a day can work wonders – it not only helps maintain a healthy activity level but also –

  • releases endorphins
  • lifts the mood
  • brings positivity
  • improves circulation
  • relieves tension

So, the next time you see your parents being anxious for no particular reason, make sure you spend enough time understanding their feelings and follow the aforementioned tips to help them relieve anxiety in a better way.