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How to cope with common causes of stress

Man in a wheelchair

Stress is a regular part of life and it can come from anywhere. However, there are some truly common causes of stress that most of us will experience during our lifetimes – especially when we reach an advanced age. Whether it be the pressure of becoming ill, of financial troubles, or when experiencing the loss of a loved one, stress can have a huge impact on our lives, severely crippling our mental health and energy. There are ways to cope with stress, however, and in this guide, we present some specific advice for how to deal with stress that results from some of life’s most common causes.

Illness and injury

If illness and injury weren’t bad enough on their own, the resulting stress can put things over the edge. Injury and illness can have a huge impact on our daily lives, affecting how we do even the simplest things. You might find it hard to work, to get about the house, or to enjoy those things that mean the most to you such as seeing family. As a result, these can be very stressful times in a person’s life so it’s very important to tackle the mental impact of falling ill or being involved in an accident.

First things first, seeking the proper medical attention is most important; the stress you feel will become far more manageable when you are under the proper care. From then on, you can look at little ways to tackle stress. For example, if you are now suffering from a lack of mobility due to your illness or injury, you can consider having a stairlift installed at home to make getting about the house much easier.

Making things as easy for yourself as possible at home, relying on the help of friends and family, and focusing on things in life you to look forward to, that bring you joy, will all help relieve this type of stress.

Kellie, from the lifestyle blog Prize Warriors, suffers from a chronic health condition herself and knows all about the stress involved. She shared with us her thoughts and advice:

“When you suffer from chronic health conditions, it's inevitable that they will become a cause of stress at some point. Personally, I go through weeks, both metaphorically and literally, gritting my teeth. During this time, I 'hold it together' and manage to cope with daily tasks. This is followed by the meltdown phase, where the stress of not being able to accomplish what I need to and not having a break from continuous pain, renders me incapable for a time. After many years of this cycle, it's been vital for me to develop strategies to cope with the stress overload.

“The first thing I'd recommend is to adjust your mindset. Take a few minutes to remind yourself what you do have and that things could actually be worse. Give yourself a free pass to rest. Try to eliminate any guilt associated with needing a rest that healthy people perhaps wouldn't need. Feeling guilty about something not within your control only serves to add more stress. Lastly, get some fresh air and spend time with those who comfort you, whether that's family, friends or even pets. Everyone wants sympathy and care when they have the flu. It's not surprising, therefore, that those of us who never feel well, might need comforting a bit more often than others."

Loss of a loved one

Sad elderly woman

The loss of a loved one is a horrible thing and it is no surprise that it will have a big impact on your emotions. Stress is a common result of the grieving process as people often find themselves worried about normal everyday tasks and chores when they feel like all they can do is grieve. Losing someone close to you can also involve the sorting of funeral arrangements and plans, which itself can bring stress at a difficult time.

Debbie Augenthaler, an author and psychotherapist who has her own experiences with grief, spoke to us about this topic and explained: “When we are grieving a significant loss, or many losses, as so many of us are in this time of pandemic, we are often overwhelmed by anxiety. This is natural and understandable. High anxiety and stress affect us not just mentally, but physically as well. A stressful event signals distress to our brain, which interprets this as ‘danger’, causing our bodies to go into survival mode, the innate fight or flight response.”

Overcoming stress that results from grief will usually involve dealing with the grieving process itself in a healthy way. Once you understand that it is your grief that is causing your stress, you can start to take steps. Debbie advises: “There is no right way or wrong way to grieve. We don’t compare griefs. Don’t try to minimize anyone’s grief, including your own. Grief isn’t linear and there is no timetable. It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to not be okay. Allow yourself the time and space you need to feel your feelings. Be compassionate and kind to yourself. Let people help you. Whether it is a family member, a friend, or a professional, it’s immensely helpful to have someone to lean on, who will listen with love and support.”

She also advises that “taking deep breaths can help calm you in the moment. Whenever you feel like you can’t breathe, stop what you are doing and inhale as deeply as you can. Exhale. And then take another deep breath. Continue doing so until you feel you can breathe more easily. Do whatever helps you to self-soothe, maybe a bath, wrapping yourself in a soft blanket, or take a walk in nature.”

Debbie’s website also contains a helpful Toolbox of free short videos for helping those grieving deal with stress and anxiety. The videos contain simple techniques that can ground and calm you in a few minutes.


Couple meeting with advisor

Financial troubles are certainly one of the key causes of stress. Everything in our lives is wrapped up in money so when things are difficult, it unsurprisingly has a negative impact on our emotions. You might find yourself out of a job and struggling to pay your rent or mortgage, an injury might keep you from paying the bills, there might be an unexpected home repair to deal with. Making sure your finances are in order is key to avoiding this type of stress. Living within your means, having a savings account, life insurance, emergency funds, money that is easily accessible, and perhaps bringing on a financial advisor will all help to put you in a more secure position.

Beyond tackling your financial woes head-on, traditional stress-reducing techniques like breathing exercises, meditation, and physical fitness, can all help. Furthermore, Nick Daws from the over 50s financial blog, Pounds and Sense, shared the following advice with us about not keeping your worries to yourself:

“My top advice is don't bottle it up, as that will only make things worse. If money matters are causing you stress, talk to someone about it, e.g. your partner or a trusted friend or relative. If that's not possible or they can't help you, an independent financial adviser or debt counsellor will be happy to assist. This Money Advice Service web page will help you find debt advisers offering online, telephone or (in certain cases) face-to-face advice in your area.”

Caring for others

Old person and carer

Caring for others, especially for loved ones, can be an overwhelming demand on a person’s life. The responsibility and emotional turmoil involved can feel like too much for some, especially in the most serious of cases. So, it is important not to leave the stress of being a caregiver unchecked. You will never be able to make caregiving a stress-free experience, but you can watch out for the symptoms – such as anxiety, sleeping issues, and depression – and try to minimise it.

Help Guide has some excellent tips and advice for caregiving stress and burnout, including not doing everything yourself: “Taking on all of the responsibilities of caregiving without regular breaks or assistance is a sure-fire recipe for caregiver burnout. Don’t try to do it all alone.

“As a busy caregiver, leisure time may seem like an impossible luxury. But you owe it to yourself, as well as to the person you’re caring for, to carve it into your schedule. Give yourself permission to rest and to do things that you enjoy on a daily basis. You will be a better caregiver for it.”

Common causes of stress

  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Finances
  • Caring for others

Stress impacts everyone but by identifying what it is that is causing your stress, you can look to overcome its potency. Whether you are grieving for a loved one or suffering with an injury, there are solutions available. Tackling the cause head-on, practising common stress-relieving techniques, and not trying to handle everyone alone, will all be important tools at your disposal.

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