We all get stressed, and the tendency to get stressed can get worse as you get older, so it’s good to have some good stress relief strategies you can use when you need them.
Stress is like a heavy backpack that we lug around. It is our companion from the day we land on this planet, and it doesn’t ever let go. As newborns, we cry out loud when we are hungry or cold, only to then surrender to contentment when we are picked up, and to smiles when we are kept warm and fed. Stress follows the same up-and-down patterns, well past our prime.
Remember how you used to play and run around as a child? How the little things in life, such as molding houses out of twigs and clay, used to bring you the most joy? How running around barefoot on grass and mud used to feel? Remember how you used to chase friends and frolic all over, hollering, laughing, and sweating like crazy? You certainly didn’t need to consider stress relief strategies back then! What’s happened over the years? How did we ever let stress creep in and take hold?
Stress simply won’t go away, often times exacerbated by a relationship that isn’t going too well, mounting bills, a boss we’d love to throw under a bus, or perhaps even a sudden health issue. Left to its own devices, it keeps lurking in our mind, always threatening to degenerate and turn into full-fledged anxiety and/or depression. Both are serious issues that must be addressed with stress relief strategies.
It’s time to fight back, starting with a positive mindset that says that we’re not about to take our stress lying down. And while we know that there is no silver bullet—no magic wand—to rid us of stress, we sure as heck can do what we can to manage the beast.
We Boomers have a tendency to blame our genes—our parents and grandparents—for anything that goes wrong in our lives, including the level of stress that gets us down. When “neuroplasticity” came into the picture as of the second half of the 20thcentury, it showed that the brain is not as “set” as we had thought, that it is elastic (“plastic”) and can be made to change, particularly as we grow older. It has become clear that the makeup of brain circuitry can be invigorated as we factor in physical exercise, a nutritious diet and, most significantly, a regular routine of mind-stimulating practices. Making these stress relief strategies part of your everyday life is important to your overall health.
This science describes stress as a main factor in damaging “synapses”, or minute gaps between nerve cells through which brain impulses pass. The good news is that once the stress is mitigated, the synapses get replaced.
It’s time to bring back our zest for life—bring back the laughter of the past. The idea is to engage with peers who are outgoing and who know how to laugh. Following a considerable amount of research on the subject, a major study revealed that laughter is one of the best tonics to mitigate the insidious effects of the high-speed, high-stress world that we live in. Humor can reduce cortisol, a stress hormone. Chronic release of cortisol can damage hippocampus neurons, also leading to impairment of learning and memory.
This is also another quick and easy way to achieve a lessening of the tension in your mind and body, and you can put its basic principles to good use at any time of day and whether at home or at work.
First, focus on lowering the breathing from your upper chest down to your middle section: lie down comfortably on your back, layer your hands on your belly and experience each breath going consciously all the way down. By taking a deep breath and holding it briefly for a moment, you should be able to see your belly rise and stay inflated while in this position. Now exhale at a slow and deliberate pace, emptying your lungs “down to the last drop”.
From that point on, inhale to a count of 2 or 3, and then exhale backwards from a count of 4 or 5, all the way back down to 1.
Deep breathing is so easy to learn that we are going to leave it up to you to master this technique and get a breathing rhythm going that gives you the feeling that every time you exhale, you are in fact pushing all the day’s accumulated tensions out of your system.
Do Something That Gives You Joy: In the busy life that most of us lead it is easy to miss out on the activities you love to do, especially the activities that relieve your stress. Go for a walk in the countryside, enjoy an activity on the water, sing, read, visit a friend.Do whatever it is that makes your heart sing. And do the things that make your heart sing as often as you can. It makes stress melt away.
Just imagine what a few minutes of uninterrupted deep quiet within us would conjure up. In such instants, you would be able to attain amazing dimensions of energy, insight, sensory acuity, strides towards heightened awareness—and yes, love. The trick is to identify the stress factors in your life and fight back with appropriate stress-relief techniques for baby boomers.