As we age, some of us may find that life can become more stressful rather than easier, making knowledge of how to achieve stress relief vitally important. As retirement grows nearer, we look forward to the changes that this will bring, starting by planning to do the many things that we never had time for during our busy working lives. However, according to Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health:
If we are not careful, retirement can bring about many health problems rather than contentment, and that we should look upon it as a ‘process rather than an event’.
Planning your retirement
Some of us have planned carefully for retirement and should remain financially secure, while others will suddenly face a drop in income. This can limit what we can achieve. According to research carried out by Dr George E. Vaillant, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, they discovered that there are several ways in which retired seniors, even those of 80 years and above, can remain happy and healthy, with a rewarding lifestyle that does not require a high level of income. These include:
- Make new friends – when retiring from work, you will leave many of your friends behind, but by building a new social network of like-minded, similarly, aged people will prove to be good for both your physical and mental health
- Join clubs – there are so many to choose from, including sports such as golf, swimming and tennis, ballroom dancing, walking and bridge. They will not only get you out of the house but also provide the opportunity to make new friends
- Keep your mind and body active – take up painting or gardening, perhaps learn a new hobby, something that you have always wanted to do. Learn a new language or take a study course, and maybe, get a dog who will not only be a great companion but will also get you out walking and meeting people
All these suggestions are not only enjoyable but also provide excellent stress relief tips which will keep body and soul together, while also having fun. Make the most of every moment because, as this quote from Ausonius says: “Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years”.
Every day is precious, and stress relief can be found in something as simple as writing things down or talking to a friend.
Stress and how it affects our health
A handy fact sheet produced by the APA Office on Ageing and Committee on Ageing suggests that, if we are not careful, stress can affect us very badly during our senior years. They say that one of the simplest ways to remain healthy is to eat nourishing food, helping us to maintain a reasonable weight, and to take regular exercise. They explain stress as being caused by our bodies responding to danger, so releasing hormones into the bloodstream, which will then speed up the heart and increase the pulse rate; it is known as the ‘stress response’. They go on to explain that research has shown that too much stress will impair our immune system, so decreasing our ability to fight off disease and mental health problems. They offer several stress relief tips, as follows:
- Stay positive – avoid negative talk such as, “I’m too old”, or, “I can’t-do it anymore”. This type of talk will not help, and, while you may feel that doing nothing is your solution, this will certainly not provide stress relief. Thinking about what you can do instead is one of many great stress relief tips
- Stay focused – never feel helpless because, no matter how difficult something might seem, there is always a solution. Each problem is a test or a challenge, that will keep your mind active as you consider your options. This, in turn, will provide stress relief, as nothing is insurmountable
- Meditation – relaxation techniques and especially MBSR (meditation based stress reduction) have been developed to deal with stress based on techniques that have been around for centuries. According to Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, just 10 minutes a day can help to control stress, reduce anxiety and contribute to improving cardiovascular health, which in consequence will also provide stress relief.
She goes on to say that meditative techniques were first pioneered in America, during the 1970’s, by Harvard physician Herbert Benson. It has since gained acceptance worldwide, by both doctors and therapists, to be a valuable complementary therapy for symptom relief of many different illnesses. Dr Stöppler states that “No matter how the relaxation state is achieved, the physical and emotional consequences of stress can be reduced through regular practice”. Stress relief, in this form, can also lead to happiness and inner peace. For a first glance at stress relieving meditation practices try “Mindfulness daily” – an easy to follow course developed by Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield.
Every one of us will see retirement differently; how we use all this extra time that we suddenly have on our hands depends very much on individual circumstances, according to Harvard Health Publications. They go on to explain that, if your job has been tiring, boring or unrewarding, then retirement will come as a great relief. Whereas, those of us that have thoroughly enjoyed our work and thrived on the structured lifestyle will see retirement in an entirely different way; this in itself may require important stress relief tips. A couple who are happily married, or in a long-standing relationship, are far more likely to enjoy their retirement than someone whose home life is anything but stable and may already be stressed. Healthy retirees will be looking forward to an active and rewarding time, whereas, those who are in bad health will not have this option. Whichever category you fit into, still keep as active as possible and keep your mind and body busy.
Seeking Help For Stress Relief
One of the biggest stress relief tips offered by the fact sheet produced by the APA, is to seek help before everything gets on top of you. We tend to avoid the word psychologist, but they are often the best people to help with stress relief. There are three therapeutic ways that can help seniors to start to enjoy life:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy – this will explore and help to discover the underlying reasons for stress and contributes to change negative thoughts into positive ones
- Supportive therapy – often a non-judgemental ear can help to justify why feelings of anxiety exist and to offer stress relief tips to introduce a more positive way of thinking
- Relaxation training – related to meditation, it also includes education about stress and tension and how to achieve muscle relaxation
What you can do to help yourself
Dr Dossett, recommends talking to loved ones or close friends, as well as visiting your doctor. Talking about problems that are stressing you can sometimes lead to a solution, but, healthwise, as Dr Dossett explains, your doctor will be able to check your blood pressure and recommend a healthy lifestyle change, particularly with diet; anti-depressants are also an option for the severely distressed. He also states that one of the best stress relief tips is to focus on triggering exactly the opposite of the stress response – the relaxation response – through, as previously mentioned, MBSR, meditation or tai chi, yoga and deep breathing exercises. All of these will lower oxygen consumption and the heart and breathing rate, so reducing blood pressure and stress hormones, helping to maintain a much more positive outlook on life.
As American actress Valerie Bertinelli so aptly said:
Happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy. There’s going to be stress in life, but it’s your choice whether you let it affect you or not.
Modelphotos by colourbox.com