The Stress of Life

By admin / November 17, 2010
By: Dave Tomlinson
Category: Stress Management

My grandmother lived a full and happy life, finally passing away at age 94. Toward the end of her life she was living with some dementia, failing eyesight and general frailty. Despite all this, she remained remarkably positive and was an inspiration to all our family. I will always remember her reply when the question was put to her one day about the happiest stage of her life. “I don’t know dear” she said, “I’ve enjoyed them all”.

This statement was a wonderful reflection of her contentment and optimistic approach to life. She had battled and overcome cancer in her later years, so it would have been very easy for her to choose an earlier period in her life when she enjoyed better health and was more active. However, right to the end she appreciated the gift of life and wanted to use it was fully as she could. To her, the glass was always half full.

Life can be stressful and there are seemingly endless challenges put before us. It’s our attitude to them that determines the extent of our happiness and contentment. If the question was asked about which age group experiences the most stress, at any given time someone in every group will answer “mine!” In the absence of any definitively correct answer, this may actually be true. A young child can feel the same stress as an adult because they don’t have the same maturity or life experience.

On reflection, we may wonder a little why relatively minor things caused us such stress but it was psychologist Erik Erikson who determined that each particular phase of a person’s life contains its own challenges and crises to overcome. A good example of this would be to compare your very first day of school to beginning a new job some time in adulthood. For many, the experience as a child was quite distressing but a similar scenario later in life is likely to offer feeling akin to nervous excitement.

A young child at school finds things like teachers and homework stressful. They then develop into teenagers and suddenly have to worry about changing hormones, new relationships, conflict with their parents and school exams. They imagine that graduation and becoming an adult will mean the end of the most stressful part of their lives. But adulthood brings with it a whole new set of responsibilities that include financial independence and performance in their work.

It doesn’t stop there because the next phase of life generally includes marriage, home ownership and of course children. With the constant expenses they begin to worry that they will be able to give their children all they need and have enough left for their own retirement. These concerns become more pronounced as they move further into middle age. Retirement arrives and brings with it potential or even existing health concerns together with additional family responsibilities such as grandchildren.

So overall, which age is actually the most stressful? For those who are older, the inclination would be to say that it’s the age they are now simply because it’s the moment they are living in and what they know best. Past problems that have been overcome often tend to pale in comparison to those faced now. And when we contemplate our future we don’t usually consider potential stress. Our biggest concerns are in the present, rather than what has gone before or what may lie ahead.

So, what is it that causes us the most stress? The following five factors have been identified as creating the most stress in life:

Work: At least one person in six finds their employment so stressful that they suffer mental health problems or take regular sick days just to cope.

Debt: Studies have shown that people with high levels of stress about their debt have worse physical health.

Loneliness: A recent UK study revealed that this was the biggest stress for over half of single people; more than credit card debt and work pressure combined.

Buying property: Experts agree that because it’s the most expensive and life-changing transaction you will ever undertake, it’s probably also the most stressful.

Relationship problems: While marriage or relationship issues can cause massive stress, several studies have concluded that people in a sound relationship suffer less anxiety, depression and fatigue.

It could be said then, that stress broadly falls into two main categories – financial and relationships, if you include the absence of one. A key to reducing or eliminating stresses of this nature is to meet the problems head on and take steps to solve them. Remaining anxious, worrying or lamenting about something will do nothing at all to improve the situation. It requires a positive decision to take action.

Creating an additional income stream will go a long way toward easing your financial stress, which will also offer a greater sense of happiness and fulfilment in life. It will enable you to reach goals and make your dreams come true. This in turn will offer you satisfaction, contentment and less regret as you reach later stages in your life. In the famous words of Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do”.

My grandfather was a successful businessman and this was perhaps one of the reasons my grandmother could reflect so fondly on every stage of her life. Together, they were always secure in their loving relationship and financial situation. Money didn’t change who she was because she had a wonderful sense of contentment anyway. However, it gave her the opportunity to avoid the inevitable stress of raising a family in a financial struggle. In later years, she had the opportunity to make many of her dreams come true though travelling and owning a comfortable home with a garden.

With the evolution of the internet, generating wealth is easier and has greater potential than ever before. Your financial dreams are within reach and, as a natural consequence, your stress levels can be greatly reduced. The way your life is now is not the way it always has to be. In summary, let’s do as my grandmother did. Let’s not decide which period of our life is the most stressful. Let’s be positive and decide which period of our life is the most enjoyable.

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