Jeannie Peters, AMFT 

We get to a certain age (it is different for everyone) where we finally realize our bodies have changed- the realization that we are not as young as we think they are. My boyfriend recently pulled his hamstring playing flag football and this realization has hit him hard. When talking with him, he mentioned that he pushed himself as hard as he used to and he said that his body could not carry him as quickly as it did last year. When concrete evidence for our aging comes up, we tend to have automatic thoughts about how fast we used to run, how high we used to jump, how flexible we used to be, etc. These thoughts might then turn into thoughts about getting old and thoughts about getting weak. It can often be a negative spiral. 

Aging can be a rude awakening. Our bodies are changing and these changes are both physical and emotional. With these changes, coping can be stressful. Maybe in your 20’s and 30’s, you would swim in the lake or run along Lake Shore Drive after a hard day at work but now that you are nearing in on 56, your old sports ankle injury is finally catching up with you. As we get older, our bodies get weaker; post-menopause, the reduction in female-bodied individual’s bone mass is significant. This reduction in bone mass can then lead to more falls causing more injuries, which then take longer to heal. With these changes in our bodies, it can often be a hard adjustment for our minds. 

Expectations of what we “should” be able to do may differ from what our bodies allow us to do. This discrepancy is often stressful, depressing, and frustrating. I also think about how there is so much uncertainty in the future- this uncertainty can peak anxiety and stress. It is impossible to predict how our bodies will change as we age- will I develop heart disease? Will I suffer injuries from a car accident? Will I live until I’m 100? Although it might be unclear what our futures might look like, its best to prepare our bodies when we can. Staying healthy when you’re young will help your physical, mental, and emotional beings. Here are some tips as a way to stay on top of your aging.  

Tips:

  • Cut yourself some slack:
    • Try not to judge yourself for your body slowing down. This is natural, and although it is exhausting, frustrating, and saddening, you are not alone.
    • Confide in a friend- chances are he/she/they have had similar thoughts and concerns. Sharing these thoughts and feelings with someone else will build a connection and reduce stress. This joining experience can emotionally beneficially. 
  • Eat healthily:
    • Drink plenty of water. 
    • Eat your recommended intake for fruits, vegetables, protein, and fibers (consult with your GP)- this will help your digestive tract as you continue to age. 
    • Eat with a friend, family member, or neighbor- this social interaction will be stimulating and you both can keep each other accountable for making a healthy meal together. Plus, cooking/cleaning with someone else will be quicker and easier than if you are doing it solo. This is also a great way to reduce stress. 
  • Stay Active: 
    • Find an exercise that works for you and your body- that could be jogging, swimming, walking, biking, etc. Staying active will help your lungs, heart, and muscles long term.
    • Do this activity with a friend- exercising with a friend may keep you more motivated
    • Exercising can boost your immune system and help keep you mentally and physically healthy. You also sleep better after you exercise! 
    • Staying active and exercising also improves your balance- good posture and balance will make you less likely to fall