With age, past concerns may disappear as new problems arise. Maybe you feel more stable in your relationship, for example, but so do you you can’t drink as much because you feel extra anxious the next morning. In other words, each stage has its own joy and struggle.
While we’re all unique in some way, you’re probably less alone than you might think when it comes to these issues. Plus, many coping skills can help you get through them, even as tough and emotional as they often feel.
Below, therapists share some of the topics they hear about most from older clients, as well as how they help or advise clients to overcome this anxiety.
Grieving all transitions
A lot of changes happen with age, and what happened is normal and understandable.
“I’ve heard a lot about how hard it is to start retirement or get old physically and mentally,” he said. Holly Humphreyswith a licensed professional counselor Thriveworks in Roanoke, Virginia, who works extensively with retired adults and who are 65 and older.
Although this is about losing loved ones, it is is not the only kind of grief experienced. “Older adults can also go through a grieving process when they retire from a career they’ve been in for decades,” she continued. “They may also go through a grieving process when they begin to notice a decline in their or their significant other’s mental and physical health.”
What to do: Humphreys encourages her clients to feel their emotions, and she supports them along the way.
“I also help provide coping strategies to help seniors better manage these feelings of anxiety and depression,” she said. “Also, I help with problem solving to make sure they have all the resources they may need at this time in their lives. Finally, I provide supportive reflection to give them a safe space to process their lives up to this point and what they want from the time they have left with their loved ones.”
While having a therapist who can help with this is a smart move, it may not be available to everyone. If this is for you, think about friends and family and let them know what you need.
Navigating a relationship with an adult child
As your child ages, so does this, leading to a change in the dynamics of the relationship.
“One of the most common themes I encounter in counseling seniors is theirs relationship with an adult child“, he said Alicia Ardito, a therapist with Choosing Therapy who specializes in working with older clients. “Patterns are often formed during childhood and adolescence, and it’s a difficult adjustment for older adults to learn how to parent an adult.”
What to doIt all comes down to communication and working together.
“We will often explore ways to improve communication, find a connection and establish healthy boundaries in relationshipsArdito said. This could be similar starting by asking open-ended questions or doing an activity you both enjoy.
Struggling with body image
Kelsey LatimerA clinical psychologist who has worked with older adults has heard that many clients isolate, especially during times of change, transition, and stress.
“Change can cause a deep sense of instability, loss of control, and fear of the unknown,” she explained. “Our minds can become disconnected from those underlying things and tend to think that our bodies are the problem, or that the wrinkles on our face are the reason we feel a certain way.”
And of course public beliefs don’t help. “That we live in a culture where the aging process It creates unrealistic expectations for people and can reinforce these feelings of instability during change,” he added.
What to doIf you’re struggling with this, Latimer encourages dealing with your feelings directly, ideally with a professional or friends who are going through similar changes.
“Try to do your best to understand that it’s not about your body, sagging skin or wrinkles on your face, it’s much deeper than that,” she said. “Don’t suffer in silence, talk about it and find a place for those feelings.”
Faced with regret
Aging often comes with reflection, as psychoanalyst Erik Erikson testifies. According to his work stages of psychological development, seniors often spend time trying to contribute to the world and looking back on their lives. Did they fulfill their purpose and live the life they wanted?
This is another commonly discussed topic in therapy. “Clients can recall good times and regrets depending on their mood and thoughts during the current session,” he said. Joel Franklicensed psychologist in Los Angeles.
What to doThe three key words here are “validation,” “acceptance,” and “modification,” usually in that order. “For individuals who are thinking about their past, especially their regrets, I usually validate their thoughts and feelings about the topic and work with them to move toward a perspective of acceptance,” Frank said. While the past cannot be changed, he said learning from it is crucial.
One aspect you can learn more about is who you are by focusing on your values and desires. “It also recognizes that there is still time to develop new lines and hobbies if they want to,” he said. This could be being kinder, trying art classes, or getting more involved at your place of worship, although these examples only scratch the surface of all the possibilities.
Facing many losses
Like grief, the aging process is unfortunately fraught with loss. “This is an endless loss that does not imply physical death, but the loss is felt to be permanent in nature,” he said. Venetia Leonidaki, a clinical psychologist who has worked with clients for a lifetime. “For older clients, such a loss may involve giving up cherished habits, feeling nostalgic for an important time in life, or coming to terms with a decline in physical or mental strength.”
Another type of loss that affects many others is a sense of loss of identity.
What to do: Allow yourself to feel those feelings and: try to move forward in positive ways, according to Leonidaki. He confirmed that even if the loss is not clearly visible, it is valid and significant.
After coming to terms with it, what helps? “As part of proactive coping, I would also get them to focus on the things they can do, not the things they can’t,” she said. “Gratitude for the important things that continue to be present in their lives can also help them counteract the sense of loss.”
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