Stress Management Over 40

Revisit Your Own Idealism to Handle Work Stress

Revisiting idealism can help you survive the stresses of a neoliberal world
What are the best ways to handle stress as a baby boomer still dealing with demanding clients, high-pressure days and daily operation in the thick of the rat race? When your kids are grown up, when bar-hopping after work with colleagues is too unhealthy an option, and when retirement is not in your plans any time in the foreseeable future, how do you unwind? The answer may be to revisit who you were at 15 or 20. The seeds of old dreams are still there, sitting in time capsules waiting to be opened and reclaimed. The difference now is that you can actually pursue them.

Dialing Down Stress Means Focusing on Positive Mechanisms

The "fight and flight" instinct that helped you respond so well to emergencies and perform so well at work for so long is actually on a timer. The stress response has an effect on our bodies in a way that can compromise health and well-being in a very big way. According to the American Psychological Association, "the long-term activation of your body's stress response impairs your immune system's ability to fight against disease and increases the risk of physical and mental health problems."

This means it's time to get creative about coming up with ways to transform stress into inspiration. This can involve doing many of the things that never quite fit into our super-practical way of life. It also means dedicating some time, effort and funds to exploring them. For some it's a year of travel, for others it's starting a second career that may not make much money but is fulfilling creatively, intellectually or in terms of its societal value. For still others, it's going back to school while still enjoying one's career. One of the best resources to explore the rekindling of your inner creative is Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book Women Who Run With the Wolves - Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype (oh so 80s but still so useful).

May We Unite with Great Healthy People

It's important to follow people you admire, who speak to your particular demographic and needs. For baby boomers, some of the most inspiring people are part of an earlier cohort who think, thought, live and lived completely outside the rules. Here are just a few of the great influential, revolutionary thinkers who come to mind:

  1. Martha Graham
  2. Don Tapscott
  3. Jane Jacobs
  4. Vasily Aksenov
  5. Starhawk
  6. Leonard Cohen
  7. Germaine Greer
  8. John Ralston Saul
  9. Joan Didion
  10. Romeo Dallaire

Tactics to Handle Stress Better

Aside of aspiring to do things you've always wanted to do and cultivating your own wild creativity, here are some other constructive ways to handle stress:

  • meditation - incorporating this into your daily routine can go a long way in managing stress
  • exercise - an hour of exercise three or more times a week is recommended, even walking
  • yoga - take a class or do it at home with the help of some online classes or guides
  • dance classes - contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be a dancer to join a class
  • community involvement - engage with anything you are interested in or care about
  • diet - you can't go wrong with more fruits and vegetables
  • go out - take in sports, culture, or anything outside yourself
  • chemicals in food - avoid wherever possible, even though it's pretty difficult
  • pampering - treat yourself to hair appointments, manicures, massages, and spas 
  • socialize - make a practice of drawing people you like closer to you


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