Several loved ones had to put down long-term companion animals this last week, and their resulting grief was sobering. My oldest dog hurt his back and I’ve spent hours doing Feldenkrais(R) body work with him over the last few days, and thinking about loss.
Of course, loss is part of life, and we all get our share. I was interested to see an article this morning from the Washington Post: As You Age, Grief Starts to Literally Make You Sick. Researchers looked at younger and older people who were experiencing grief. In our thirties, we tend to bounce back from grief, showing little or no depression in our immune systems. But by the time we are 70, grief gives our immune system a hit that stays around, allowing illness to set in.
Biologically, grief looks a lot like any other stress – hormones like cortisol and adrenaline get pumped out, flooding our system and leaving us in fight or flight mode. The good news is that we know how to counteract this corrosive cycle. Activities like Feldenkrais lessons – or even parts of lessons – give our systems the time to settle and the tools to reorganize.
Life has enough stress without experts telling us that aging inevitably depresses our immune systems because of grief. You can manage your stress at any age with just a little time invested and a method like Feldenkrais to guide you.