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Local lifestyle columnists

How can I be stressed? I’m retired

By From page A2 | April 18, 2013

Yes, I must admit when I retired, I dreamed of playing golf several times a week, reading books, especially the classics, exploring new restaurants regularly, and catching foreign films wherever I could find them. My list went on from there.

Thank goodness, I traveled extensively over the years before retirement. I have little time or the patience with airports to travel now. In addition, there are just too many hot spots in the world, especially the ones that are still on my bucket list.

Many of us believed that once we retired, our stress would be over. But learning to “tune down” is difficult for many of us – whether we’re compensated for our time and work or not. And don’t forget about our adult children, with their myriad needs, who always manage to find us. Many believed that when they retired, their stress would be over, but now tell me that they’re busier than ever with volunteering, taking care of and baby-sitting grandchildren, etc.

How did I ever find time to work, they ask?

Pressure and stress are the common cold of the psyche, someone once said. But author Dr. Hans Selye writes, “No one can live without experiencing some degree of stress all the time. Life is largely a process of adaptation to the circumstances in which we exist.” Even children are vulnerable to stress, because their brains are still developing.

We often read about how everyday pressures and worries can make us sick, but we have to learn to adapt to the stresses and strains of everyday life existence, whether we’re retired or not. Those of us who want to go back to our 50s or whatever year we thought was best for us will never recapture that time, according to Selye: “Stress is essentially reflected by the rate of all the wear and tear caused by life, but many of us are prone to think that the wear and tear we experience comes directly from poisons, toxins and germs floating around out there.”

I’m sure that many will disagree with the good doctor.

Researchers cite numerous examples that relate to stress, other than those in our external environment. Some examples include the stress experienced by soldiers in the aftermath of war, the gambler who plays or watches events whether he wins or loses, or people who continue to overeat though continuing to gain weight. All are suffering from underlying signs of stress.

There are numerous signals that we as individuals can observe in our own behavior but may overlook them as such.

  • Impulsive behavior.
  • Loss of or excessive appetite.
  • Increased use of legally prescribed drugs.
  • Increased smoking, alcohol or drug addiction.
  • Neurotic behavior.
  • Accident proneness.

Wouldn’t you know the research data that caught my eye was that the exhausting stresses of life have the capacity to accelerate aging? I’ve wondered where all those wrinkles were coming from.

Author Sonia Lupien maintains that much of our stress (true or perceived in our own minds) has a good deal to do with losing control at whatever we’re doing. “When we think that we’re not appreciated at home, work or even volunteering can cause stress, whether it’s just an impression or a reality,” Lupien writes.

Before we get too stressed out over all of this research on stress, Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Center on Aging, reminds us that some stress is needed for survival. The brain hates lack of stimulation. Here are some of his pointers for minimizing stress and anxiety in our daily lives.

  • Set realistic expectations.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Take breaks throughout the day.
  • Learn to relax and do it at regular intervals.
  • Cut back on caffeine.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Let yourself laugh. According to TV’s Dr. Mehmet Oz, even 15 minutes a day of “fake laughter” is really good for us.
  • Talk about feelings. I guess we could even put in a call to Oprah (my suggestion) if all else fails.

Someone once said, find something to put in place of the worrying thoughts to chase them away, and imitate the Sundial’s ways: Count only the pleasant days. This sounds like a great plan to me.

Mayrene Bates is a trustee on the Solano County Board of Education.

Mayrene Bates

Mayrene Bates is a trustee with the Solano County Board of Education.

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