Aging Well in the Gorge August 31st 2022

 Lily Tomlin once said, “Reality is the leading cause of stress – among those in touch with it.” And for those of us who have stayed in touch, we have experienced the various stresses in all chapters of our lives: in school worrying about exams and first dates, during mid-life while encountering family and work decisions; and now in this, our third chapter, worrying about personal health issues, caring for loved ones and facing the ultimate reality of death.

Although some stress can be beneficial, stress can have significant harmful consequences: insomnia, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure – besides just ruining all the fun.

There are many steps you can take to relieve stress: staying socially connected, keeping physically active, and enjoying the natural beauty that surrounds us in the Gorge.

But according to Doctor Mike Evans who produced the short ten-minute video “The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do for Your Stress” (You can find it on YouTube.), the current research suggests the most effective treatment to manage stress is changing your thinking style.

He explains that stress doesn’t just happen to us, it passes through our brain. And our brain – that space between the action we experience and our response to what happens – is where we create the stress. In other words, it is our thinking that creates stress.

This idea is embodied in the 90/10 rule. Ten percent of how we do in life is based on what happens to us, but ninety percent is how we respond. And we have the ability to manage that ninety percent. (Although as I get older it feels more like a 70/30 rule.)

In the video, Dr. Evans explains in more detail how stress management can be learned through different techniques such as problem-solving, avoiding thinking traps, and reframing automatic thinking to healthier thinking patterns.

In particular, he points out the effectiveness of mindfulness training which combines increased self-awareness, breathing techniques, meditation, and letting go of distractions – being in the moment.

Okay Mike, let’s stop here. That sounds all well and good, but I and probably many others have found it isn’t as easy as you make it sound. There are many times I don’t feel like being in the moment. I’d rather be on a sandy beach on a warm sunny day in Hawaii. And my brain! It often seems to have a mind of its own and won’t listen to me.

But I get it and I’ll keep trying. I know as the famous American psychologist William James pointed out, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another”. I just wish it wouldn’t be so difficult!

This coming Monday is Labor Day and I want to remind all of us how important caregivers are and how they are often taken for granted. They may be taking care of a spouse and loved one, providing in-home care, or working at a long-term care facility. The work is rewarding but can also be stressful and challenging especially during the COVID restrictions. The dedicated caregivers deserve a standing ovation!

Brain Tease: Can you name three consecutive days without using the words Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday?

The name of the classic juvenile American board game first introduced in 1916 and based on the children’s stories of an engaging elderly rabbit was Uncle Wiggly. Since once again I’ll be traveling – this time to my hometown of Indianapolis, (Isn’t retirement wonderful!), next week I’ll mention those who sent in the correct answer.

This thoroughbred racehorse thrilled America in 1973 when he won the Triple Crown setting speed records in all three races. For this week’s “Remember When” question what was the name of this stallion regarded as one of the greatest racehorses of all time? Email your answer to mcseniorcenter@gmail.com, leave a message at 541-296-4788, or send it with a video of the 1973 Belmont Stakes where he won by 31 lengths.

Well, it’s been another week, telling myself, “Yes, I can. Yes, I can”. Until we meet again, keep your light shining.

 “If you hear that someone is speaking ill of you, instead of trying to defend yourself you should say, ‘He obviously does not know me very well, since there are so many other faults he could have mentioned.’” Epictetus, Philosopher

Written by Scott McKay

Answer: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.