Stress Management - A Vital Mid-Life Strategy

"Stress is a profound and pernicious physiological reaction that not only keeps your body from functioning at its best, it can make you sick. It can even kill you."



Half way into our journey overcoming mid-life concerns, there are two very important factors that you must learn to train if you wish to pursue your journey instigating mid-life renewal.

No matter your concerns, these two elements: stress and negative thoughts - will inevitably appear in your life at one time or another, and like a wild horse, if you don’t train them, in most extreme case, you can picture yourself landing as deep as six feet underground! I’m not kidding my friend! I don’t want to be mellow- dramatic, but I am putting the cards on the table. Stress can kill and so are your negative thoughts!

During this challenging period of life, many mid-lifers nourrish thoughts of discouragement that could lead them as far as discouragement and suicide. People also die of heart attacks! I invite you to read the statistics in my suicide prevention encounter. You will discover that suicide statistics are very high reaching mid-life. You haven’t seen them, well click on this link:

Mid-life-and-Suicide Prevention

This is a subject of real concern in mid-life. In this constant changing living and working environment, all generations are affected and much more so reaching mid-life crisis. Education about stress management becomes a vital need: we must learn to instigate balance in our everyday stressing environment.

Let us journey further as I we learn the meaning of stress, its biological triggers and their impact on your personality.

You will learn some strategies to help you overcome stress. But before we do so, here’s a little exercise for you to do:


Take a pen and a piece of paper and identify three major stress issues in your life at the present time.

  • Are they health related issues?
  • personal or interpersonal relationship issues?
  • financial or work related concerns?
  • a form of loss?
  • If you have more than three, you’re more than welcome to write them all.


    How do you approach these concerns?

  • Are you struggling to make ends meet?

  • You journey through carrying your issues like a heavy bolt chained to your ankle?

  • Is all this stress having a toll on your physical and mental sanity?

  • Is your source of stress interfering in your relationship with loved-ones?
  • 3.

    Are you trying to instigate purpose into your life but you feel overwhelmed with inner-emptiness?


    Finally, do you sense a positive feeling about your future?

    The answers to these questions will give some idea of your level of stress and the impacting effect it's having on your life at the present time.


    Is it having a really bad day? Having too much to do? Dealing with a difficult person or situation?

    Each of us experience stressors (situations considered stress-provoking), whether minor hassles (events that occur routinely), moderate life events or extreme traumas. How well do you cope(in other words how do you stop the stress response)?

    What are your skills of resilience (your level of resistance to stress) and resources?

    What as been your experience overcoming struggles?

    Write your answers in a daily journal.

    "Stress is what we experience when we start feeling like the demands life is placing on us become greater than our resources for coping with them."

    According to Hans Selye,

    "the ability to manage stress is developed and premised on the idea that stress is not a direct response to a stressor but rather one’s resources and ability to cope mediate the stress response… allowing stress to be controllable."

    Stress can help us get things done. Picture our athletes working out to win a gold metal. Picture, for example artist Nana Mouskouri’s level of stress in fifty years of singing career in order to earn 350 gold, platinum records,(not to mention honours) recording more than 1500 songs in more than 10 languages, studying seven languages, having sold close to 400 million records world wide…giving more than 100 yearly concerts world-wide. (not to mention galas, her contribution as an international goodwill ambassador and 5 years in politics!)

    How did she manage - without ever having taken more than one periodical time off?

    Her answer to this question:

  • stubborn optimism,
  • passion for singing,
  • her love for music
  • the love she received from her fans and audiences.
  • This form of stress is called eustress in opposition to distress.

    I intentionally chose her example to illustrate how her positive attitude and a purpose in life can move mountains and how she's my inspiration when I feel down and in the dumps!

    Stress can help us get things done, but there must be balance. Balance is the key word,here. Too much stress can have a devastating outcome on your physical and mental well being.

