midlife, midlife health & wellness, personal growth

Stress in Life After Fifty | Taking It One Day at a Time

Main Image for Cheers 2 Chapter 2 Midlife Stress page showing a woman with head illustrated as blowing up into clouds of emotional stress

By midlife, every one of us (including us positive thinkers) has some level of unhealthy stress and overwhelm going on in their life.

Some of the stress and overwhelm stems from our personal circumstances, some comes from other people’s drama around us, and some of it is of our own creation.

What we all have in common is often simply trying to do too much.

Regardless of what the sources of your stress may be, when the stress level gets the best of you, you’ve got to simplify, follow your gut, be kind to yourself… and remind yourself to take it one day at time.

No matter how optimistic and positive we try to be, some days are heavy and full of stuff gone wrong. Unexpected expenses, missed opportunities, personal disappointments, emotional hurts, physical illness, and the inevitable new worries that pop up like weeds.

We’re caught in the middle of parenting teens and young adults… managing work and marriage (or perhaps divorce) … kids leaving for college… trying to get ahead of the bills… caregiving for aging parents. The balls we juggle, especially as women, are endless.

We thought maybe life after fifty meant stress would subside a little. Now that we’re here, we know that isn’t the case.

Sometimes midlife feels overwhelming and impossible.

We just can’t seem to juggle it all, get it all done, please everyone, be amazing and take good care of ourselves (not to mention pursue new passions).

It helps to have a plan for the days when we need to move past what feels insurmountable. When we need to not feel so out of control. That plan is measured out – one day at a time.

One day at time means simplify

Simplifying helps us to see the priorities. We cannot humanly do it all. End of story.

We can, however, do something. We can do what is most urgent. We can do what we must. And some days, that has to be enough.

The long to-do lists and aggressive goals can be saved for the next day (or week) when we’re feeling better, less stressed, in a better mood, and more in control.

We get overwhelmed and anxious when we try to get too many steps ahead of ourselves.

It’s enough to have done what you could, for today. If it wasn’t all that you set out to do, oh well. Tomorrow is another day.

There are times when you intuitively know that you can push yourself, and there are times when your inner self knows that any more push and you’ll be teetering on a breakdown. A full-on I just need to cry meltdown (which, by the way, is not shameful, is well-earned sometimes – and often, healing.)

Simplifying by prioritizing means admitting and owning (dare anyone challenge us, they can do it themselves) that some things are not going to get done today.

One day at a time means following your true north

Following your true north means learning to get in tune with your gut. Your inner self, your authentic self, the whole you that has been inside of you since the day you were born. We sometimes lose touch with her as we get older. We get so used to serving others that we forget who we truly are and how to serve and preserve ourselves.

Use your gut, your instinct, your intuition, your heart, your true north – to expend the limited energy you have in a day on what is truly most important.

That varies from day to day, but on the days when we are most stressed, following that gut guide is more important than ever.

Case in point: I took my elderly mom to the hairdresser on a day that I had zero time in my schedule to do so. Taking her meant ending the day with several work projects left undone, no plan for my family for dinner (although that’s my usual M.O.), and several must-dos left not-done and glaring at me from my planner.

But at the end of the day, I did what was truly most important. I gave my mom what matters most to her, my time. Me taking her to have her hair done was the treat of the entire week to my eighty-four-year-old mom. That’s true north.

Deep inside, you know yours.

Sometimes it’s pointing toward time with your kids, or your spouse, or your friends. It usually means sacrificing productivity and not getting everything you wanted to do done in a day.

You’d think it would add to your stress level but following your true north will always leave you feeling less stressed.

If you were hit by a bus tomorrow, would it matter that you didn’t work the extra hour today, that you didn’t fold those clothes, that you didn’t clear off your desk, that you didn’t get the dog groomed, that you didn’t make a homemade dessert for the barbecue on Saturday?

Nope. None of it will matter. But the stuff you did do following your true north will.

And speaking of getting hit by a bus…

One day at a time means be kind (of funny) to yourself

Don’t be in a rush to run yourself over or to be first in line to beat yourself up. There are likely plenty of people in that line already.

Instead, be the one that gives yourself a break. Allow yourself a pass. Show yourself compassion. Allow yourself to tackle what’s true north important, one day at time, and let some other tasks slide.

You are human and flawed. So is everyone else.

No matter how much it may appear that someone else has their life all perfectly together and their ducks marching in a tidy row. It’s B.S. They have their problems, stress, self-doubt and unruly ducks too, even if you haven’t seen them.

And while you’re cutting your stressed-out-self some slack, have a little fun. Keep a sense of humor about how wacky (and hard) and wonderful life is.

Once in a (full-moon) while, quit being such a grown up. No one will mistake us for teenagers anymore, so we don’t have to act our age and let life’s stresses make us feel or look older than we are!

Let loose. Be silly. Believe in magic.

And speaking of full moons… there’s going to be one on Monday, June 17. And you can bet your bippy I fully intend to go dance around under the stars and moonshine before hitting the pillow on that night.

How can it hurt (short of offending my neighbors)? After all, who doesn’t need to believe in a little magic, in something bigger and greater than ourselves? And if it helps me shake off a little stress and overwhelm from the day, better yet!

Cheers to better coping with stress in your life after you have reached fifty by taking it one day at time.
(Pssst… I’ll meet you out back on Monday night to dance beneath the moonlight!) – Marlene

 


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