Anxiety & Aging the Dilemma for Baby Boomers

I admit it. I am an aging Baby Boomer. I accept than I am aging and that I am not in my 20’s, nor 30’s, even my 40’s or 50’s. I am past 60 and more than beginning to show my age. Physically, I mean. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually I am still a puppy BUT… If you are a Baby Boomer, you know where I am going with this.

My hair is not the same color as it was in my 20’s. Nor is there as much hair as there was in those photos of me with shoulder length locks and the full dark beard that I recently posted on Facebook. Believe it or not, I weigh more than I did when I was in my early 20s. In my early 50s, I took to wearing reading glasses and now my bifocals are my constant companion. Even my hearing has been impacted by the time, activities, and the years since my youth. My doctor reminds me that I need certain regular unspeakable tests as a more than I would want, course of my annual physicals. Though I manage my stress and anxiety fairly well through regular relaxation, meditation, and exercise, I find the anxiety of aging creeping closer to the surface. The situation is not unique just to me.

I don’t have the youthful energy that I once had nor the ability to focus and concentrate. It seems to take me longer to learn certain tasks and yet I do not want to give up on learning new things. I am not sure whether I am just frustrated by the aging process or whether there is some deeper levels of anxiety and fears that I or someone like me, may need to address. For most of my life, I have a pattern of being oppositional and not truly fitting in with the age that has been prescribed for me. I still feel youthful, excited, and passionate about life and yet I don’t seem to have quite as much energy. So as I struggle with the current reality I know that I am not alone and that there are many people who are dealing with the same situation and would like to find a forum for us all to work together and to support each other as we deal with the consequences of aging.

I do not claim to have a magic diet or exercise program that can eliminate the impact of aging. I would like to be able to offer a process where each of us can minimize the impact of the anxiety of aging. There are people who struggle a great deal more than me with the discovery of wrinkles, lack of skin tone, the widening of the waistline, the reduction of hair, or even the loss of key body parts like teeth. I have been blessed with a relatively healthy body and yet I still feel the effects of the aging process as I celebrate my mid-60s. This may not be true for everyone, but I do not wish to go back and be a teenager or someone in my 20s again. I simply wish that my body did not behave as if it were a large sack of stones that I must drag around at certain times.

For me a passive life of sitting still does not resonate. I like to be active and energized by new and exciting things. I like to tell my stories of times past when I hiked over mountain passes far above timberline and yet most days I do not feel I have the energy to trudge up those trails the way I did in my 20s and 30s and 40s. Truth be known, I can still do many of the things that I tell stories about but in this day and age I would do them more slowly and probably less gracefully. Again, I do not find my situation unique to me and I would like to be a voice for many of us baby boomers who can still not believe that the insidious aging process offers us “better days”.

Perhaps what is needed is a new perspective and a new way of looking at my now worn life. People tell me that I should focus on the positive like what I can do and what my body is able to perform. And yet there are times when any limitation makes me boil. I also admit that I am far from being a patient person. I’ve said for years that there will be a time later in life when I engage in accepting the process of being patient. I have not found that time in life as of yet. I’m not jealous of people who have their youth or of people who are in better shape than I, I am only envious of my memories of what I once took for granted and now find difficult if not impossible to do.

My ranting in this blog is designed to be a point of discussion. I would like to build a process where there can be physical control of fear and anxiety and the wherewithal to find greater emotional acceptance to live with the challenges that we all must face. From using the techniques that I have taught for 40 years in stress management and from sports psychology, I know that there are ways that we can minimize the impact of the aging process at least on our mind and our spirit. If you have an interest in developing your own skills for dealing with the aging process please contribute to this blog with comments and continue to follow your passion and be a role model for all of us.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Blessings to you and all of us baby boomers.

Caffeine Cause Anxiety Attacks

Caffeine Cause Anxiety Attacks

Since the dawning of the “Information Age” in the early 1980’s the pace of change has accelerated in our society. To keep pace with the explosion of new information and this rapid rate of change, many people have adopted a new coping strategy of increasing their consumption of caffeine. Caffeine is a drug. It is a stimulant which increases many of same physiological responses as the survival response known as the “Flight-Fight” response. It is this reaction by the body to the stimulation from caffeine that can trigger an anxiety-type physical reaction. Many people are unsuspecting and naïve regarding the full extent of this response to which often includes a common, and even, celebrated “rush” of energy. Knowing about this response can keep you from being a victim to caffeine related anxiety attacks.