    According to Dr. Kenford Nedd, M.D. the stress is the response to your trigger of concern in your environment. From his book: Power over Stress, I quote:

    "It is not as much what’s happening, but the way you perceive the situation – the physical, emotional or behavioural responses that you make based on that perception that is the problem. Your negative perception of any problem will work against you when you decide you are helpless or powerless."


    The nervous system is divided into two parts:

    A)Central nervous system:

  • the brain
  • the spinal chord.

    B)The peripheral nervous system.

    The peripheral nervous system is divided into two parts:

  • Automatic nervous system – transmits information back and forth to your central nervous system.

  • Somatic nervous system - controls our internal organs

    The Automatic nervous system is composed of two parts:

  • The sympathetic nervous system: His function consists of activating the survival responses to perceived threats. It increases:
  • your heart rate,
  • regulates the size of your blood vessels, and prepares your body for action.(red alert) All your energy is focused on responding to what is happening. (fight or flight)
  • The parasympathetic system helps you to relax. It slows down your heart rate, dilates the blood vessels that takes nourishment to your vital organs, processes digestion while it conserves energy. The system cleanses and nourishes your body to strengthen and support you.

  • All tensed up!

    When the body goes into stress reaction mode, the motor area of the brain activates 680 muscles. For this reason you will sense physical tension:

  • in your shoulder,
  • your lower back,
  • your neck

    You will sense:

  • chest pains…
  • abdominal disorders…

    The limbic system is the emotional centre of the brain. Stress will activate feelings such as fear,anger,frustrations, guilt, depression and self-doubt. It is important not to take those emotions for granted nor on the other end, become a prisoner.

    Be in charge; learn to choose what is positive. Question your emotions: Where did this come from? Am I overtired? Is there something else bothering me?

    The stress hormones gives a surge of energy and tightens your muscles.

    The adrenaline raises the level of cholesterol in your blood, reduces the diameter of the blood vessels in your heart, your brain, your kidneys and can do some damage to the inside of the blood vessels. Plaques are formed (deposits on the walls of blood vessels)risking closing the vessels all together.

    The blood cells become sticky, clumps together on the plaques obstructing the blood vessels(blockage) results in heart attacks but if the blockage is in the brain the result is a stroke.

    In a stress reaction, cortisol is secreted in your blood stream causing your body’s immune system to slow down.


  • Irritable bowel diseases,
  • arthritis,
  • viruses and bacterias,
  • abnormal cells and tumors.

    The hypothalamus is the master control organ in your brain. It dispatches a message to the pituitary gland(that also controls other glands in the body) The hypothalamus secretes the adrenaline and the cortisol hormones into your system - causing a stress reaction:

  • Muscle tension
  • Irregular shallow breathing
  • Negative emotions
  • Increased stimulation of sympathetic nervous system
  • Loss of physiological balance
  • The body either gears into fighting or fearing mode.
  • From the Wikipedia Website,I quote this enumeration of stress signs – maybe identical to your own signs of stress in orderto enlighten you on the influence your stress may have on your physical and mental health:

    "Signs of stress may be cognitive, emotional, physical or behavioural and include (but are not limited to) symptoms such as:

  • poor judgment,
  • a general negative outlook,
  • excessive worrying, moodiness,irritability,agitation,
  • inability to relax,
  • feeling overwhelmed, feeling lonely or isolated,depressed,
  • aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation,nausea,dizziness,
  • chest pain,rapid heartbeat, eating too much or not enough,
  • sleeping too much or not enough, withdrawing from others,
  • procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities,
  • using alcohol, cigarettes,or drugs to relax,
  • nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)."
  • Through laboratory research, Hans Selye, an endocrinologist (hormone disorders specialist) – elaborated this theory called general adaption syndrome(GAS)

    According to Selye, there are three stage levels of stress reactions and their related impact on the mental and physical health of an individual. He identifies them as:

  • The Alarm Stage
  • The Stage of Resistance
  • The Stage of Exhaustion
  • The Alarm stage

    The threat or stressor is identified or realized; the body's stress response is a state of alarm. (red light) During this stage adrenaline will be produced in order to bring about the fight-or-flight response.

