“Stress takes its toll.”
We hear it all the time and so many of us, including me, pay lip service to it. But do we really believe it?
Like aging, the ravages of stress sneak up on us. We’re all busy, every one of us. Work, family, and so many other responsibilities weigh on our shoulders. We women are famous for not taking time to ourselves, especially if we’re raising children. Some of us are adrenaline junkies, only happy if we’re over-scheduled. Others are trying out for Super-woman, trying to do it all. We don’t have time to worry about stress. It’s just one more…stressor.
But the toll stress takes–and the way R&R can reverse some of those damage was brought home to me the other day in a very big way.
I hadn’t seen girlfriend for a while–my travel, her schedule and then some health problems that kept her and also me home.
She’s fit and active and a couple of decades older than I am. But her schedule would make a 30-year-old gasp. A responsible job that required travel and homework. Her own time-consuming major creative pursuits. A significant social and networking life and a few other outside activities. She has a husband to care for, also retired, and some grown kids and grandkids to worry about. She was busy seven days a week, keeping a calendar that I wouldn’t be able to. Because I’m pretty lazy.
But then, some health problems hit and she was forced to rest for a couple of months. No work. No activities. During that time, she came to terms with her schedule. She spent time reading novels. When she was up to it, she and her husband had some fun outings.
In short, she lived the life she should have been living all along. A mindful one. A relaxing one. It was enforced, but it was definitely a big change.
About that time, we met up for a day together.
I’ve known her 10 years and, despite her age and her health problems, she looked the best she’s ever looked. The Best.
Facial lines that I thought were the result of age faded and some disappeared. Her face softened. Her demeanor was more relaxed.
It was a living BEFORE and AFTER example of how stress ages us. How it makes our faces look older–tired, drawn and wrinkled. The contrast between then and now was a clear illustration about the benefits of slowing down our lives.
Now, I can’t say that Girlfriend is particularly vain, although I do make her wear lipstick. Or at least that’s what she says. But she eats right, walks everywhere and has taken good care of her health. She has a constitution that any of us would envy.
And yet, she had burned the candle at both ends for decades and paid the price. It took getting seriously sick to force her to slow down and in the process, she knocked at least 15 years off her looks– by simply resting more and eliminating most stressors from her life.
Now, many of us aren’t able to be retired as Girlfriend can be. And those of us raising children or dealing with family members who have special needs are going to have to get creative with finding time to relax.But we do have control over our schedule. Our calendar. Whether we want to believe it or not. At least most of us.
And we can work to take ME TIME regularly, just like we eat our greens and exercise. We need that time to stop and smell the roses.
And by the time we’ve lived eight decades, we can decide that we’ve done enough. Exerted enough pressure on ourselves. That we can sit back and enjoy what we do. Live more mindfully.
So take heed, adrenaline junkies who are concerned with aging. Because it may well be that we don’t need painful surgery or expensive pills and potions to look younger.
We may just need to spend more time living in the moment.