Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Are We Grateful and Kind or Angry and Bitter?

Among the common problems that many people experience as they age are symptoms of anger, aggression, hostility, and depression.  There are many reasons why people may feel these emotions.  They may be experiencing poor health, pain or loneliness.  They could be developing dementia. They could be upset by politics, the loss of friends as they age, or other sad events in their lives. Even if they have a good reason to be grouchy and irritable, however, giving into these negative emotions can be very damaging both to them and others.

Whenever someone lashes out at people within their family or circle of friends, it is not unusual for the other people to become less willing to help them or spend time with them.  They may lash back.  The angry person could end up destroying their relationships with the very people they care the most about.  That only serves to increase their feelings of isolation and anger.

Health Dangers of Anger

How do you handle anger, disappointment, resentment and sadness?  Do you frequently find yourself feeling irritable and angry?  Uncontrolled anger puts your health at risk and can cause the following health issues:
  • headaches;
  • digestion problems, such as abdominal pain;
  • insomnia;
  • increased anxiety;
  • depression;
  • high blood pressure;
  • skin problems, such as eczema;
  • heart attacks.
Anger can also lower your immune system and make other health conditions worse, including cancer.  It can be very destructive.

In addition, if you have strong feelings of hostility, irritability and anger, you become more likely to get into arguments with the people around you.  You might even find yourself raging out-of-control and getting into physical fights.  You could physically harm yourself or others.

The stress hormones associated with anger can damage a variety of systems in your body, as reflected in the list of health issues mentioned above.

Healthy Ways to Deal with Anger

Under normal circumstances, there are a number of ways you can deal with your anger.  You can try walking away until you get your emotions under control.  You can analyze why you feel so strongly about an issue and try to deal with it less emotionally.  You could try getting physical exercise to release the stress hormones.

However, what if your anger is because of health issues, the loss of a family member, uncontrolled pain, or because you are in the early stages of dementia?  What if the normal ways of dealing with feelings of anger are not enough?

If you find yourself getting angry often or feeling out-of-control, you may want to talk to your doctor about counseling and/or anti-depressants.  You may want to discuss pain management.  You may need to become willing to accept assistance by applying for Meals on Wheels, hiring a caregiver or, if necessary, moving into as assisted living community.  In other words, use every tool at your disposal to treat your anger until you can get it under control.

How to Improve Our Outlook on Life

In addition to the steps mentioned above, there are other actions you can take to reduce your feelings of hostility.

Volunteer - People who feel needed and who take the time to help others tend to have a better outlook on life.

Get a pet - Whether you decide to get a dog, cat or fish in an aquarium, having as pet has been shown to decrease feelings of anxiety and loneliness.

Socialize with others - Many senior citizens spend most of their time alone.  They stay indoors, watch television and eat their meals by themselves.  Anything you can do that breaks up your day and gives you more contact with other people can make a significant difference in your outlook on life.  Local senior centers provide low-cost lunches for anyone who wants to come and eat with others.  Often, these lunches are accompanied by games and other activities.  You may also want to join clubs or take classes in your community.

Attend religious services - Studies have shown that people who regularly attend the religious services of their choice tend to live longer and be happier.

Get rest - People who do not sleep enough are more likely to be grouchy.  Extreme sleep deprivation can even mimic the symptoms of a variety of mental illnesses.  If you are having trouble getting enough sleep, discuss the problem with your doctor and see if behavioral modification or medication can help.

Eat healthy foods - There is some truth to the idea that we are what we eat.  Too much sugar, alcohol or caffeine, for example, can increase feelings of irritability and make it more difficult for us to sleep.

Be grateful - Gratitude is a positive emotion that helps people cope better with stress in their life.  It helps people to focus on the good in their lives and takes their attention off their difficulties, even temporarily.  Start a gratitude list and add to it regularly.

Journal - One place where you may want to keep your gratitude list is in a journal.  Many people also find it helpful to keep a journal of their feelings and experiences.  It can be a healthy outlet and a relaxing way to help you find solutions to the things that worry you. 

Learn to Relax - You may want to take meditation or yoga classes.  Learning proper breathing techniques can lower your blood pressure and decrease stress.  Many people also find it soothing to spend time in nature.

Get regular exercise -  Exercise can improve some health conditions, get us outside, take our minds off our difficulties and change our attitude.  Regular exercise can improve mood and reduce stress levels.

Smile - The act of smiling changes the way we look at the world.  When we smile at someone else, they usually will smile back, which makes us feel even better.

The bottom line is that we are far better off at any age when we reach out to other people, show gratitude for the things they do for us, and treat them with kindness.  We cannot expect others to be kind to us if we react with bitterness and sarcasm.  Practice being considerate of others and we are likely to see that behavior returned.

If you are interested in learning more about the issues that affect retirees, including common health problems, financial planning, where to retire, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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