Way back in 2014 one of the first blogs I wrote was about worry, anxiety and stress in retirement. I read the blog again yesterday (I’ll return to this old blog at the end of this one) prompted by a recent article on AOL about dealing with anxiety. I read the AOL article, as I often do, with a view to seeing if it had applicability to us retired people. You can judge for yourself but, in my view, the strategies clearly are relevant to us lot although my comments (first up) on the strategies may hint otherwise.
For example, I would just say that a 69 year old man chewing gum, as in the first strategy, might be thought to be trying to re-capture lost youth rather than reducing his / her anxiety or maybe this is the same thing for some people. And I hate celery, I’d rather be anxious. As for slowing your breathing, well when you get to our age you have to be careful, you might not be able to quicken it up again. I completely agree with the exercise suggestion but beware, approaching a steep hill and thinking oh bugger that, can reduce self-esteem rather than raise it. I’ve always liked taking a bath until a recent episode on our Irish holiday when I got stuck in a hotel bath and pulled the towel rail off the wall trying to get out. No problem with the washing hands though. I can still do that. Doodling etc. yep, that sounds like a good thing. Colouring books, hmm, I know they’re en vogue but a bit infantile, still if it works, then God Bless. Exercise, didn’t we do that already? But yes, agree unless the dogs get you into trouble that can generate more anxiety. Reframing anxiety as excitement like many good Cognitive Behaviour Therapy strategies, can be effective. I’m a big fan and say so in my blog on the subject. Oily fish, yes in moderation, although when you get to a certain age I find there is a cost digestion-wise. Stopping smoking, who can argue, unless you live in Colorado (for example) and have recently taken to (legally) smoking marijuana. As a committed dog owner, often to be found canoodling his dogs, again who could disagree with the ‘stroke a cat or dog’ suggestion but do be careful with the asthma attacks. So all in all I’d say the following have relevance. See what you think.
So from the article but edited a bit.
1.Chew some gum (or munch on celery A study from 2008 (probably changed their minds by now) found that people who regularly chewed gum reported lower levels of anxiety, increased alertness, reduced stress and improved multi-tasking ability. Experts say that chewing lowers cortisol levels and stimulates us mentally, making us better able to cope with stress. And the faster you chew, the calmer you will feel. If you don’t like chewing gum, try snacking on celery. The low-calorie vegetable contains calming chemical apigenin (also found in chamomile) which is used in anxiety and insomnia remedies. 2. Slow your breathing When we’re anxious our breathing becomes shallower and faster, which lowers levels of calming carbon dioxide in our blood, increasing stress further. Simply taking 10 slow, deep breaths can be enough to take the edge off your anxiety 3. Go for a walk in the countryside Going for a walk is one of the best ways to calm down. But instead of heading to the shopping centre, take a stroll around the park. Walking in the hills and countryside can also help raise self-esteem and reduce depression, says MIND. 4. Have a bath (or wash your hands in warm water) You know that warm water is relaxing, but you don’t need to get in the bathtub to benefit. Experts say that immersing your hands in warm water is enough to engage the body’s self-soothing mechanism. 5. Doodle, paint or do a colouring book Distracting yourself from your worries will give your mind a much needed rest. Doodling, sewing, even concentrating on an adult colouring book can be enough to take your mind off things for a while. 6. Exercise prolonged periods of sitting are linked to an increased risk of anxiety. If you’re too stressed to go to the gym, don’t slump in front of the TV. Try cycling on an exercise bike as you watch – or at least get up and walk around during every ad break. 7. Turn nerves to excitement “Compared with those who attempt to calm down, individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement feel more excited and perform better.” And all they had to do was say the words, “I am excited.” 8. Eat more oily fish A Mediterranean-style diet – including nuts and seeds, wholegrains, oily fish, fruit and vegetables and olive oil – can help to reduce depression and anxiety. 9. Quit smoking Smokers reach for a cigarette when they feel anxious – and it’s true that nicotine has a calming effect on the brain. The problem is that smoking increases anxiety in the first place. If you didn’t smoke, you wouldn’t need that cigarette to calm you down! 10. Stroke a cat It’s well known that a hug can help to reduce feelings of anxiety (due to the effects of oxytocin), but not everyone has someone to hug. The good news is that petting a cat or dog can have a calming effect on your mental health.
So there we are, this blog and the one I wrote 3 years ago aren’t directly comparable but they have some overlap. The original one (and I have written others since around the same topic) focused a little bit on the kind of worries we have as retired people, quite a lot on the relationship between worry, anxiety and stress and mostly on ways, one way in particular, of dealing with all our worries big and small. After three years I still think it makes a lot of sense especially if you add the blog on Cognitive Behaviourism and related blogs, as above. I suppose now that I’ve been retired for four years, God that’s scary, I should be in a better position to write with more authority about worries / anxieties / stresses that are unique to retirement but given that I’m up to my 1000 word target this will have to wait for another blog about the joys of retirement.