Retirement years are grand, or should be, but you may be having trouble slowing down. You may even be scratching your head and wondering “what happened?”
Being busy not only makes you feel important, but it produces a physical and emotional “high” that becomes quite addicting. Over time stress hormones can be incredibly destructive and can lead to a host of diseases. Stress is stress and the body will react accordingly; retirement doesn’t change anything at all.
A stress addict manages to seek out and create new stress, even when none should exist. How busy do you need to be to be happy? If you agree to help or sign up for one more class you may be putting your body on overload. You know better. We all know better, but how many times have you heard your friends proudly exclaim that they are busier now than they have ever been?
Filling the void created by retirement is similar to the empty nest syndrome. The knee jerk reaction is to keep busy so that you don’t have to think. Before you know it you find yourself so busy that you barely have time to breathe; voila, stress is back.
Chronic stress is bad for you; this is a no brainer. Researchers have linked chronic stress to everything from depression to heart disease, but they also say that you can reverse the damage. You can learn how to slow down and smell the roses.
Put your health and emotional well being first. Get enough rest, eat well, and get plenty of exercise. Identify what it is that is driving you and then:
• Learn how to say “no.”
• Stick to activities that you feel passionate about.
• Schedule some “at home” days. You don’t need to fill each day with a litany of activities.
• Calm your mind; study yoga or learn to meditate.
• Stop worrying so much. Get in touch with your religious or philosophical self again and appreciate each day for what it is.
Slowing down is hard work, but it is something that needs to be done. Always racing toward some imaginary finish like is dangerous to your physical health and emotion well-being.
When was the last time that you really laughed? If a sour disapproving face looks back at you when you look in the mirror, it has been too long. You may not realize it but you could be doing yourself a huge disfavor.
Kids smile and laugh all the time. Can you even remember the last time something really tickled your “funny bone?” You probably stopped laughing out loud when some adult suggested that giggling, snorting, and laughing until you cried were beneath you. Well guess what? Studies now reveal that laughter is good for you. It is so good for you that people are teaching classes and giving seminars on the “power of laughter.”
Laughter is universal, it is free, it makes you feel good, and can be enjoyed at any age. People who teach these seminars will tell you that you can choose to laugh just as you can chose to walk or ride a bike. You may feel a little silly at first, but if you can get over yourself for half a second you might find that you are having more than fun than you have in years.
Laughter seminars are showing up in the most unlikely places, but the secrets of their success is often kept from those who need them the most, older adults. Senior centers are finally catching on; ask your program director to invite a motivational speaker or start a laughter yoga class.
It all starts with a smirk (I’ve seen you do it), and then a smile and even a grin. Follow that up with a little snicker, a giggle and then really go for it. A chuckle can turn in to a chortle and pretty soon you are laughing so hard you can hardly stand it. Come on I know you remember. Laughter improves mental function, exercises and relaxes muscles, improves respiration, stimulates circulation and decreases stress hormone levels.
Learn to laugh at a laughing yoga class, attend a seminar, or find a podcast or DVD at the library. Your librarian will help you.
Laugh a little, have fun and lighten up. It does your body good.
I read somewhere that older people get fewer colds than the general population, but I wonder who they are talking about. Everywhere I go people of all ages are sniffling and coughing, and I always seem to be in the line of fire. Doesn’t anyone stay home when they get sick anymore?
If you are feeling sneezy, sleepy, grumpy and dopey you are most likely coming down with the common cold. Researchers say that viral respiratory illnesses are only suppose to last for a few days, but I think we know better. You will be lucky if you can shake even some of the symptoms in less than a week.
You got your flu shot and all of the recommended pneumonia vaccines so why are you still getting sick? Colds are different. There are no vaccines that can handle the over 200 strains out there. Your job becomes one of self defense. Learn how to take care of yourself and treat the symptoms.
• Don’t forget to wash your hands, a lot. Both flu and colds can be passed on through coughing, sneezing, and touching surfaces such as doorknobs and telephones. From one surface to another; inadvertently touching your nose, mouth and eyes with contaminated hands gives germs easy access to your body.
• Practice healthy habits: Eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. Avoid large public gatherings if you can, or slip a little mask into your pocket.
I’m not going to tell you to stay home because you can’t, but if you are feeling peaked don’t feel that you have to share.
Most of the time colds and flu just have to run their course, but seek medical advice if symptoms hang on for more than a week.
How do you know if you are getting in over your head?
• A cough that is so bad that it disrupts your sleep
• Increased shortness of breath
• Sinus pain, or if the discharge when you blow your nose changes from clear to a thick yellow green.
You are going to get from one to three colds a year no matter what you do, but take care of yourself and make sure that they don’t turn into something worse.
The benefits of yoga are many. Studies tell us that yoga can be instrumental in lowering blood pressure, keeping muscles and joints fluid and flexible, and in easing back pain. These claims alone should be reason enough to pique your interest. Instead of taking a half dozen supplements that promise to fix everything that ails you, try yoga.
Seniors often resist the idea of yoga because they are not comfortable with the idea of getting down on the floor. Would you be interested if I told you that you could derive the same benefits while sitting down or holding on to a chair?
I took my first chair yoga class last week and I was impressed. It left me with the same relaxed “stretchy feeling” that I get from a traditional yoga class, maybe more so because I didn’t have to worry that my warrior pose wasn’t perfect or that my tree balancing act left me swaying too much. Chair yoga introduced me to the same postures but with teensy little modifications that were much easier.
Get over the idea that yoga is only for young agile athletes who can bend themselves into pretzels. Yoga can be enjoyed by all and it has nothing to do with age or physical prowess.
• Yoga classes are very popular. You can find a good chair yoga class at senior centers, yoga studios, the YMCA or even at a nearby hospital.
• You don’t need to buy special equipment.
• You can wear any comfortable loose fitting clothing (cute yoga outfits and matching mats are optional).
Watch a class the first time or two if you feel too intimidated to take on something new. Once the weirdness wears off you will see that it isn’t hard at all. The other option is doing yoga at home. Did you know that local PBS Stations often run a series called “Yoga for the Rest of Us” by Peggy Cappy? This series is also available in DVD format at your public library. You will soon be convinced that yoga is indeed for the rest of us. Go yoga!
Loss of flexibility may not seem like a big deal at first, just part of getting older, but wait a minute; it is a big deal.
If climbing stairs or reaching for a mixing bowl on the top shelf of the cupboard is harder than it should be, it is a very big deal. You think you are doing fine, but are you? What happens when you can’t bend over to put on your shoes and socks?
You will never be able to live a happily independent life if you can’t take care of yourself. As a smart senior you may already be doing some strength training and cardiovascular work, but that may not be enough. If you go to the gym regularly but are stiffer and sorer than your couch potato friends you need to do something more.
The answer of course is that muscles and joints need attention too. Joints stiffen and muscles lose elasticity as we age. Our muscles tighten up, all 430 of them. Ouch!
The knee jerk reaction is to go to bed with a heating pad and a good book, but is that the best answer? The more sedentary we are the stiffer we become, and the stiffer we become the more sedentary we want to be (a vicious cycle).
Animals know what to do instinctively; they stretch. Their muscles become supple and they spring into action at a moment’s notice. Watch how they stretch; we can learn from them. There is a reason why so many yoga and tai chi postures are named after animals. When we stretch our muscles we, like our four footed friends, can take on the world.
It isn’t too late to get help if stiff muscles and joints are more than just a minor inconvenience. Your physician will refer you to a physical therapist for an evaluation, but from that point on it will be up to you.