As you age, past problems can go by the wayside as new problems arise. Maybe you feel more stable in your relationships, for example, but also you can not drink so much because you feel extra anxious the next morning. In other words, each stage has its joys and struggles.
While we are all unique in some way, you are probably less alone than you might think when it comes to these issues. In addition, a multitude of coping skills can help you cope, even as hard and emotional as they often feel.
Below, therapists share some of the topics they hear most from older clients, and how they help or advise clients to deal with that distress.
Grieving All The Transitions
A lot of changes happen with age, and the pain that used to be is normal and understandable.
“I’ve heard a lot about how difficult it is to start the transition to retirement or aging physically and mentally,” he said. Holly Humphreysa licensed professional counselor with Thriveworks in Roanoke, Virginia, who works extensively with adults who are transitioning to retirement and who are 65 and older.
While this applies to the loss of loved ones, this is it not the only kind of pain experienced “Older adults can also go through the grieving process when they retire from careers they’ve been in for decades,” he continued. “They may also go through the grieving process when they begin to notice a decline in their significant other’s mental and physical health.”
What to do: Humphreys encourages her clients to listen to their feelings, and supports them along the way.
“I also help provide coping strategies to help older adults better manage these feelings of anxiety and depression,” she said. “Similarly, I help solve problems to ensure that they have all the resources they may need at this time in their lives. Finally, I provide a supportive reflection to allow them a safe space to process their lives up to this point and what they want out of their remaining time with their loved ones.”
While having a therapist who can help with this is a smart move, it may not be that affordable for everyone. If this is the case for you, think about friends and family, and let them know what you need.
Navigating a relationship with an adult child
As you age, your child does too, which leads to a change in the relationship dynamic.
“One of the most common topics we encounter in counseling with older adults is their relationship with an adult child“, he said Alicea Ardito, a therapist with Choosing Therapy who specializes in working with older clients. “Patterns are often set in childhood and adolescence, and it can be a difficult adjustment for older adults to learn to be the parent of an adult.”
What to do: It’s all about communication and working together.
“We will explore ways to improve communication, find connections and set healthy boundaries in the relationship” said Ardito. This might seem asking open-ended questions or engaging in activities you enjoy, for starters.
Struggling with body image
Kelsey Latimera clinical psychologist who has worked with older people, has heard that many clients choose themselves, especially in times of change, transition and stress.
“Change can trigger a deep sense of instability, loss of control and fear of the unknown,” he explained. “Our mind can disconnect from those underlying things and we tend to settle into thinking that our bodies are the problem or that the wrinkles on our face are why we feel a certain way.”
And, of course, social beliefs don’t help. “The fact that we live in a culture where the aging process Not one seen to be embraced puts unrealistic expectations on people and can reinforce these feelings of instability during change,” he added.
What to do: If you struggle with this, Latimer encouraged you to deal with your emotions directly, ideally with a professional or friends who are going through similar changes.
“Try to do your best to understand that this is not about your body, sagging skin or wrinkles on your face – it’s much deeper than that,” he said. “Don’t suffer in silence – speak up and find space for these emotions.”
Dealing with adversity
The old often comes with reflection, as proven by the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson. According to his work on stages of psychosocial development, older adults often spend time trying to contribute to the world and looking back on their lives. Are they fulfilling their purpose and living life the way they wanted to?
This is another topic commonly discussed in therapy. “Clients can recall good times and regrets, depending on their mood and thoughts during the current session,” he said. Joel Franka licensed psychologist in Los Angeles.
What to do: The three key words here are “validation”, “acceptance” and “change” – usually in that order. “For individuals who reflect on their past, especially their regrets, I usually validate their thoughts and emotions on the topic and work with them to move toward a perspective of acceptance,” said Frank. While the past cannot be changed, he said, learning from it is crucial.
One aspect you can learn more about is who you are, focusing on your values and desires. “It is also the recognition that there is still time to develop new characteristics and hobbies, if they want,” he said. It could be like being kinder, trying an art class or becoming more involved in your place of worship, although these examples only scratch the surface of all the possibilities.
Face a lot of losses
Similar to grief, the aging process is full of loss, unfortunately. “This is a non-ending loss that does not involve physical death, but there is a sense that the loss is lasting in nature,” he said. Venetia Leonidaki, a clinical psychologist who has worked with clients throughout life. “For older clients, such a loss could mean having to abandon valuable habits, feel nostalgic for an important time in life, or come to terms with a decline in physical or mental strength.”
Another type of loss that includes many of the others: a sense of losing your identity.
What to do: Let yourself feel these emotions and trying to move forward in a positive way, according to Leonidaki. He validated that even if the loss is not clearly visible, it is valid and significant.
Having come up with this, what helps? “As part of active coping, you should also focus on the things they can do instead of the things they can’t,” he said. “Practice of gratitude for the important things that continue to be present in one’s life could also help to counteract the feelings of loss.”
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