    The Resistance stage

    The stressor persists and it becomes necessary to attempt some means of coping with the stress. Although the body begins to try to adapt to the strains or demands of the environment, the body cannot keep this up indefinitely, so its resources are gradually depleted.

    The Exhaustion stage

    At this point, all of the body's resources are eventually depleted and the body is unable to maintain normal function. Symptoms such as sweating, raised heart rate etc may appear. If this stage is extended, long term damage may be the result: the adrenal gland and the immune system is exhausted and their function is impaired as well as the development of illnesses such as ulcers, depression, diabetes, trouble with the digestive system or even cardiovascular problems, not to mention mental illnesses.


    ‘’Stressors are situations that are considered tension provoking’’.

    Life carries its toll of concerns. Whether they are every day life hassles, life events or traumas, our attitude towards these events determines if our physical and emotional responses will either have a positive or negative impact on your personal welfare. Let’s look over some stressors that could kick us into the emergency mode and discover how they impact our daily life. If you recognize any of your own stressors I invite you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What can I control in this situation?
  • Is there anything I cannot change in this situation?
  • Can I keep the unpleasant uncomfortable physical sensations from controlling my life? (anxiety, heart palpitations, agitation…)
  • Can I develop a "let’s wait and see" attitude rather than catastrophizing?
  • A. Handling Anger

    The following stress triggers elaborated in this encounter have been presented by Dr. Sharon Faelten and David Diamond in their book: Take Control of Your Life – A Complete Guide to Stress Relief.

    I recommend this book If you recognize any of these triggers to be your own and would like more information as to how you can overcome your stressors.

    Is anger a stressor in your life?

  • Are you constantly yelling?
  • You’re angry but cannot be assertive about it?

    When you’re angry:

  • You don’t necessary think about what you’re doing
  • You don’t lash out at someone
  • You don’t sit and stew.

    The way you express your anger is something you’ve learned (it’s not natural) therefore you can learn to cope in new ways.

    Tips to handle your anger:

  • Learn relaxation techniques
  • Keep a daily journal to help you track the triggers
  • Acknowledge when you are creating the anger
  • Rate people’s behaviour rather than evaluating them as a whole.
  • Talk to a friend about it
  • Try to understand the circumstances provoking the anger
  • Avoid people who make you angry
  • Anticipate that they may make you angry
  • Develop alternative ways of coping: Take a deep breath, count to 10…

    2. Guilt

    "Guilt is a form of self-punishment. It is a reaction to an event or a situation and when it motivates you to constructive creativity, it’s both healthy and useful.’’ Salvatore V. Didado, Ph.D

    You were rude with a friend and you feel guilt and as a result you apologize, you offer to do a good deed to help him. This form of guilt is healthy; it makes you human.

    Your guilt becomes unhealthy when in circumstances such as mortality, breach of friendships…you begin searching for past situations where an offend could have been realized.

    As an example in my personal life...for years I have blamed myself for the accident of my little brother. I was in the living-room watching television when I heard the accident. I've blamed myself: "If I had been taking care of him, this would not have happened.’’

    It took me a while to recognize and accept that blaming myself would not bring my brother back and that watching television after lunch did not make me a bad person. I had no clue my little brother was outside... How could I possibly know that he would be accidentally hit by a motorcycle? As a fourteen year old, you don't know better.Carrying this inappropriate guilt created inner-guilt and depression playing a toll on my self-esteem..

