"I imagine a man must have a good deal of vanity who believes that all the doctrines he holds are true, and all he rejects are false." -- Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Are You Feeling Stressed?

     One great benefit of retirement is a lower level of stress. Or at least it has been in my experience, both for myself and my friends.

     I remember shortly after I got "packaged out" of my company I had lunch with a former colleague who had left the company about a year before I did. His new life was now all set, he said. He was happily married, the kids were grown up and out of the house, his mortgage was paid off. He and his wife enjoyed a couple of modest pensions as well as subsidized medical insurance, and they had a rental property in Vermont that brought in some additional income.

     He acknowledged that his income was lower than it had been. But he slept better because he didn't have worries that jangled through his mind and kept him up at night, and he never felt the dread he sometimes faced when he got up in the morning before work. Instead, now he had time to exercise and eat right -- he'd lost about 15 pounds -- and he could actually relax and read a book after breakfast or before dinner. "I'm healthier and happier than I've been in 30 years," he told me.

     In my own case, I know that I eat more when I suffer from stress -- they don't call it comfort food for nothing -- and I tend gain weight. During my last years at work I pushed the scale up over 200 pounds. Then, when the real stress appeared, I suffered a pinched nerve in my neck, which brought tingles and sometimes numbness down my left arm. I had three different episodes in my last five years at work. I did three bouts of physical therapy and once even had to wear one of those next collars, day and night, for several weeks.

     My last episode occurred just a few months before I left work. Since then I have not had one problem with my neck or my arm. I do my exercises -- because I have the time to do them -- and since I'm so much more relaxed -- and spend less time chained to a desk -- I simply haven't had any issues with my neck. And, by the way, I now weigh 15 pounds less than I did during my last year at work.

   But the stress has been rebuilding over the last year. Hasn't it? I'm not stressing over money or a job (although I do worry about my kids). But I'm stressed about being imprisoned at home with only electronic means for human contact. Many of my routines have been canceled -- like table tennis and dancing -- and of course any travel plans have been completely destroyed. I'm supposed to spend the month of February on a South Carolina beach. Instead I'm shivering in snow-covered Pennsylvania!

     Of course, we've made accommodations to our new situation. We don't go out to restaurants; but we do take a walk into town just to see some lights and some other human beings. Many of our activities are going strong on Zoom. But it's Zoom, not live action.

     We recently found an app called Readeo which gives us the opportunity to read books with our one-year-old grandchild. She got the gist of the first one, about a duck. The second one, on snow, didn't seem to interest her. But even as we try to make the best of things, the experience is nothing like sitting your grandchild on your lap and smiling at her and playing with her, and then getting her to turn the pages as you read and act out the story. 

     But what brings on the stress, for me especially, is the lack of control, the lack of information, the seemingly lack of care or cooperation from the authorities. I live in Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania is among the worst states in the country for the rollout of the Covid vaccine.

     I realize it's a difficult job. But that doesn't explain why every contiguous state to Pennsylvania -- all six of them -- are getting vaccine into people's arms at a lot faster rate than we are.

     We got an "official" announcement to register with the county -- but there is no information except that they are still vaccinating health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

     I received an email from my doctor's office:  "We are prioritizing patients who are 75 and older. Once these patients have been scheduled, we will move to the next group -- which will include you. We will notify you directly when the vaccine is available. This make take several weeks. We have 1,508 patients over age 75. At present we only have the availability to schedule 140 appointments per week with the current vaccine supply levels."

     So do the math. At this rate it will take ten weeks, until the end of April, before they even begin to get to my group. 

     Then I heard a rumor. One of my fellow CLR instructors told us he called St. Lukes Hospital. He left a message; someone called him back in an hour; and now he has his vaccine shot scheduled for this afternoon.

     So I called St. Lukes, gave them my age, address, email and phone number. Someone did actually call me back. She informed me that the Hospital is currently vaccinating only people 75 and over. She registered me, but couldn't tell me how long before I would be eligible. The vaccine arrives in spurts, she said. So it could be few days, or it could be a few weeks. There's no way to tell.

     That's pretty vague. But at least I now know someone is listening to me, registering my interest -- instead of communicating with a computer and thinking you're just being dumped into a black hole.

     So today my stress levels are down a little bit. No doubt, they will go up again. April is a long time away. I'll probably be gaining  few more pounds.


DUTA said...

Don't worry about vaccines; they won't change much. In my country, we got plenty of vaccines: Pfeizer and Moderna. A lot of people got vaccinated, a lot of people not.The last ones are being chased, warned, threatened.(it's a political-economical matter more than a medical issue).
Wear your mask and practice distancing- that's the best! Till when? Well, nobody knows, only God.

Arkansas Patti said...

I can only tell you I got my first shot Monday and I know it is psychological but I feel a bunch better than I did. Yep, stress I wasn't even aware of was bringing me down. Hope you get yours soon so you can feel the amazing relief.

Celia said...

I'm due to get my second shot this coming Saturday (if we aren't snowed out) and like Patti my stress level went way down after the first shot. I was surprised by how relieved I was. I'm 78 and recently all over 65 are included as the vaccine arrives. All the same we are masked and scrubbing our hands until they are dry as the fall leaves.

ApacheDug said...

