SANDEFER: Pursuing a 'stress-free' holiday - The Explorer: Editorials

SANDEFER: Pursuing a 'stress-free' holiday

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Posted: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 12:00 am | Updated: 8:03 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Sooner or later, each of us experiences stress in our lives, and age doesn’t guarantee a free pass for anyone. But at some point stress seems to have a significant impact on nearly all retirees, and the holidays seem to be the historic time for this to occur.

Surprisingly, the leisurely life we strived to acquire often proves to be a significant factor in adding to the amount of stress one experiences. Add to this a holiday social calendar jammed with self-inflicted obligations, unanticipated family-related problems, increased involvement in activities offering a variety of exercise options most often suited for teenagers, a nutritionally unacceptable diet, expanded and oftentimes encouraged opportunities for alcohol consumption, and a vast assortment of other stress-inducing factors.

Inevitably, the holidays can become a potential health liability, but we do have a choice in the matter and opting to use even one of them may prove lifesaving.

I recognize that seemingly taking time away from you when the lifestyle you’ve been dreaming of is happening all around you, especially during the festive season, isn’t the easiest or most desirable thing to do. At some point, at least consider initiating some of these some things for relaxing, and not a one of them will steal too much time away from your holiday plans and may actually add some time to the experience.

1. Our parents and grandparents offered this tidbit of advice to most of us during our youth, but it probably didn’t sink in at the time: Don’t take on more than you can handle. As retirees, we’re offered a multitude of options, and the more you promise to do, the less time you’ll have to do the things you want to do for you. If you really can’t commit to something new, either see if you can opt out now and ask for reconsideration at a later time, or just say no. You know what happens when the airlines overbook.

2. I’ve always enjoyed music; some of it makes me want to move, albeit it somewhat slower now than in the past, and other tunes soothe my mind and calm my mood. Listening to favorite music while relaxing or being involved in an activity can have a positive effect on your feelings and lower your stress. For example, I’m at the computer keyboard several hours each day performing various writing functions, and I seem to be more relaxed and productive when my favorite music is playing in the background.

3. As I mentioned, I sit at my computer several hours each day, and I stand up, stretch and walk around a couple of times every hour. Sometimes it’s nothing more than a walk to the bathroom, but even my doctor says I need to do this in order to allow proper circulation, and the quick break is oftentimes a stress buster or idea producer when I’m staring at a blank page and have a writing deadline looming. This initiative also applies to TV watching.

4. My attention span is often comparable to a gnat’s, but at times I’m totally focused to the point of blocking out everything around me for extended periods, too long in fact. When I realize I need a break it can come as a mental one using my imagination. I’ll get away without ever leaving home, but it serves a useful purpose and doesn’t take more than several minutes.

5. Stay hydrated. I know, we hear this all of the time from the weather people, but it’s a valid reminder. Our body needs water, not alcohol, to stay hydrated, and it also helps keep our mind sharp.

6. Laugh at yourself -- often. I’m guilty of allowing insignificant things in life to frustrate and annoy me occasionally, and I know this increases my stress level. When I find that I’m particularly frazzled I try laughing at them, I even came up with a name for all of these annoyances — Griswold. Now, instead of getting pissed and bent out of shape, I unleash my frustrations on him so I can relax, it’s his problem now.

Being stress-free during the holidays isn’t possible all of the time, but doing some things that induce relaxation and lower stress levels is within our control.

Taking just a few minutes every day to perform activities, mental and physical, that lower your stress level is not only good for you it can save your life, and they’re applicable year-round.

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