I thought that when I retired I would be free of the tensions and emotional strains that had accompanied my job. But other stressors gradually nudged their way into my life, a vast array, including financial, relationships, family sickness, my own health problems, death of people around me … a low ping pong rating. I innocently thought that retirement life would leave me lounging happily in Elysian Fields – or at least that I’d be playing Ping Pong on Double Fish and Double Happiness tables with new LED lighting shining down from 50 foot ceilings in a place that sounded like Shangri-la (Pleasantville?). I thought there would be hammocks on deserted tropical beaches, morning tennis with chilled, fresh-squeezed orange juice … and that my Ping Pong rating would be over 2000. But, regrettably, those things didn’t happen (only 25 foot ceilings). And now I feel the undertones of anxiety infiltrating my life on a daily basis. Please make note – this isn’t just your garden variety ambiguous unease, either. What I’m dealing with is a persistent and intense apprehension, accompanied by an insidious dread of future threats. (In other words (gulp), I’m a little scared of my neighbors – most of ‘em have been eyeing me loading up with all those cases of Chicken of the Sea tuna for my fallout shelter. I know coveting eyes when I see them. Hey, Let them buy their own tuna – it’s on sale this week: 99 cents, Albacore.)
Listen, it’s not just me. All sorts of people – both men and women of varying ages, races and ethnic backgrounds – are experiencing increased stress. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) just published a poll (2019) which says that Americans, particularly baby boomers (that’s most of us in our PPP group), have become increasingly anxious over the last year. This anxiety revolves around health, safety and financial issues (anxiety relating to ‘relationships’ should be added), and this report/poll emphasizes the role that stress plays in fostering these fears and worries. This study underscores the importance for taking action and doing something about stress straight away, and not letting the situation lie static, become chronic and muck up your immune system. (Stress can lead to infections and even cancer, according to some reports. The National Cancer Institute says that studies are weak in connecting stress to cancer, but the same Institution states that there is “evidence from experimental studies” suggesting that “psychological stress can affect a tumor’s ability to grow and spread.”)
Fortunately, there are many effective regimens at our disposal. If you read the popular press (or social media), you’ll run into countless stories relating to the current stress scourge and its treatment. They offer up the usual generalities about eating right, relaxing, exercising and hanging out with your family. Those are fine, but there certainly are many other valid treatment modalities for anxiety and stress that have been put through the research wringers of late, and which have been proven to be effective. So let’s highlight some of those. Let’s skip over psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy as those are acceptable ‘old’ therapies for selected patients. Let’s look more closely at some other treatment methods that nearly everyone, including me, might avail themselves.
We’ll pick up on this in Stress, Part III. Lao Du