Mark Kelly's Decision: Coping with Stress

                                                            by Joan Vernikos

Does worry keep you up at night? Do you fuss over fears, "what if" worries, stuff that needs to be done? It's easy to become all wired up with stress.

But have you stopped to think about how real this stress is?  It seems real enough at the time. Yet you can quickly erase it from your mind once you realize that it falls in the category of something that is not under your control.  You are unnecessarily wasting energy if you do not realize that all this anticipated stress is generated by you.

Then there is stress that comes unannounced, that you cannot disregard because it happens  unexpectedly and you must deal with it.  The incredible live TV drama of the shootings on January 8th, a beautiful sunny day in Tucson, Arizona came, like 9/11, to shake us out of putting off making sure we tell people we love them.

Think of that day's awful events. On the one hand, families lost loved ones and many were needlessly injured and experienced trauma. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords not only came near to losing her life but suddenly is facing the steep climb to carve out a somewhat different kind of future. Things never quite return to the way they were.

Consider what her astronaut husband Mark Kelly has been dealing with. He is Commander of a Shuttle mission only weeks away, and must have hit emotional bottom that fateful Saturday. Grueling naval and astronaut training, that equipped him in dealing with great risks as well as with news media, must have come in unexpectedly useful. Yet in his wildest dreams this was not the scenario he had prepared for. Additionally, his major support and twin brother Scott Kelly was unavailable, 200 miles up in space as Commander of the International Space Station. Should one tell astronauts in space this sort of tremendously bad news? Today's technology makes it impossible to keep anything a secret. These are professionals and they are trained to deal with bad news and challenges of all sorts.
How could astronaut-specific training have helped Mark Kelly? In the case of loss or near loss, astronauts will react like any other human being and use the tools they have developed. The list includes prayer, action, continuing with life's demands, taking care of one's own health, letting go of negative emotions and having people to lean on through the process of recovery.

In the case of  prolonged uncertainty, as in the case of Mark Kelly, the rigorous training to analyze, anticipate, think through and act must click in automatically. Yet no one can be trained for this kind of event. When others rely on you, helplessness is not an option. Staying emotionally in control and calm remains a fundamental requirement from which he can draw strength. His training would say:
  • Get the facts
  • Analyze
  • Remain informed
  • Question gently and constantly and establish control. Doctors and caregivers are in virgin territory with this case. Nothing can be taken for granted.
  • Organize assistance
  • Act on whatever is under your control
  • Faith 
Decision-making is one of the most stressful life events. Mark Kelly recently announced his decision to remain on-schedule to lead his 14 day mission on the shuttle Endeavor's last scheduled flight.
"As you can imagine the last month has been the hardest time of my life," he said.  Of his wife, he added "She's made progress every day; I have every intention that she'll be there for the launch." 
Godspeed Mark Kelly!

Four Tips to Adapting to Modern Times

Consider this common scenario:

Bob is a strong man of 60-something. He wakes up in the morning and gets out of bed. He usually aches a bit, pops a pill, rubs the complaining joint, but bears it. After that first cup of coffee he feels better and heads off to take on another day. Bob and his wife are financially comfortable and like to travel. They were about to take a flight to their favorite spot for the holidays when a very high heart rate and a trip to the ER changed all that. He was lucky, modern medicine saved his life.

This gave Bob a rude awakening. Many of us take for granted that our body and mind will see us through to a reasonable old age with minor breakdowns -- just as long as we can remain independent. But can you, without appropriate investment and maintenance?   Why wait to be sick before deciding to pay attention to your health. I think we sometimes take better care of our car.

