Stress, by its very mention, is a word that can raise tension and cause panic, but it’s something nobody can avoid. Even those we may envy for their fame and power in sport or entertainment, still have to deal with stress everyday.
For many people in midlife, normally defined from ages 40-65, the stress they endure can at times seem overwhelming, and can arise from many different areas, sometimes simultaneously. These may include some – if not all – of the following:
- Relationship pressures: arguments, changing priorities, interests, needs
- Dealing with a separation or divorce
- Financial pressure: lack of employment, income, financial disagreements
- Raising children, or having to deal with adult children’s issues, or their moving home
- Personal or family health concerns
Sometimes it can feel as if life just goes from one crisis to the next. And, sadly, the restrictions and traumas caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have only compounded mental health issues.
Accepting stress is simply part of life
One of the best things you can do is to accept that stress is a part of life, and sometimes, is unavoidable. That is just one tip given by the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in an article called, “The 4 A’s of stress relief.”1 Let’s take a look at this tip, and some of the other advice they provide in managing stress:
Point 1: Avoidance
Although some stress is unavoidable, there are a few things we can do to either avoid or reduce some stress that pops up.
For example, if you’re stuck in a line or an endless traffic jam, these can quickly lead to stress. That’s a perfect time to put on some music, and sweep yourself away and out of the situation, even if it’s just in mind only.
The Clinic also notes trying to avoid people who bring stress into our lives. They give an example of a work colleague who sometimes brings out the worst in you. In that case, try and create some physical distance between yourself and them. Sometimes the less contact we have with that person, the better.
And, a simple, but crucial point to remember: it’s fine to say no. If you’re feeling burned out or overstretched, you should not feel pressed to do, or be, everything for everyone. Set limits for yourself, and politely but firmly say no. And stand your ground when you need to.
Point 2: Alteration
By trying to pre-emptively alter a sensitive or stressful situation (or conversation), a lot of the work of dialing down the tension may already be done.
From the start, make clear any off-limits topics, or any time or other constraints you have. People should respect your boundaries and value your time as much as you do theirs.
And if someone is mistreating you, speak-up. Suffering in silence when being bullied or harassed won’t ever solve the problem. The Mayo Clinic notes that one should use “I” when describing their feelings – this makes the feelings being described more personal.
Point 3: Acceptance
Some life events we cannot change (alter) or avoid. A loved one passes, a job is lost, or what have you. Learning acceptance may be a difficult skill to master, but fighting against a situation we cannot ultimately prevail in will cause more damage.
If you find yourself in such a situation, reach out to someone you trust. A therapist, family member, or a trusted friend are all good choices.
Point 4: Adapt
And lastly, being mindful of your own expectations, and learning to adapt to new situations or challenges can help. If you tend to be a perfectionist, for example, often times you’ll just be setting yourself up for disappointment. Letting go, and changing your views on things, can help ease that burden.
Stress is here to stay; let’s accept, and move forward!
Life was never meant to be carefree and without stress, so how we relate to the stress in our lives will impact the outcome of those stresses. Maybe you can take the challenges you face and make something good out of them. Turn a stress into a success.
Even in the face of many stresses, the tips noted-above can help you cope with them on a daily basis. But always remember you’re not alone in battling these things in life. Advocate for yourself, and proactively deal with things – talk to a friend, take a break, enjoy something special – you will be that much better for it in the end.
Conway, Alan, Mayo Clinic Health System, The 4 A’s of stress relief, March 8, 2021. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/the-4-as-of-stress-relief