Don’t let stress ruin your joy in living

Like many people this side of 60, I shed a lot of my stress when I left my job after almost 25 years.
The deadlines weren’t so hard. I had time to garden and clean my closets, didn’t have to tangle with difficult people, and could choose my friends.
I still got up at the same time. But I walked with friends, instead of hurrying to get to the office by 8 a.m.
Life should have been completely stress-free. But, unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. Self-imposed deadlines are almost as stressful as work ones. And, somehow, our “to do” lists never disappear.
Waiting in line, missing the bus, recovering from a computer crash, being cut off by a rude driver. These experiences can be as stressful as work.
And as we get older, we often have more severe stresses—financial problems, health worries, the loss of good friends. And pain. When you’re in pain, it’s much more difficult to handle the stresses of everyday life.
Stress is a fact of life! The Mayo Clinic staff says that “stress is a physical response to an undesirable situation.”
Stress occurs when you feel out of control. It’s too difficult to handle unpredictable events, things don’t work out the way you want, or the world situation looks terrifying.
On June 6, 1983, Time magazine’s cover story was “The Epidemic of the Eighties.” The story identified stress as our most serious health problem.
Today, researchers say most Americans feel even more stressed than they did two decades ago. It is estimated that 75-90 percent of visits to physicians are for stress-related problems.
Stress can be a factor in ailments as diverse as insomnia, backaches, depression, headaches, high blood pressure, and the common cold. In addition, stress can be a strain on your whole cardiovascular system.
“The response to stress is highly individual,” says Edward Creagan, an oncologist at Mayo.
“It’s like a football player who has repetitive trauma in the game. One hit and he’ll survive. But add up week after week of hits in a season and he’ll be hurting. He may not be able to handle it anymore.
“The only way to survive our stressful existence is to recognize that we have choices in the way we respond to stress,” Creagan adds. “People can modify their behaviour and choose how to respond to a situation.”
Creagan has some practical tips on how to become healthy even when you’re “stressed out.”
Be easy on yourself. Simplify your life. Cut out some activities or delegate tasks. Don’t be a perfectionist.
Focus on one thing at a time. Learn to prioritize and do the most important things first. Be positive. Limit the time you spend with negative people.
Take a break. Go on a vacation. Or at least take mini-breaks during your workday.
Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing. Pray or meditate.
And most of all, enjoy yourself. Read a good book or watch a fun movie. Indulge in a hot bath. Hug your family and friends. And pet your dog.
Whenever you get stressed, make sure you follow Dr. Creagan’s tips on coping. Don’t let stress ruin your health or your joy in living.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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