5 Undercover Sources of Stress… and What to Do About Them!
There is something to be said about that moment of enlightenment where you realize you’re feeling sad or anxious and you don’t know why, and then, bam, it hits you!
Oftentimes our bodies can physically manifest feelings of stress and anxiety before we even realize that is what’s happening – upset stomach, headaches, increased blood pressure, tense muscles and back aches. It’s not pretty.
So, what might be stressing me out, you ask? Here are a few common sources of stress that all women over 60 face from time to time.
Literally, you may be covering your stress with “things.” An untidy home may not just be a reflection of lack of time to clean but rather your own emotional health. Physical items in your living environment can serve as symbols that embody specific feelings or memories you can’t let go – regret, loss, grief.
The presence of clutter, from piled up bills and papers on the dining room table to intrusive pieces of furniture you don’t even use, perpetuates ongoing reminders of those feelings and experiences you’re holding onto. Your home should be the open, friendly and welcoming environment you thrive in. If it’s overwhelmed with clutter and literal emotional baggage, stress will ensue.
Coming back from an illness, injury or surgery can be tougher in your 60s than it was even in your 50s. Getting treatment to help you live a healthier life, or surgery to address pain will in itself combat the stress from those causes; however, the anxiety during the recovery process can sneak up on you.
Not feeling as mobile and independent as you are used to creates feelings of frustration or stress – and even anger. Having to rely on others for extra support pulls on your heartstrings of shame and guilt. The underlying (and sometimes unconscious) fear of not getting better or of recovery taking longer than expected can catch you off guard as well.
The Facebook Phenomenon might be very real for you. Are you spending time on social media daily and taking in images and posts of friends experiencing great adventures, bragging about their kids or doting on their spouse? The feelings of envy and fear of missing out (FOMO) can quickly translate into a surprising amount of stress for you, whether you realize it or not.
As well, volatile political climates and world events play out every second on social media and can be hard to avoid. A constant barrage of negative, even painful, news stories can affect your overall mental state and sense of well-being. All these factors add up to social media being a big source of stress.
Other People’s Stress
Perhaps your relationship with your spouse is strong, you don’t have any health issues and your kids called just last week. So why are you feeling stressed? If you are the rock friends and family lean on when they are experiencing their own trauma or frustrations – like a sibling going through a divorce or a friend experiencing a great loss – you can take on the burden of their stress and find yourself carrying it around unknowingly.
Find yourself checking your phone right before bed and then again when you wake up? The hand to phone connection is a hard one to sever, but it could be a major factor of a stress for you – not getting a good night’s sleep.
You know that blue and white light your phone or laptop emits? Studies have shown that type of light actually prevents your brain from being able to release melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall asleep. Additionally, checking email or news stories before bed can leave the brain wired thinking about everything but falling asleep.
What Can I Do About It?
Chronic stress can have lasting ramifications on your health, so be proactive in recognizing the hidden sources that might be causing you undue stress. Not-so-great habits, external negativity and your own recovery can be alleviated by:
Refocusing Your Thoughts: Pick up a hobby that helps you refocus your thoughts in a creative, productive and calming way – like gardening, coloring, knitting or even yoga.
Practicing Self-care: Find daily activities that infuse your five senses with rich flavors, soft touches, soothing sounds, calming scents and beautiful sights.
Get Help: Short of finding a robot butler, even the smallest bit of assistance can help you manage stress. If you’re recovering from surgery, assistive tools like a rental knee scooter can enhance your mobility and independence. Looking for an assistant? Why not a virtual one? See what Alexa (by Amazon) can do for you.
Tidy Up: Spend small, manageable amounts of free time decluttering your living space. Maybe it’s giving away gently used clothes you barely wear. Or finally going through all the junk drawers in the kitchen.
No matter what you do, your approach to self-actualization and body awareness will be your main key to picking up on and addressing these “undercover” stressors. Check in with your own mind and body regularly, especially if you’re feeling pangs of stress, sadness or anxiety – and don’t forget, focusing on you every once in a while is a good thing!
What are the biggest sources of stress in your life? What do you do to deal with chronic stress and to change the habits that are silently making you feel anxious? Please share your thoughts to help other women in our community.