Horne: Building resilience in the aging process

Horne: Building resilience in the aging process

Kelowna senior’s columnist Marjorie Horne examin

By Marjorie Horne

Do you wake up some days and everything seems like a jumble in your mind? Do you find that inconveniences and frustration are getting to you, and you aren’t able to let it all go like you once could?

We don’t tend to think that as we are aging we still need to build emotional resilience, but we do. Perhaps even more so than when we were younger, as there are many new things our brains are needing to absorb as we are aging that we haven’t encountered before. For many, the pace of working to deadlines has passed, but the openness of not having deadlines presents other challenges one isn’t expecting. Who am I now? What role was I attached to that now leaves me wondering about my own self-worth?

Deborah Rozman, psychologist and author advises us to: “Think of your emotional resilience capacity like the amount of gas you have in your car. The more you have, the farther you can go. Building a reservoir of emotional resilience gives you the confidence to know you can make it through a potentially stressful situation; it gives you the energy to continue down the road after stress drains you; and it gives you the ability to quickly reset your system to perform in a normal, functioning state.”

Ah, there is hope after all.

We can find our resilience depletes when we feel resistant or compressed. Feeling overloaded does not have to just come from the hectic pace of work deadlines. Aging presents other situations that leave us feeling overwhelmed: caregiving a loved one; dealing with financial worries as a steady income is left behind; facing a health challenge or an abrupt change in our physical strength; or even finding a newly retired husband underfoot can sometimes be a source of adjustment and change that sends you screaming to the bathroom. We all have new and unforeseen adaptations to deal with through our aging journey. To get through these changing times, we all need to build up resilience capacity. If we mistakenly think that the “golden years” are always easy, we may be in for a bit of a shock.

We tend to add extra drama to a problem when our resilience is low and the issues we are facing seem to get blown out of proportion. Our capacity for clear decision making, staying calm amidst the storm, and feeling compassion for ourselves and others becomes an elusive idea that seems impossible in the moment, try as we might.

Dr. Rozman suggests a simple tool to build your resilience capacity by activating the Power of Neutral. She explains, “It’s a lot like shifting into neutral in a car. Your engine is still running but you get to decide which way to go before you engage the gear again. Shifting into neutral inside yourself gives you more vision and stops the emotional surge and energy drain so you can maintain resilience as you sort through your options and choose how to respond.” The process follows three steps.

1. Take a time-out, breathing slowly and deeply. Imagine the air entering and leaving through the heart area or the center of your chest.

2. Focus on your heart and breathing instead of focusing on your stressful thoughts and worried feelings.

3. Continue until you have neutralized the emotional charge and you feel calmness throughout.

It is important to not wait until your emotions have taken charge. I use the phrase immediately, “I surrender my emotions now,” when I feel worry and anxiety taking hold. Begin with step one as soon as you feel your emotions starting to react. Heart breathing helps draw the energy out of your head, where ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) run rampant. Just having the strong intention to disengage is very powerful in neutralizing emotions that are attached to the ANTS. If practiced soon enough, you can stop the stress from playing out in your body. You might want to check out the website www.heartmath.com which gives some excellent information on regulating your heart rhythm to reduce stress.

Resilience should be at the forefront of our minds as we journey into the third chapter of our lives. As we strengthen our positive emotions and find doorways of expression for our vulnerability, creativity and gratitude support us through times when we are finding our footing again. And on we go.

Marjorie Horne hosts the Engaging in Aging Radio Show on AM 1150 every Sunday from 9 to 10 a.m. Contact her at marjorie@caresmart.ca or 250-863-9577.

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