    If this is your situation, ask yourself the following questions:

    "How is my behaviour so terrible, immoral or wrong? Are you, by any chance, magnifying things out of proportion?‘’

    Dr. David Burns M.D, from his book ``Feeling Good`` gives us warning signs and tips:

  • Feeling guilty when there’s nothing to feel guilty about
  • Feeling guilty about being happy, about something good.
  • Turning your guilt into anger
  • Experiencing guilt for an incident that happened twenty years ago.
  • Your intense feeling get you in more difficulties
  • They cause you to lose friends, to reject their love for you
  • They diminish your drive for constructive behaviour (working and socializing)

  • Engage in a reflection (alone or with someone, or a therapist)
  • Blow off some steam and strike the real issue
  • Session with a counsellor or therapist to help you pinpoint you real guilt issues and help you notice how these guilt translated into symptoms.

    But sometimes we are guilty for good reasons in this case:

  • Take responsibility for your actions,
  • apologize to the person,
  • resolve to change,
  • than let go of it!

    NOBODY’S PERFECT; WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES. If you suffer of perfectionism and you have a hard time dealing with mistakes please visit this page:

    Overcoming Perfectionism in Mid-Life


    According to Dr. Sharon Faelten and David Diamond:

    "Worry is the thinking part of anxiety…you feel sinking in your stomach, your muscles tighten and ruminations take over the mind, replacing unimportant thoughts."

    The positive feedback of worry

    Worry may help you:

  • to take some control.

    "Worrying lets you rehearse negative possibilities and allows you to prepare for the experience. You’ll cope better because you worried."

    Irving Janis in The Work of Worrying

    When worry becomes a chronic concern…

  • When your worry troubles you…
  • When you feel there’s no way to prevent stressful or counterproductive situations.
  • Immobilizes you
  • Tips to help with the worry trigger:

  • Learn to relax.
  • If you have memory concerns take notes.
  • Find ways of expressing your emotions and your concerns.
  • If your worry is chronic...

    Specialists recomment fixing a worry session - a time of day where you're able to worry. You schedule it at the same time every day. You monitor your worries during the day; identify the beginning of an episode as soon as possible. Make the decision to postpone it. Dislodge the worrisome thoughts by focusing your attention on the task at hand. Use your prescheduled ‘’worry period’’ to work intensely on your woes.

    During your worry session:

  • Create a problem-solve list

  • Sit down and list all your worries on one side of a sheet and possible solutions on the other.

  • Ask yourself the questions:

  • What’s the worse thing that could happen?
  • Will I survive?
  • What’s the probability of that happening based on your past evidence?



    Changes are considered highly stressful events. It’s unexpected and we feel totally unprepared. We have discussed a few of these concerns already! You wish to make a smooth transition. In order to do so avoid the following attitudes:

  • Underestimating or avoiding the feelings your life-change-event instigates on you.
  • Acknowledge your feeling, your loss and also your desire.
  • Don’t view the situation as a catastrophe or place needless demands over your shoulders.
  • Don’t blame yourself or others.
  • Anticipate the problems and the stress. Don’t deny it. Give yourself some time and space for adjustments. Develop good problem-solving strategies and alternatives in case something comes up. Talk about your new situation with someone; share your concerns.

    This change can bring a positive outcome in your life. Consider your past experiences. How did you cope with change in the past? You will overcome the situation again. Seek support whether financial, emotional or professional if necessary.


    Stress and tension are normal reactions to events that threaten us – whether financial, accidental, professional or interpersonal. The way to deal with them has a lot to do with our emotional and physical health. To summarize our reflection on stress management, I would like to present the following life-style prescription…the 11 rules for living…

    Rule 1

    Look your troubles in the eye. Problems not faced do not go away. Life is a roller coaster of ups and downs. Anticipate each dip, and prepare for it.

    Rule 2

    Never say you can’t, but do say you won’t. Neither be so discouraged that you quit, nor so stubborn you won’t stop. Troubles come sooner and last longer for those who wear themselves out.

    Rule 3

    For whatever you can no longer do, substitute something else. There is nothing more refreshing than a good nap, as long as it’s followed by waking up. Find a way to slow down without stopping.

