Dealing With and Living With Work In a Healthy MannerAug 01, 2022
For most people, especially women, the ages between 40 and 65 are marked by a variety of changes, challenges, and stresses. In the midst of many moments of joy and happiness can arise life-changing hurdles and circumstances. And of course, having to deal with the day-to-day grind of life always presents various trials.
In a study published by Women’s Midlife Health, authors Annette Thomas, Ellen Mitchell, and Nancy Woods identify five general themes that point to some of those challenges.1 The women in the study took part in “The Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study.” A total of 81 women completed the study and were able to answer the question, “Since you have been in our study (since 1990 or 1991), what has been the most challenging part of life for you?” The study spanned up to 23 years, so as to be able to really trace those challenges and changes in women’s lives.
Integrating work with life
The previous blog 2 referencing this study examined changing family relationships that women faced during midlife. Today's blog looks at the second general theme that arose in the study: re-balancing work and one’s personal life.
But we’re going to put a different spin on this, not by merely balancing work with life, but integrating work into life. Work shouldn’t be put on a separate pedestal, as if it’s not part of life; it should be woven into life. That’s not to say that work should touch every facet of our lives, not at all, it’s just about recognizing that work is part of life. What we take from work can enrich other aspects of life.
Work challenges confronting middle age women
For the moment, let’s return to the study, and take a look at what it found. In relation to employment and life, women identified a plethora of different stresses that occurred over the span of the study:
- Stress due to the job itself
- Lack of work/unemployment
- Change of career or job
- Finding a job with health benefits (note this was an American study, so this aspect is probably more salient perhaps than for some Canadians)
Of note, only 3 out of the 81 women in the study identified work/their job as the most strenuous part of their midlife experiences.
So how can a person learn to cope with work-related stress?
Dealing with work-related stress
The American Psychological Association penned a very helpful piece that provides advice for dealing with work-related stress, and offers some of the following as tips:
1). Take notes after dealing with a stressful situation. By doing so, you can reflect back on what triggered the stress, and how you dealt with it.
2). Avoid caffeine, alcohol, fast food/junk food as ways to fight or deal with stress. These will only do more harm than good in the end. Instead, try doing some exercise, be it stretching, going for a walk or jog. Listening to calming music, reading or other mental activities can be beneficial too.
3). Create boundaries. It’s okay to take value from work, and embrace it, but don’t feel bad by “unplugging” for a while. Emails, phone messages etc. can wait. Take time for yourself to step away.
4). Learn some relaxation techniques. These may include meditation, deep breathing, and learning mindfulness. These things take time, so don’t expect instant results, especially with mindfulness and meditation. However, over time, you can start to deal with stress in a more calming way.
5). Get support, be it from family, friends, coworkers, or anyone else who you trust and have a rapport with.
The fifth element may be more of a challenge for some, especially if one lacks a social circle. That’s one reason I created Amintro, a social community platform specifically designed for those 50+. Making new friends at any age can be daunting, especially as we age. Amintro helps people connect to like-minded peers who are going through the same life events, and one can create new bonds of friendship. I believe it’s absolutely vital for people to know that they’re not alone, and being proactive in reaching out to new people, can go a long way towards one’s well-being.
Work is not the enemy
Work can be stressful as noted above, but it need not be the enemy. Indeed, many people take pride in their jobs, in their careers, in their businesses, as they should. The way we view work can fundamentally alter our relationship with it. By seeing it as part of life, not just something we have to do, can have a positive effect on our minds. We can claim our work in a way that doesn’t define us, but makes us proud to do what we do. Accomplishment, learning new skills, developing relationships with others can all be positive outcomes from the work we do. By taking time for self-care as we work, and getting a supportive circle around us, we can take work and continue to grow ourselves, at any age.
- Mitchell, Thomas, and Woods, Women’s Midlife Health, The challenges of midlife women: themes from the Seattle midlife Women’s health study, June 15, 2018.
- Women and Aging: Changing Family Relationships, Encore Blog, July 4, 2022
- American Psychological Association, Coping with stress at work, October 14, 2018.
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