Some seniors in Pasadena and elsewhere may tell you that they’ve worked hard and lived long so they deserve to be a little cranky if they choose to. They sort of have a point – it can sometimes feel refreshing, later in life, for someone receiving 24-hour care to be able to start “telling it like it is” especially if someone has spent many years going with the flow and not wanting to rock the boat.
The staff at Accredited Home Care has seen this way of thinking in some clients. While we never mind it when clients are happy and cheery, we also understand and sympathize when they’re not. But there are also some potential pitfalls to this kind of thinking if it goes on too long – that sense of freedom from not having filters anymore can easily turn in to general gripes or even full-fledged anger. And that’s not healthy.
After all, there are a lot of reasons why our clients could have a negative outlook some days: they could be in pain. They could be scared. They could be worrying about their health. They could miss having family or friends around. They could be unsure of their future or have regrets from their past.
Having an occasional day or two of these types of negative and unhappy thoughts is normal, but if it goes longer, they or their family members should discuss with their health care provider since it could easily move into depression, a medical condition that all ages can get but seniors are especially vulnerable to.
But anger is a bit different.
It’s an emotion more than a chronic mental health condition like depression. A clinical definition also isn’t always easy since it differs in everyone in terms of intensity and duration.
Anger can evolve from fear and sadness and take away happiness. It can also stay intact or grow over time and bleed into other parts of your life, including your other relationships.
Looking closer at anger
Time magazine recently discussed the role that all emotions can play in our lives. While they are useful for social interactions and expressing our feelings, they can actually affect our physical health.
For instance, someone who focuses on being happy and thankful is often prone to more endorphins and better health outcomes.
At the same time, someone who is generally angrier may be prone to health problems, including inflammation, along with a higher risk of certain diseases.
The article didn’t entirely dismiss all anger and said it can actually have value in some contexts of being able to help people motivate themselves for certain tasks or overcome certain obstacles in life.
But it did point out that seniors are especially vulnerable at feeling the negative effects of chronic anger. This can be due to awareness of aging bodies and minds as well as external stresses like loved ones moving away or dying.
A survey that Time described went beyond psychological – it followed 200 Canadians between the age of 59 and 93. It asked them to share their emotions and health conditions three times in one week as well as give blood samples. The blood was analyzed for inflammation.
Those who reported feeling anger more often had higher amounts of a chemical connected with inflammation and also were more likely to have at least one chronic illness, such as cancer or heart disease.
If you’ve decided to ease up on your anger, great! But where do you start?
Anyone who has dealt with anger or is dealing with it now knows that it’s difficult to stop. While you might cool down and move on in a few hours after a fresh argument or a recent negative interaction, some pain and resentments may go back decades and it’s difficult to figure out how to begin the process.
The Mayo Clinic suggests starting with a simple action: finding a way to forgive those who caused you anger and also forgiving yourself.
This doesn’t have to be a formal public apology or a complete reconciliation, and the person who you feel anger for doesn’t even have to know that you’ve changed your outlook. You also don’t have to forget the circumstances that caused you this stress either – all you do is try to release some or all of the pain, the grudges and the bitterness you’ve been holding onto.
The result can be positive physically, mentally and spiritually. Various studies have shown that looking for ways to forgive and then doing so can boost your immune system, lower your risk of depression and other conditions, and reduce stress and anxiety in your life.
Some people seek forgiveness in a religious setting, but there are other ways to acknowledge this, such as sharing your intent to forgive in a support group, with loved ones around, or even in a private moment with only yourself.
Mental health professionals say that the effort of looking for ways to reduce anger can be personal and ongoing and doesn’t have to be tied to a particular timeline.