Stress can decrease your concentration, increasing your risk of dangerous accidents and errors: driving, at work, and at home; medication errors can send you and your seniors to the hospital. Stress can also cause physical illness by “pickling” your brain, heart, and other organs in high levels of stress hormones. These are supposed to resolve when we rest, but many of us never do. Our minds keep racing and those hormones keep rising.
1) GENERATE JOY. Commit to doing something you love every day, even if only for a few minutes. Do it, not because it’s productive, but just because you love it. For me, it’s writing fiction. What is it for you? Dancing, singing, reading???
2) PLAN REGULAR RELAXATION. Don’t wait until you’re at the end of your rope. Set it out there, so you can have something to look forward to. It doesn’t have to be a major vacation. It could be a spa day, or just an hour to have a massage, or pedicure. It could be a few hours alone in your house, ignoring the laundry and the rest of the To Do list. How about a SCANDAL party with your girlfriends (-: Whatever it is, you can’t do this unless you…
3) MANAGE YOUR TIME. You don’t know exactly how many minutes left on the planet, but you know the number is limited, and you can’t get any more of them. Don’t waste any of them. Ask yourself, “How many of these minutes do I want to spend doing this, feeling this, being with these people?”
4) REMEMBER, WHICH WAY IS UP. Stay positive. You know what doesn’t work. Stop beating yourself up by continually re-living bad times. In every difficult situation, ask yourself, “What CAN Work? (I learned that from Dr. Cynthia T. Henderson.) Try to find out how to make it work: What do you need? How do you get it? Who can help you? Talk to a professional, or Google the national organization that supports your major challenge, i.e. The Alzheimer’s Association, Gambler’s Anonymous, Weight Watchers, etc.
5) DON’T ISOLATE YOURSELF. Join a club; get a group of friends together to have coffee once a week. Did I mention SCANDAL parties? If get a computer. Prices have really come down, and refurbished models can be even less expensive. Save up for one, or ask your family to chip in and give you one for Christmas, or another gift-day. The Internet can open your world, introducing you to people with similar interests, and support group with people who share your challenges (i.e., caregivers, or parents of adult children.) Take free courses, or just explore the world outside of your experience. Google how to protect yourself online, and DO not give out identifying personal information (social security number, banking information, birthdate, address, etc.)
6) KEEP YOUR “I LOVE YOUs” UP TO DATE. If you care about someone, tell them NOW. We never know if this is the last time we’ll be together. Don’t deepen your grief with regret for angry last words, or loving words unsaid.
7) HELP SOMEBODY. Even if you’re housebound, overwhelmed, and burdened, you can share something, by phone or Internet. Can you be part of a Grandma hot line, talking to latchkey kids? Can you read to a child, or a senior? Can you send a note?
Our purpose on the planet is to generate joy for ourselves and others. Look for the joy. Demand some joy. You may have to plan for it, but realize that you deserve it. Joy is the stress-buster that protects you as you AGE EXCELLENTLY!
NEXT THURSDAY- FRISKY AFTER 40: Physical and emotional intimacy in mid-life and beyond.