Here are some tips to get you started:
  • Become aware of the constantly changing conditions in the world around you.  Keeping well requires that you adjust to these changes. Sway with the punches. Learn how to manage stress.
  • Commit to take responsibility for your physical and emotional well-being. Take out a warranty on your BMW (Body Made to Work). If not literally, make a conscious contract with yourself that you will at all times take care of this one of a kind body and mind asset. Decide to treat it kindly.
  • Begin by assessing your state of wellness today, not merely of your health but also of your daily habits as they affect your health. Get started with our Health Assets Self-Assessment  questionnaire which comes free when you sign up for our Newsletter. Think of it as the starting block for launching your Long-term Health Investment Plan.
  • Structure your relationship with technology. In this modern age, the abundance and the rapid appearance of ever–new technologies can throw you out of balance: your body is under-used, under-stimulated, almost immobilized. At the same time your mental capacities are over-stimulated
Whereas progress has come with every new discovery – fire, tools, the wheel, the printing press – historically, time between discoveries has allowed the human body and mind to adapt. Yet, since the industrial age the rate of advancements outpaced the ability to effectively recover and adapt to new conditions. In the last 60 years the explosion of technologies has made adapting ever more difficult.

Technological progress is unavoidable. It brings wonderful opportunities for improvement in the quality of life. On the other hand, are technologies taking over your life? Indiscriminate use of these technologies can be a negative.To enjoy well-being depends on your taking control of how you use technology to advantage.

Assess your state of wellness today, so you can make the appropriate choices for your tomorrow.

Are you in charge of how you use technology or has it taken over your life? Your comments will help others.

Measure Your Health Assets

In recent years I have published two books, and have been busy with public speaking and training workshops. Now with a new book in 2011, Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, my publisher advised me to increase my 'web presence'. So, here I am.  My mission is to help you age well by sharing with you readily available solutions, knowledge and experience from a research career with NASA.

As a result I got better organized and more productive. However, I fell into the trap of sitting in front of a computer for hours on end. I have always been active, with short daily routines at home, as well as swimming in the summer, tennis and yoga classes year-round and more. When my yoga teacher moved out of the area six months ago an unfriendly stiffness crept into my life. One small change in my daily routine and my energy took a nosedive while the mirror showed flab around the waist and  arms.

Had aging caught up with me? Not a bit of it! It was time to practice what I preach.
We have a wonderful new Wellness Center at the end of the road so I had no excuses for not taking charge of my condition. I joined and am slowly getting back to my old routine. It is, as you may have heard me say, mostly a question of  making time for oneself.

In my journey of web-literacy I found lots of helpful advice in how to use understandable language on Pat Flynn's Smart Passive Income blog. If you blog or have thought about starting, check it out. Though geared for young entrepreneurs and therefore often over my head, I find his advice candid and forthright. The excerpt below was in one of his earlier posts with a touch of the kind of philosophy that I subscribe to.

The Main Point

Step back from where you are and what you’re doing – and look at yourself. Are you doing what you want to do? Are you living how you want to live? Do you have the ability to do the things you want to do, and if so, why aren’t you doing those things? If you don’t have the ability to do the things you want, are you doing the things now to eventually get to that point?
I know that’s a lot to figure out, and you may not have an answer for yourself just yet. I’ll leave you with a quote, from me:
“You can do whatever it is you want to do. You just have to first, know what you want, and secondly, know how to get it. If you don’t know how to get it, find out how by doing research, reading, asking questions, taking initiative, asking more questions, and learning as much as you can.”
On your journey toward your desired lifestyle, many things will try and hold you back. Don’t let yourself be one of them."

I could not have said it better myself. So I thought if this advice is good enough for the financial side of your house it applies just as well for your health assets. After all it does no good to be financially independent in your old age if you are not physically and mentally independent enough to enjoy it.

Whatever your age, here's how I suggest you take charge of building your health assets:
  • Step 1: Get Started. Whatever your age, get started today by completing our free Health Assets self-assessment. You can get it by signing up for our Newsletter. When you have completed it, go back and re-read the questionnaire as well as your answers. 
  • Step 2: Assess. Where are your strengths and what needs work?
  • Step 3: Set a Goal. Focus your attention on one item and work on it for one month
  • Step 4:Check your progress by completing the self-assessment questionnaire again.
How do you see yourself in 20 years? Follow these blogposts for more information on developing your personal Third Age Health Investment Plan.

Leave your comments, enter the conversation.We are all in this together.

Here's to your successful Third Age! And as always thank you for your support.