Does stress management become more difficult as you age?

Ask the doctors

Q. Does it get harder to cope with stress as you age? I feel like it takes more of a toll on me now than when I was younger.

A. While stress certainly isn't easy to manage at any age, it can become more difficult to cope as you get older for a number of reasons. First, your body can't physically handle stress the same way it did when you were younger. Your heart and lungs may not have the capacity they once did, and your body may have a harder time recovering from stressful events. In addition, it may be more challenging to cope with stress mentally. A good night's sleep can help reduce stress in some instances, but as you age, you may not sleep as soundly, which can lead to higher levels of stress hormones in the brain. Your stress may also be caused by different factors, which could be more complicated than the issues you faced in your younger years. Signs of stress may mimic symptoms of memory loss or dementia or include appetite changes, headaches, anxiety, irritability, or trouble concentrating. Manage stress by using relaxation techniques, getting involved in community activities, taking care of yourself, eating right, getting enough sleep, and sticking to other healthy habits.

— by Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Hye-Chun Hur, M.D., M.P.H.
Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch

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