    Rule 4

    Don’t hide. If you want your special needs attended to, you have to make them known. Do not be ashamed of your limitations.

    Rule 5

    Claim your rights and privileges, such as the right to refuse to eat more, the privilege of resting and pacing your activities, the right to assistance, and the privilege of cutting back on your work, and so on.

    Rule 6

    Be humble enough to accept help, and proud enough to ask for it. Do not be ashamed to ask for what you need. Accept help graciously.

    Rule 7

    Always offer a helping hand and a comforting ear. Stay interested in the world around you. Concerns for others lightens your own concerns.

    Rule 8

    Put anger, sadness and regret behind you. It’s perfectly OK to feel anger at the pain and distress of growing old. It isn’t OK to stay angry. It’s perfectly OK to mourn the closing of chapters in your life. It’s OK to regret all the things you could or should have done differently. It isn’t OK not to forgive yourself or others. Don’t let your anger today spill over into tomorrow. Look back without regret, and forward without dread.

    Rule 9

    Always look for the bright side. We win or lose by how we interpret and react to everything that happens. Winning is rejoicing in what you have left. Losing is seeing only what you have lost.

    Rule 10

    Take every day as it comes, and give it all you’ve got. The thing to be afraid of is not what you fear, but letting the fear keep you from going on.

    Rule 11

    Enjoy what each day brings. Be open with wonder and excitement to new experiences, even those that come with decline. Enjoy the ride down, even when you know there is no going back up.

    One great trigger of stress are your negative thoughts.

    How thoughts trigger stress and negative emotions

    I would like to introduce you to this wonderful tool of relief in your stage of mid-life concerns. A picture is worth a thousand words...Dr Rozman PH.D (Clinical and Counseling Psychologist) was invited on the popular show: The Doctors presenting the EMWAVE technique that helps regulate stress and bring heart and brain coherence in our everyday life situations.

    For more information about Heart Math or to purchase a hand held or computer heart math click this link

    The Sources

    The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Controlling Anxiety – Keep your fears and worries at bay by Joni E. Johnston, Psy. D., Alpha Books 800 East 96th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46420 Copyright © 2006

    Coping with Stress(Heart & Stroke Foundation) Booklet 222 Queen Street Suite 1402 Ottawa ON K1P 5V9 © Copyright 1997 Canadian Mental Health Association Metropolitan Toronto Branch

    Feeling Good – The NewMood Therapy, by Dr. David D. Burns, M.D.

    Take Control of Your Life – A complete Guide to Stress Relief by Sharon Faelton, David Diamond & the Editors of Prevention® Magazine, Rodale Press, Inc. Copyright © 1988

    Power over Stress - by Kenford Nedd, M.D. 35 Quick Prescriptions for Mastering the Stress in Your Life, Press Toronto, Canada Copyright Kenford, Nedd M.D. © 2004.

    General Adaptation Syndrome y.pdf

    The Sudbury Star - Read Ann Landers - Jesuit offers Prescriptions for living - by Rev. Robert Ronald, s.j.

    LINKS: shares Reiki healing, stress management techniques, self-help and motivational material, alternative therapies and valuable information on mending the soul, alleviating depression, increasing your creativity and utilizing the law of attraction to increase your happiness and enhance your life.

    Confronted with stressors makes you feel helpless; stress management is a mind power as the triggers of your stess first begins in your thoughts.

    "Throughout this website you will find calming, relaxing and just plain beautiful imagery to help you in your quest for mid-life stress relief.

    "A software-based program allows you to observe your heart rhytmns in realtime and assists you in increasing coherence to reduce stress and improve health and performance." Transforming Depression by Dr.Deborah Rozman PH.D p.171 ger.html

    At Practical Anger Management you'll find the most productive ideas If you are concerned about an anger management problem, or want to do anger management classes save yourself some time and great to us first.

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