Tips on Keeping Mind and Body Young
By Jesse Anson Dawn
Jesse Anson Dawn (at age 61), author of the national award-winning book, Never “Old,” plus The Rejuvenator’s Bible, speaks out about a most stirring subject: how to counteract the unwanted effects of “aging.”
Presently answering the question: “How does stress affect aging, and what are some things we can do about it?”
“I just can’t handle it,” seems to be the common complaint of people who feel they’ve reached their stress limit, and coinciding with that, getting a “handle” on something seems to be the opposite of stress.
As we take a minute to think about it, we might come to realize that this “getting a handle” feeling is what first spurred the custom of shaking hands, because hand-shaking does relieve a lot of stress between two people. And yet not only humans relieve stress by touching hands, but even our rainforest cousins, chimpanzees and gorillas, touch hands when greeting (with some of them even touching each other’s genitals amid a common greeting practice called “diddling.”)
But however you choose to greet people (diddling aside), a kindly handshake along with friendliness in general is one of the best stress relievers of all, as warmth and jovial radiance can de-tension an entire roomful of people (a fuse-defusing attitude that I try to evoke by singing in a band — hoping I remember to SMILE).
To Pacify or Let It
All Hang Out
Stress is the classic double-edged sword. On the one hand, we don’t want to raise blood pressure and bodily acids with a rage that dehydrates and causes ulcers — but on the other hand it’s physically and mentally damaging to let fury fester inside, forever unreleased. And so we need to occasionally counterbalance our efforts to be kind, calm and collected by letting off some steam, for passivity needs to be tempered with a bit of naturally righteous anger. This is why cardiologists identify two types of stress, one — the “hot reactor” type which occurs when the nervous system over-reacts to stimuli, and the second type — ”high resistance” — when emotions are so suppressed that disease and aging are caused by an excess of withheld tension.
One positive, steam-releasing way to get irate, whereby inner, intellectual rage is vented, is by writing strong letters of protest to the media. This is something I try to do on a regular basis, usually focusing my “retorts” on an environmental problem or a political injustice.
An interesting study which validates the results of righteous rage release was published by the Harvard School of Public Health in 1996. Researchers found that people who challenge unfair treatment and wrongdoing are much less likely to have heart attacks and high blood pressure than those who are habitually passive and unlikely to challenge the wrongful conditions of their environment.
Or as another of my mentors, the great Walt Whitman put it: “Agitation is the test of the goodness and solidness of all politics and laws and institutions. If they cannot stand it, there is no genuine life in them.” Or as the notorious Texan rageventer Jim Hightower (author of a book called “There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos”) duly says:
“The agitator is the center piece of the washing machine that gets the dirt out, and it’s the only thing which has ever got it out.” Indeed.
On the flipside of righteous editorials, there’s the positive concept of:
Doing it For Love
Apparently, whatever we decide to do “just for love” is the most rejuvenating stress reliever of all. And I can verify this personally, for what else but love for the craft would have kept me writing one publisher-denied book after another, never giving up despite 26 years of “sorry, good luck elsewhere,” rejection slips in the mail.
But despite that frustrating quarter-century (from age 23 to 49) of living in flop houses, trailers, you name it — whatever I had to do to keep the writing and music thing going — it was during those two-and-a-half decades that my body went through minimal physical changes, while my energy level, if anything, got stronger as I kept reinventing myself . . . all to keep an undying path of creative work alive.
Indeed talk about “doing it for love” — whew! — I feel like I could qualify for a spot in the Guinness Book of Records (if only they had a category for Longest Unpaid Labor. 26 years!). And yet who is to say what real “pay” is? Is genuine payment a physical thing, a mental or a spiritual thing, or all three? However, in this case, the spiritual payoff rests in your hands, with the outcome of all my decades of labor now evoking before you.
All of which seems to boil down to that classic proverb which says: “This race is not for the swift, but for who can endure it.” As day by day we get either further or closer to the healing light . . . Or as singer-songwriter Bob Seger was inspired to say: “Ah, the wonder, the wonder — saw the lightning — now waiting for the thunder . . .”
Or as the honorable Honore de Balzac (another notorious Taurus) saw fit to decree: “From where you sit, to the frontiers of the universe, are but two steps: Will and Faith.” And a big and hearty, AMEN to that...
For the whole self-renewal story, both of Jesse’s amazingly helpful books, Never “Old” (258 pages), and The Rejuvenator’s Bible (233 pages) are available for just $15 for the pair. Simply call toll-free (800) 736-3922 and order with credit card, or send a check payable to World Changing Books, 489 Oceanview Dr.. Hilo, HI 96720. $15 covers books plus priority postage. Also, please see www.angelfire.com/hi4/jessedawn, or e-mail email@example.com .
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