Making The Good Life

It's not what you have, but how you live.

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Sleeeep…

Saturday was the best day I’ve had in a long time. I felt really light and happy (or at least content) nearly all day. I got up early, cleaned my deck, had coffee outside, made breakfast for the boys and served it outside on the deck table. It was delicious and the boys enjoyed a little family time before we went off in different directions.

Alan and I did several small but impactful projects together outside, and it felt good to get them done. He’s so handy – reminds me of his grandfather. I wish that they had had more time to work together on things. Dad would have enjoyed teaching him to use the power tools in his basement as much as Alan would have liked learning from him.

Joey had a double shift at work, so he headed off soon after our “brunch” was finished. I did some work in my shade garden after Alan and I finished our projects, then we went off to the pool for a bit to relax. It was a lovely day, met up with friends at the pool and just really enjoyed the time. Later that night I made fresh pesto from the basil in my garden, a friend came over and we had wine and chocolate on the deck.

Yesterday was a nice day, but my mood wasn’t as light. The sadness of recent weeks seemed like it was always close at hand. Today has just been awful. I feel grumpy, sad, depressed…

So what was the difference? Sunday was a similar day to Saturday. The only thing I can come up with is how much I slept prior to Saturday and since then. During the week before, I was concentrating on getting 7 ½ to 8 Photo by Liz Lawleyhours of sleep a night until Saturday night. I stayed up too late Saturday night watching a movie after my friend left, but went ahead and got up early anyway because I had a full day planned. Last night was worse – got maybe 6 hours. How much difference does sleep make in one’s mood, especially when already dealing with sadness and depression?

Most of the research that I could find focused on lack of sleep and depression:

Lack of sleep caused by another medical illness or by personal problems can make depression worse. (http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-sleep-disorder)

Insomnia and depression feed on each other. Sleep loss often aggravates the symptoms of depression, and depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep. On the positive side, treating sleep problems can help depression and its symptoms, and vice versa. (http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/10-surprising-results?page=2)

My experience of grief has been that it FEELS a lot like depression at this point, so I’m firmly convinced that there is a connection.

I think that in addition to the other positive benefits that sleep has on your health and wellbeing, it’s going to be important for me in moving through this period in my life and healing from grief. While I don’t want to pretend that it doesn’t hurt, I also don’t want this grief to overwhelm me and stop me from enjoying what I still have. I need to experience it and deal with it, but in a constructive way. So, early to bed I will go, for the rest of the week. Let’s see how I feel in a few more days.

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Back to the Beginning

When I started this blog, I intended to write about aging gracefully, healthfully and with acceptance. By acceptance I mean not giving up to the inevitability of poor health and infirmity that we so often see in our elder population, but acceptance of the unchangeable fact that I am aging. I have probably been alive for more years than I have left; I have passed my halfway point. This blog is about how I want to live what I have left.

I got derailed right away by my dad’s death. I haven’t felt like writing and indeed didn’t feel that I had anything to say. What can you say after watching an incurable disease steal what should have been a healthy and productive period in someone’s life? He had no heart disease, no diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. He should have been with us for a long time.

But with a little bit of time and distance I’ve been able to look at things differently. He gave me a great genetic inheritance (in addition to all of the other lovely intangible things about being his daughter). What can I do to make the most of it?

So, I am going forward. Some of the resources I’ve been looking at are:

YOU: Staying Young: The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty, Michael F. Roizen MD and Mehmet C. Oz, MD.

While I totally feel a little bit like Dr. Oz has become far too commercial and unreliable recently, I do really like the content of this book. It makes sense, and is presented in his typical humorous style. Dr. Roizen is the co-creator of the RealAge concept and author of the best-selling book of the same name.

The RealAge Makeover: Take Years off Your Looks and Add Them to Your Life, Michael F. Roizen MD.

Dr. Andrew Weil on aging gracefully. I watched a video, available on Netflix, called Dr. Andrew Weil: Healthy Aging. It had a profound impact on how I’ve been thinking about aging.

There are more, and I’ll share them later. Some are more fun, light hearted, and vain, others are serious and educational.

What Dr. Weil, Drs. Oz and Roizen and I have in common is the belief in (maybe hope for, in my case) the ability to age well and remain healthy and active well into the senior years, with decline and infirmity happening only very near the end of life. They call it “compression of morbidity”. That just means that you live your senior years in reasonably good health, with a sharp dropoff at the end rather than the constant decline and years of poor health that so often happens.

What does that mean for you and me? It means you can live in your home if you want to, not in an assisted living facility. That you can continue to participate in life and the lives of those you love. That you can work, if you want to, or volunteer if you want to, go to grandchildren’s graduations and weddings, travel, garden, have lunch with friends…really anything you want to do.

How do we get there? From what I can learn, it seems simple and straightforward (on paper):

  • Keep your weight down, in the healthy BMI range
  • Eat a good diet (more later)
  • Stay active, and I don’t mean just taking the stairs
  • Control your stress
  • Maintain some kind of social life
  • Control inflammation (LOTS more on this later)

We all know that it’s harder in actual practice than it looks on paper, of course! And I’m only 49 – why worry about 70 or 80 now? You already know the answer to that. The sooner you start, the better the result. I’ve already got a head start on weight and diet – I’m 126 pounds and I’ve had an interest in healthy eating for a long time. My views have evolved some over time and will probably continue to do so.

I’m concentrating on more physical activity, fine tuning my diet, stress management (really needed right now) and my finances in preparation for retirement. I may never fully retire, but I’d like to choose whether and how I work, and not be forced to greet shoppers at WalMart.

I’ll talk more about each in the coming weeks. Until then, how do you feel about aging? Are you ready for a healthy old age? If not, are you willing to change?

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