I have been asked to do an interview for BecomingElli.com, “Fit, strong, women over 50,” about, in part, women over 50 and stress. Thinking to jot down a few thoughts, it turned into a blogpost! Look for the interview, I'll post it soon, but in the meantime, here's this:
You already know most of the most common signs of stress, but for women as we age, there are a few that might surprise you. These can include dried and wrinkly skin, hair loss, increased cuts and bruises, and cravings. We may also begin feeling as though we don’t have as much resilience to deal with stress. Sound familiar?
Even if we are not experiencing these signs of stress & aging, how do we better respond to the experience of stress? Other than employing first aid t reduce stress, we need to identify sources of stress. What is happening in our lives that contributes to stress AND how are we reacting to these external situations? Some stress comes from doing too much, from living in cultures that overemphasize being productive, keeping busy (like in the US), from sociopolitical challenges, things perhaps we think we don’t have much control over. And yet, even these are dynamics that we get to choose how we respond to them. The more we have lived letting ourselves be controlled by fear, the more reactive we will be to events around us; the more we have learned to live knowing we are at choice, the more we will be able to choose how to respond. The more we respond to life from a perspective of what’s in alignment with my well-being and that of my family, the more smoothly our lives will flow & decrease the effect that stress has on us.
We tend to numb ourselves to what we feel we can’t control, can’t change, feel controlled by; we acclimate to it and just learn to live with it, but this leaves us more vulnerable to increases in stress and upset, because, using a 10 point scale, if we are walking around at 3 numbed out level of stress that is between a 3 and 4, then suddenly something happens in life—as it always does, we can find ourselves at a 7 or higher on that scale with hardly any warning. Not knowing how to bring it down, we have an anxiety attack.
So, being honest with ourselves is critical, but initially, this can add more stress, because we are taking off the blinders…yet it’s so important and is the foundation of our true ability to decrease stress by changing how we are reacting in the world.
One of the most important awarenesses we can have about stress is that most of it is generated by our reactions to challenges and by creating life patterns that do not support our well-being. These unhealthy patterns come mostly from the long-suffered effects of early childhood trauma and emotional neglect. We are not responsible for the development of them, but are for their presence in our lives now, so the more we adopt a healing and growth orientation to our lives, the more able we will be to decrease the stress we experience.
For example, if I have taken on too much, perhaps I am someone who struggles with feeling I can’t say “no,” or who feels like I have to be involved to feel worthwhile, or feels like I was born with the “worry” gene, say I get triggered about money issues, because it was such a source of contention with my parents, I can continue in these patterns and reactions patterns, or I can recognize that they are the issue, much more than the external situation, so then I begin to take increasingly conscious responsibility for how I let myself experience these things. I do the work to heal low self esteem (often comes from emotional neglect), I remember that I’m the one who is responsible for taking care of myself not others, so I set limits and make sure that I am including myself in the equation of what’s/who’s important to focus on, I take on healing the issues I have with money.
The other stressors become smaller potatoes, because I am increasing my foundational strength, increasing my courage, feelings & behaviors of empowerment, and becoming the sovereign being that in truth I am.
Here are some of my best tips for decreasing stress & changing how you respond to it in your life:
1) Use emotional first aid techniques: deep breathing, bouncing, go for a short walk in the woods or near trees, stand barefoot on the ground, thump on your sternum, hug yourself, use aromatherapy, etc.
2) Focus on increasing strength and stamina: exercise, exercise, exercise…moving your body…it’s what it’s designed to do!
3) Do yoga: it increases flexibility, which decreases physical stress & learning to relax into poses that are challenging, generalizes to being calmer during challenging moments.
4) Assess energy level & investigate what might be depleting energy: dietary & less than optimal health, not enough water intake, orientation towards surviving rather than thriving, low self esteem, discouragement, giving up…
5) Befriend your body & emotions, emotionally heal the patterns that weaken you & cause stress from the effects of past emotional woundings.
6) Love yourself…be as kind, understanding, forgiving, and supportive to yourself as you know how to be and are to those you love best. Choose to believe in yourself.
7) Create calm in your environment: feng shui, aromatherapy, plants, listen to music that is soothing or energizing and lifting…
8) Strengthen your relationships: reach out more to family & friends, increase social groups if that feels like it’s missing (tend & befriend), consider becoming more transparent; it will bring you closer together
9) Speak your truth!
10) Have a youthful attitude: bounce as you go up and down stairs, walk with a spring in your step, reclaim childlike wonder. I heard Deepak Chopra decades ago say that we age the way we do, because we look around at others who are getting old, acting old and subconsciously think, “Oh, that’s what it looks like.” And then we begin to do that. DON’T!
11) Feel gratitude for yourself, your loved ones, life, beauty, the Divine, etc.
12) Find time for creativity! Bring color into your life, experiment, play…