As a stimulant, the effect of caffeine can be different from one person to the next. The amount of caffeine consumed, and then the amount actually absorbed by the body, can contribute to the range of reactions. It is not uncommon for caffeine to cause an increase in brain wave activity that can arouse a tired mind. This is the most desired response for many sleep deprived people. This can backfire on many people who may have a day long response to their morning coffee (or other caffeine source) because many people can not sleep well at bedtime as a response to this early caffeine consumption. This “vicious cycle” will then cause poor quality sleep/rest which requires more caffeine to get “up” for the next day’s activities.


The stimulation caused by caffeine can also increase heart rate and for some people increase their blood pressure as it simulates the release of excitatory hormones like adrenaline (epinephrine.) This rapid heart rate, when severe, can scare people, triggering the hormonal release which can cause a greater anxiety reaction. The frightening response to the physical associations of an anxiety attack can cause fear and can even drive people to the emergency rooms with the concern that the patient believes that they going to die from a heart attack. We have enough anxiety in our society without pushing ourselves over the edge with the stimulation of caffeine.


Caffeine can cause an increase in skeletal muscle tension as it triggers the classic flight response. This muscle tension can be distracting (loss of focus), cause fatigue, and in many cases increase the likelihood of increased muscle spasms and so, muscle contraction pain. In this way, caffeine can contribute to muscle tension headaches from the tightness of muscles in the jaw, neck, and shoulders. For people suffering from chronic muscular tension pain, this can contribute to their tension and pain. It will often cause an increased anxiety driven response to their pain which can intensify their chronic pain complaints. This is especially true for lower back pain and neck/shoulder pain, as well as the peripheral pains in the arms and legs that can be associated with back pain.


For those of you who use caffeine regularly, you should also know that there are plenty of cases of physical and psychological addiction to this drug. Many people feel withdrawal symptoms that are not comfortable when they try to discontinue their caffeine habit. If you want to discontinue, the best way to do this would be gradually over time. Substituting ½ de-caf into your morning coffee and minimizing other caffeine laden products will be helpful. Be patient and drink extra water!


In its defense, caffeine can be helpful for some types of headaches such as migraine headaches which can be reduced by caffeine or associated cafergot. (Cafergot is a brand name of the combination of ergotamine and caffeine.) With its stimulating effects on the digestive system, caffeine may also work as a laxative to minimize problems with constipation. Historically, European coffee “salons” were places where intellectuals could meet and have lively discussions while drinking brewed coffee which was more healthful than the untreated available water which was often contaminated with deadly diseases of the Middle Ages. The other alternative beverage for most Middle Age Europeans was to drink beer or alcoholic drinks which did not encourage good discussion, thinking, or productivity.


Since the 1980’s, our society has seen an explosion of coffee houses and Espresso stands. You can not get through any American city without being confronted by easily accessible purveyors of liquid coffee refreshments. Both young and old are caught in this “glamorous” habit with expanding zeal. A gift of choice is the insidious gift certificate for the expensive coffee houses. This has gotten to be big business.


Besides coffee or espresso drinks, caffeine is found in many products. Black teas, green tea, soft drinks, chocolate candy, and as an additive in many other products are but a few of these additional sources for caffeine. There are even a few products with commercial names like: Jolt, Red Bull, and RockStar that cater to the young caffeine crazed generation that seem to require higher concentrations of caffeine. I do not want to deprive people from indulging in these products, but people must be aware of what the effects of these products can do to their body’s and to people who interact with caffeine saturated folks. Many cases of “road rage” may be traced to the negative effects of over-caffeinated, stressed drivers.


Let’s have some common sense. Moderation is a great rule to follow, especially if you are one the people who are most sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Coffee businesses are not bad or the enemy, we just need to learn how use their products in the most appropriate ways.


  L. John Mason, Ph.D. is the country’s leading stress management expert and the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction.” Since 1977, he has offered Success & Executive Coaching and Training.Please visit the Stress Education Center’s website at Stress, Stress Management, Coaching, and Training (at for articles, free ezine signup, and learn about the new telecourses that are available. If you would like information or a targeted proposal for training or coaching, please contact us at (360) 593-3833.