Around the Island

Richard’s almanac: How to beat the blues

STOCK PHOTO There are many sources of help for anxiety and depression.
There are many sources of help for anxiety and depression.

I was watching my granddaughter’s JV volleyball team play a tense game against Port Jefferson at the school gym last Friday when I began saying to myself, “This is too stressful.There’s too much anxiety and tension being created by this tight game!”

The Shelter Island team won but only after three very close periods. I did not realize that a team had to win by 2 points so my elation was shattered at the end of the second period when I saw 25 on the scoreboard.

The game was not over and the team went on to lose by 2. They made it up in a close third period and captured their 2 out of 3.

I did feel drained after watching but despite a sore throat from yelling, head throbbing and blood pressure rising, I quickly recovered.

There are, however, other anxieties and stressors that affect older adults that cannot be as easily shed.

I was recently looking at some information provided by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) My Medicare Matters campaign to help older adults access mental health resources through Medicare.

According to the campaign, seniors should become aware of symptoms of anxiety. They are excessive nervousness, fear or worrying, chest pains, headaches or stomach problems.

Severe anxiety can cause distress and interfere with daily activities. This can lead to a variety of health problems and decreased ability to meet the challenges of everyday life.

The NCOA describes generalized anxiety disorder as “chronic, exaggerated worry about everyday routine life events and activities, lasting at least six months, almost always anticipating the worst even though there is little reason to expect it. It is accompanied by physical symptoms such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache or nausea.”

Now we know that some anxiety is normal or even healthy. I think that the key for older adults is the length of time that the anxiety exists and whether or not it becomes part of our lives and alters our behavior.

We should all be aware of the risk factors and know how to deal with them.

The current campaign lists the many factors as being linked to anxiety in seniors. They include chronic medical conditions, overall feelings of poor health, sleep disturbances, physical limitations in daily activities, stressful life events and excessive worry or preoccupation with physical health symptoms.

So what can be done if you think you might be a victim of severe anxiety? There is a painless way to find out if you are really experiencing anxiety disorder. Mental Health America offers an online confidential screening. Take it and then decide whether or not you need to see a doctor.

We should do all we can to remove interferences to a good quality of life during these senior years.