Doesn’t any word with stress in it, stress you out? One of the biggest goals in most retirees’ lives is to reduce or eliminate all the stressors which were inherent to the job. For some it was the office politics, for others, it was the commute, and for many it was the time demands that were in conflict with their “real life”– life at home, with family, friends, or in pursuits of what they really wanted to do.
Of course, everyone is fully aware of the effects of stress on health and relationships in our lives. Actually, that kind of stress is more specifically labeled distress, which creates physical harm to the body and mind. The types of distress most recognize are those which happen in the normal course of life — loss, separation, injury or pain, but can also include BOREDOM and LACK OF MEANING in life. In the Holmes-Rohe Life Stress Inventory, a 1967 study of the correlation of life events of stress on individual’s health, the stress related to retiring from work is 45 “life change units” (on a scale of 1-100 in ascending levels of stress), and number 10 on the list that shows a correlation between a life event and the effect on one’s physical health. Another predictor of how one will handle the big stressors, like death of a parent or spouse, mental troubles, or retirement, is how one handles the little stressors of life, like traffic jams, losing your keys, weather events or small arguments. The reaction to these small stressors, or hassles, can give tremendous insight as to how the big events will be handled in the future.
So as you’re approaching retirement, consider how you deal with the small daily hassles of life, and try to put into context the scale of your retirement event and the impact it may have on your health. There is good news here as well– a developed practice of daily uplifts can offset or even buffer against stress-related problems. Daily uplifts are the conscious, positive experiences or simple affirmations of positive response to something you see, feel, or do. Uplifts such as the joy as a manifestation of love for a family member (new grandchild?), relief at good news, pleasure in participating or seeing something you value and enjoy, like a walk or a performance, can actually act as a buffer against psychological stress. And if practiced intentionally, this can offset one’s physical harm by boosting one’s immune system response.
One interesting note about the impact of hassles and uplifts as we age: Our ability to cope with hassles as we grow older seems to diminish, and we are not as able to seek natural uplifts unless we actively look for them. So why am I looking for EUSTRESS? Eustress is another type of stress, but this one is beneficial stress, either psychological, physical, or biochemical. In Steven Covey’s The 8th Habit, he refers to the positive tension of where we are now to where we want to go. The most obvious example of this is having a meaningful project or goal that uses our individual talents and passions. It is the type of stress that makes us feel alive and drives us towards the successful outcome of our goals. Having a life with meaning also boosts the immune system, increasing longevity, and contributes to a more enjoyable life.
As you enter into the phase of retirement, consider how the stress of the transition alone will impact you and which way you want to deal with it. Would you be better suited to start now in actively identifying and practicing your daily uplifts? You can also notice how you respond to the small hassles of life, and then choose to embark on your own path of meaning and life enjoyment, to make the most out of eustress in retirement. Just do it!