Stress: Surprising Good News

I don’t think there is a more appropriate time than now to address this topic. This is the most stressful, chaotic and difficult to understand time I can ever remember in my lifetime.

That being said, we all have specific things that trigger our stress response. We are all unique individuals who have different life experiences and personalities. However. as we age, our stress triggers can and will change, as will our reactions to them.

According to research, our ability to manage stress isn’t static. It changes over time for numerous reasons. Physical changes in hormonal activity, like during puberty, peri-menopause and menopause affect how we respond to and manage stress.

Obviously going through an intense period of personal change – death of a loved one, moving, changing or losing jobs, end of a relationship, etc. are also stressors specific to us at certain times in our lives.

We will never live on this earth without stress, but there is some good news. There is a growing body of research revealing that our ability to regulate our emotions seems to improve with age. Consider this 1993 study of 184 adults of various ages that spanned 15 years: those participating were asked to record both their positive and negative emotions multiple times over the course of a week once every five years.

After 15 years researchers found that overall, the participants’ self-reported emotional well-being actually increased with age. Their outlooks evened out and there was more stability overall. Another important piece of info is that those who reported more positive than negative emotions were more likely to have survived over the 15 year period. Their surprising conclusion was that emotional well-being is not only maintained but in some ways improves throughout adulthood and that older adults tend to maintain a positive mood during stressful times more than younger adults do.

I can see this clearly happening in many instances right now. And I can relate it to how my grandmother handled extremely difficult, challenging and stressful events in her life (moving to a new country as a teenager where she didn’t speak the language, couldn’t read or write, arranged marriage, becoming a widow with 3 children at age 27) as compared to how we react to things much less stressful! I can honestly say she approached everything with faith and serenity throughout her 90 years of life. So I can see how this study came to the conclusions it did.

There is not often good news associated with aging, but I think this certainly qualifies!

Do you feel your ability to handle stress is improving? Why or why not?

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10 Responses to Stress: Surprising Good News

  1. JD Wininger says:

    Lots to think about here Ms. Ann; both good and bad I think. I wonder if your data/analysis indicates what stress levels do in older folks nearing the end of their journey? I ask this, as I look my myself and see less things causing me stress than they did even 20 years ago. I wondered, have I “mellowed” or do I trust in God more (greater reliance on my faith), etc. Then I think of my dad who had onset dementia, and I saw how he had went from a firecracker in his younger years (40s), to a pretty unflappable fella in his 60s and 70s, then in his late 80s when dementia started to set in, he became much more anxious, agitated, and stressed. It reached the point of night terrors before we were able to get a diagnosis and help him some. Oh how I hated seeing him like that; and how I pray that doesn’t happen to me before God calls me home.

    • amusico says:

      Oh J.D. that had to be so heartbreaking for you to see your dad change so much. My dad always seemed calm and easygoing about everything when we were kids and young adults and I saw him be more anxious as he got older too. He did not have dementia
      but died very unexpectedly (fell down the basement stairs and broke his neck – we found him there when I got no answers to my phone calls all day. It was horrible.) My grandmother did have some dementia but that sweet little Greek Giagia was so full of faith nothing got her upset or scared. I am named for her and I pray I will be that way as I get older. I notice for myself – I was very anxious about possibly getting sick and dying (my mom died of cancer at age 64 very suddenly – within 3 weeks) when I had young children. The thought of not being here to raise them was so upsetting and frightening. God has been very faithful and now I have 5 beautiful grandchildren I would like to impact for the Lord but being in this world as it is today, while I have no desire to leave prematurely, I know I will be with Him one dayy and I find myself much more at ease. I believe our faith grows – and you are definitely a man of great faith – and unfortunately that awful disease that your dad had does really change people’s whole personality. I saw it happen to a beloved Uncle. Just as I will not have cancer just because my mom did – you will not go down the same path as your dad my friend.

  2. Ivey Rorie says:

    Yea!

  3. debwilson2 says:

    Ann, I find this encouraging and do believe walking with the Lord helps. Jacob in the Bible sure made a change with year.

    • amusico says:

      It most certainly does – I think it makes all the difference in the world. And looking at our world today, we sorely need more of the
      Lord. Thanks Debbie.

  4. Holly Scherer says:

    Another great post, Ann.

    I absolutely believe my ability to deal with stress improves as I get older. And the primary reason is probably that I’ve learned new skills and perspectives. I’ve focused on growth.

    I love the story about your grandmother and how you compared it to some people today. Perhaps we need stress or something, and since people’s lives are so good, they create their own problems. I’m sure it’s much more complicated than that, but that’s an interesting perspective.

    Thanks again for something inspiring in my inbox!

    • amusico says:

      You are too kind Holly. That’s an interesting idea – needing a bit more stress since in comparison we have it so much easier.
      Just as in the physical body, certain stressors create resilience and strength, maybe that is needed in other areas of life. All I know
      is that I was much more easily upset and prone to worry when I was younger and I credit living life, experiencing different things, good and bad, growing in faith and seeing God’s faithfulness with giving me a much more positive and relaxed attitude. I am grateful for it especially right now!! Thank you my friend!

      • Holly Scherer says:

        Oooooh! Great link to the human body. Very interesting to ponder.

        I also appreciate that you mention that this is the craziest time in your life. I look at what’s going on with everything and it blows my mind. Sometimes I feel like I’m the crazy one. So I very much appreciate your wisdom!

      • amusico says:

        Holly you most definitely are not the crazy one!!!

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