Personal Best: A postal problem

Pat Black looks at new research that suggest stress may be bad for you only if you believe that to be the case

Wow! The sun is shining and it is above the zero mark on the thermometer, a good day to be living in the North Okanagan.

Every day seems to be a good day as we listen to the repeated weather reports happening across more eastern parts of our land. Snow storm after snow storm, followed by ice storms, followed by floods, the nightly news seems to be repetitious and we, safe in our lotus land climate, seem to be on another planet.

It is hard to imagine what it must be like to have to shovel snow every day before going anywhere, just to get out of your driveway. Sometimes twice a day. I can only imagine how it must be for those seniors with physical difficulties who find it hard to get out in normal circumstances, never mind the continuous snow storms. Under the circumstances, depression and anxiety would be a normal response to these home-confining conditions. Yet research conducted by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal of Stanford University shows that our attitude and approach to stress can make all the difference.

McGonigal’s research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. In one U.S. study, subjects were asked about their stress in the last year, and also whether they believe that stress is harmful to their health. Those who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year and believed that stress was harmful to their health had a 43 per cent increased risk of dying. Those who experienced a lot of stress but did not believe that stress was harmful had the lowest risk of dying. Apparently our perspective on stress can make all the difference.

Another factor uncovered by a five-year study revealed that while every major stressful life experience increased the risk of dying by 30 per cent for the general population, this was not true for those who spent time caring for others. They showed absolutely no stress-related increase in dying. The bottom line: we need to change our perspective of stress and realize that not all stress is harmful but a fact of life, like breathing. And that caring for others is in fact caring for ourselves and prolonging our lives.

Depression and anxiety is a major concern for seniors in winter especially those with physical limitations. A new program called Bounce Back: Reclaim Your Health is being offered by the BC division of the Canadian Mental Health Association and funded by the BC Ministry of Health Services. It is a program for adults experiencing symptoms of mild to moderate depression, low mood and stress, with or without anxiety. It offers two forms of help, both free for participants: a DVD video providing practical tips on managing mood and healthy living and a guided self-help program offered over the telephone. The program teaches skills to improve your emotional well-being through workbooks and the help of a Bounce Back community coach. Access to the guided self-help program requires a doctor’s referral. If you’re interested in the program, please talk to your family doctor or call 1-866-639-0522 or visit the website at CMHA.bc.ca.

The Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention and the North Okanagan Hospice Society are hosting an interesting discussion March 7 at the Schubert Centre from 10 a.m. to noon. Free and open to everyone, it will enable the community to come together over coffee for an interactive discussion and exchange of ideas about “What makes for quality of life when you have advanced life-limiting illness?” This is not just for people diagnosed with advanced illness but for family and close friends as well or for so many of us who never get a chance to discuss death or dying. Registration is required as seating is limited. Call Kelli Sullivan at Hospice at 250-503-1899, ext.104, to register or register online at http://qualitycafe2.eventbrite.ca

If you have comments or questions, call 250-542-7928 or e-mail:blackmail1@telus.net

Pat Black writes about issues affecting seniors in the North Okanagan, appearing every other Sunday.

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