Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life.

…on your body

• Headache
• Back pain
• Chest pain
• Heart disease
• Heart palpitations
• High blood pressure
• Decreased immunity
• Stomach upset
• Sleep problems

…on your thoughts and feelings

• Anxiety
• Restlessness
• Worrying
• Irritability
• Depression
• Sadness
• Anger
• Feeling insecure
• Lack of focus
• Burnout
• Forgetfulness

…on your behavior

• Over-eating
• Under-eating
• Angry outbursts
• Drug or alcohol abuse
• Increased smoking
• Social withdrawal
• Crying spells
• Relationship conflicts

Retirement is a life-altering process for most of us, just like moving, losing a job, or death of a family member. All of these changes can cause stress and negatively impact our daily life.

Retirement can also be a stressful time for those not retiring. Having a spouse around the house full time can be a significant adjustment. Having a valuable coworker retire will likely increase the workload of those still working and cause those left behind to pick up the slack.

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, your body releases a burst of hormones to fuel your “fight-or-flight” response. When the threat is gone, your body returns to normal. Unfortunately, the non-stop stress of modern life means that your alarm system rarely shuts off.

Stress can have physical, emotional and behavioral manifestations and you may not even realize stress is the underlying cause. If you recognize the effects of stress listed in the table, it is important for your overall health to get your stress under control.

If you do have stress symptoms, taking steps to manage your stress can have numerous health benefits. Stress management could include:

  • Addressing the issues that are causing your stress
  • Making time for yourself and the things you enjoy doing
  • Physical activity
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Meditation
  • Yoga

Of course, other potentially serious health problems can also cause some of the same symptoms as stress. If you’re not sure if stress is the cause or if you’ve taken steps to control your stress but symptoms continue, see your doctor.

Whether you are retiring or not, you probably know someone is or who soon will be. Our hectic lives provide many “opportunities” for pulling our hair out. Identifying the signs of stress and the underlying cause can greatly improve your overall health.

For more information about stress management, see the Mayo Clinic’s website at

This article was first published in the Summer 2010 edition of the Retiring Right newsletter. Click here to view other newsletters. Not receiving your newsletter, update your address by completing the Change of Address form.

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