Coping With Midlife Stress – How to Cope With Stress After 40 and 50
Stress is our body’s way of letting us know that we are in overload. Sadly, most of us totally ignore these symptoms of stress and anxiety until it’s too late. It is a part of life for all of us, but middle-aged adults, preferably women, seem to take a harder hit.
When we are approaching the age of 40, which is considered middle aged, a lot of strange things begin to happen. It doesn’t occur for all of us but some can begin to experience a midlife crisis if she is not stable-minded. With this, middle-age depression and anxiety sets in due to mid-life disappointments (divorce, unfulfilled dreams, financial issues, etc.). Things of this nature highly contribute to most of our stress, and when it begins, it exposes us to a wide range of medical problems. It is best to have remedies to lower the stress level as soon as it is possible. This is done by, first, recognizing that there is a problem and then seeking out ways to correct the issues in order to manage the stress.
Being bored with life at 40 is a red flag because this is still a very young age. Surprisingly, the ‘turning 40 depression syndrome’ is more rampant than ever now. Why it’s like that, I’m not sure; I’m guessing because we are considered to be middle-aged adults at this time. It’s hard to understand what really causes a mid life crisis, but if you recognize it’s happening, chances are you can pay attention to what is fueling it and begin to work on stopping it dead in its track.
Reducing stress should be a high priority for all of us. Learning stress-management strategies and knowing when it’s time to consider speaking to someone professionally – someone such as a psychologist is a really good idea. Stress-management training and seeking out things to do that make you happy will be the best route to take in lowering your stress level.
It is said that stress kills but what really happens is it stops the body from protecting itself – leaving you opened to innumerable diseases. There is no way to avoid stress because it is part of our everyday lives. There are good and bad ones. We can have stress from simply trying to get to work, preparing for exciting events such as a wedding, career change, etc. But undergoing excessive stress for a long period of time is when it becomes dangerous. Our bodies are not equipped to sustain this kind of pressure so it reacts in negative ways. In this mode, it begins to respond, releasing hormones such adrenaline and cortisol. At this stage, you are thrown into what we know as the ‘flight or fight’ mode, which is designed to prepare you for the danger that is perceived. Your pupils become dilated, heart rate accelerates, palms become sweaty, etc. Additional body functions go off balance as well – items such as your blood pressure, digestive and immune system. Muscle tension and insomnia also kick in. Stress is nothing to play around with and takes a toll on our overall health when left to continue; all the reasons why it is imperative to learn how to manage stress – putting it under control before things get out of hand. You can accomplished this by eating the right foods to fuel the body (oatmeal, green peppers); getting enough rest (as close to eight hours as possible); a fair amount of exercise; and, again, doing the things you enjoy. These are all steps you can take to keep yourself balanced while battling with stress.
What you don’t want to do around this time is abuse alcohol, drugs, caffeine or anything of this nature because all this does is fuel the fire. These items feed into the adrenaline and can encourage things such as panic attacks and depression. Instead, consider mediation, steam baths, talking out your concerns with a close friend, loved one or just doing something that brings you joy. The goal here is to do the things that will induce good feelings at this time. These good feelings are brought on by a chemical called ‘serotonin’. Without getting too much into details, serotonin is a chemical in the brain that is responsible for certain body functions (mood, sleep, memory). If there is a lack of it, depression can set in and the above-mentioned items can get affected. Taking the necessary steps during highly stressed periods keep your emotions and everything else in line; this is the smart way to work through it all safely. It’s always a good idea to be in tune with what is happening with your body so that you can take the best approach to stay healthy. I always say ‘knowledge is power’ and when you have the know-how, you can cope with your stress heads-on rather than give into it.
Years ago when my stress level would hit its peak, I use to experience serious panic attacks. I didn’t understand what was happening because I was doing my regular laps at the pool and would conclude it with the steam room to relax me. The problem was ‘I would top off the evening catering to my sweet tooth – which was my sin’. Sugar is an absolute ‘no no’ when you are highly stressed. I would do the regime at the gym to be relaxed, but behind it, I would gobble down almost a pint of Rum Raisin Haaggen-Dazs ice cream (my favorite). I would then follow up with a slice of Entenmann’s pound cake (another winner!). I would do this and wonder why I felt flustered when I just had a good workout (smiling). I was supposed to finalize everything by preparing a soothing glass of spinach with green peppers and other ingredients that was known to help relax the system. Instead, I did the opposite and would pay the price dearly. Now, I know exactly what to do so I no longer have those moments. As I said before ‘knowledge is power’ (smiling).
Vacationing is another important factor. We tend to trade in those vacation days for the cash. I am here to say ‘that it is the worst idea possible’. Vacation time should be taken each year or every six months, if possible. Selecting this option could save a lot of bad things from happening in the long run so don’t think twice about it when it’s time. When I can, I always run off. For me, a beautiful beach works. My health, happiness and comfort are first on the list; everything else comes after that. Thriving to take the right approach when needed in order to keep our life stress-free and balanced should be our first priority; that’s very important! It is especially so when you start working your way into midlife years.
P.S. Click here to see our article on winning the battle with anxiety.