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Gwen Rockwood: Time to let go, get ready, senior-itis ends soon

Senior-itis ends soon by GWEN ROCKWOOD The Rockwood Files | May 19, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.

Is senior-itis contagious? Because I think our nearly 18-year-old son, who is graduating high school this month, is spreading it like crazy. Our 15-year-old daughter has come down with a similar case of sophomore-itis. And lately I've got a debilitating case of mid-life-itis, even though Tom keeps telling me it's not a real thing.

The main symptom is a "lack of motivation," according to the dictionary's definition of the term. And if you could see us now, you'd nod your head like a wise old country doctor and confirm the diagnosis. After all, if it walks like an unmotivated duck and talks like an unmotivated duck, it's an unmotivated duck. My ducks and I want to be done with everything -- classes, extracurricular practices, homework, tests, events, projects, appointments, chores, deadlines -- all of it.

But having a case of senior-itis or burnout doesn't make you stop doing things. Responsible students and grownups trudge through the day's to-do list anyway because we must. We robotically handle the requirements of the day but not because it makes us feel better to do them. It's just that things will be worse if we don't.

This is the kind of condition that makes us feel hollowed out, like a well that has run bone dry. It's not a good way for humans to be. One way or another, we need relief.

Fortunately, this collective sense of "blah" and "ugh" plaguing our house made me remember a book I read a couple years ago titled "Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking The Stress Cycle," written by twin sisters Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. and Amelia Nagoski, DMA.

What I liked about this book is how it uses science to explain how the mind and body deal with the stress we all experience. And it's not just the obvious things like death or illness that cause stress. Even something like terrible traffic or a big, exciting job interview can create internal tension. So where does that tension go when the event is over? Even though our human minds know when we "should be OK by now," our bodies hold on to this accumulated stress, storing it up like a squirrel with a hoarding problem.

In the book, the authors discuss some proven ways to "end the stress cycle" so all that backlog of tension can finally leave you in peace. The methods include things like deep breathing, laughter (not just a chuckle, a true belly laugh), affection (like a 20-second hug), doing something creative that you love, positive social interactions and the traditional "big ol' cry."

One of the ways to know whether you're actually completing the stress cycle is to pay attention to what causes a shift in the way you feel. If taking a walk or a deep conversation with a friend or a tearjerker movie finally helps you feel a little lighter and more at peace, you'll know you're moving in the right direction.

At high school graduation, I'm hoping to hug and cry and clap and cheer alongside family, friends and hundreds of other parents. I'll be a virtual fountain of released tension. I hope it helps me and my ducklings come alive with motivation for summer break and new adventures ahead.

Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at Her book is available on Amazon.

Print Headline: Time to let go, get ready


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