Well Tom, as a fellow Pennsylvanian I understand your frustration over the vaccine... why are we almost last in the country and neighboring West Virginia on top? Well, as someone who won't be 60 for several months, I suppose I won't be getting my shot until next fall, if I'm lucky. I'm not really stressing about it, though I suppose I should be. I'm more depressed than anything--can't remember the last time I saw the sun, this HAS been a pretty tough winter, and I can't seem to shake this jaw disorder. I keep hearing from other sufferers, an oral surgeon etc that many live with it for several years or even a lifetime and I can't accept that. Anyway, I look forward to when you get your first vaccine, I hope you let us know. Hang in there Tom.

Carole said...

It's all very stressful. NY has a website that lists all of the state vaccination sites. Each location indicates if there are appointments available. It was sheer luck the day I was checking and discovered appointments available in my county. Prior to that, there were multiple problems with the website crashing; millions of people, desperate to get a vaccine, trying to schedule an appointment.

I don't understand why there wasn't federal guidance for administration of the vaccine given to the states. And, the criteria for getting it is different state to state, even county to county. In our county they are taking over 65 and those with chronic conditions, like hypertension. I've received my first one; I too, felt a tremendous relief. I've talked to several people who have had the second one and the fever, chills, headache, fatigue and joint pain have all been reported. But this is good news; it means that your body is mounting a strong immune response which will protect you from the actual disease. Hope you get yours soon Tom!

Red said...

I am always happy when I se a former colleague a year after retirement. They look much healthier.

BethC said...

My husband said that he observed that my stress level went down substantially after I semi-retired last March. I've been enjoying being at home and not working long hours/commuting. I have also enjoyed reading a lot more, cooking, watching tv for the first time in decades, and exercising on my Peleton bike and ancient treadmill. My 2 book clubs, OLLI classes via Temple and Duke, and DelVal CLR classes have also provided a diversion. But the isolation has really gotten to me in the last few weeks. A friend took me out for an outdoor, socially distanced lunch for my Inauguration Day birthday when we hit a warm spell in NJ that week. Other than that, I have seen no humans in person outside of my husband, 2 kids, and their significant others since November. Thanksgiving and Christmas plans with my sister and family were canceled. his week, I had a round of phone calls with close friends near and far. While it lifted my spirits, it was not the same as seeing them in person. And we are all saying, "same old, same old" in response to the "what's new" question. I also lost a dear friend (my best friend's husband) last week. She lives 3 hours away from me, and I have been so sad that I can't aip down to her state and envelope her in a hug. I think the fact that this has been going on almost a year have been weighing on many.

DJan said...

I am 78 and cannot seem to get on any lists for a shot. I check the places where you are supposed to register for an appointment daily, but so far no luck. Some friends have managed to get theirs, but I am still waiting. It is stressful, especially with these new more contagious mutations out there. :-(

Mona McGinnis said...

Am I feeling stressed? Yes. I've been managing the social isolation with walks outside and lengthy phone calls with friends and the usual diversions in the house. Then the temperature dropped to -30-40C this past week. This frigid cold is very oppressive and adds insult to injury. I'm feeling despondent. I cry unexpectedly in response to songs and scenes on tv. I'll keep on keeping on and doing what I can to mediate this despondency because what else is there to do? I can only trust that this, too, shall pass.

Tabor said...

The supply of vaccines is now doubling, so you should hear from people in the coming weeks. Just live safely. When everyone in my daughter's family got COVID over a weekend in January and got well within days her stress levels went way down.

Tom said...

But I guess there is some comfort in knowing that we are all in it together. Right?

Fred said...

I have been retired for 3 1/2 years. Missing being at work has yet to happen. I fully realize how fortunate I am. Long walks in natural surroundings ranks at the top of my list of ways to remove stress.
In our area it appears that associations with hospitals is the best way to access the vaccine. If our doctors were all independent with no hospital ties I don't think we would have been contacted at all.
Federal organization from the start could have made distribution of the vaccine go a lot smoother. For obvious reasons we are just now starting down that path. Hopefully the next 3 months will see substantial improvements in vaccine access followed by a return to some level of normalcy.

gigi-hawaii said...

Hang in there.

Wisewebwoman said...

It is challenging Tom. I was on the radio again this morning talking of this idiotic provincial election we are having along with blizzards and Covid 19 and the challenges all this presents to seniors. No sign of a rollout of the vaccine here in Canada either as we had a squabble with China - we had outsourced the vaccine manufacturing to them.

Go on line they tell seniors, find a friend to register with you. I am more furious than depressed, I have to admit. Some ivory tower these pols live in.


Anonymous said...

Tom, as a fellow Pennsylvania, I totally agree. It is beyond belief that our state can't handle this, especially when they had so much prep time as vaccines were being developed. My county's response has been a shambles. NextDoor is filled with comments from seniors whose children have scheduled appointments for them because the online system is impossible to use. As a childless senior, that leaves me with no hope of pulling off an appointment anytime soon. I'm in the same state of mind as Mona - this long, cold, snowy winter has kept me from walking, which always helped my state of mind. Hoping for better days ahead.

Kay said...

Hawaii was saying 75+ too, but now they're saying they're going to be opening it up soon to 70+. I know a lot of friends who are thrilled... but a lot who are wishing it was 65+.

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