Health Crises in Your 50s: Stress Levels


Prior Installments:

1. If It Can Happen to Me, It Can Happen To You

2. Why Weight Matters Greatly!

Stress levels and how you handle stress has such a direct impact on disease and worsening disease that if the health care system really wanted healthy citizens, our society should be set up to make basic critical stresses lesser. 

Things such as affordable housing, emotional support systems, and lots of paths encouraging walking and biking would be critical necessities.

My recent health crises since this summer were directly the result of years of prolonged excessive stress in every arena of my life. 

The constantly clenched muscles led to aches and pains, poor sleep, and high blood pressure. With anxiety came eating and with work came lack of exercise, leading to elevated blood sugar. The stress weakening my immune system meant that a simple flu became an ER visit, a head cold became a sinus infection, and ultimately a cold sore became Bell's palsy.

Stress and how we handle it determines the development of disease and the control of it. 

For me with health issues and medical care, the stressors stacked up even more. On top of all the other things going on, I now had to monitor health, follow regimens, lose weight, exercise, on top of already existing stressful situations and relationships. 

Stress can be a cascading issue. One doesn't just have money issues. Those money issues become debt, or trouble making rent, or a car that broke down and can't be fixed. You can't have just one stressor. Whatever it is stressing you, it is affecting many things - especially your health!

How much you drink, how much you sleep, how much you take time to care for yourself, the speed at which you eat fast food and put on weight, the lack of exercise as you sit at a desk, the arguments with a spouse that keep your mind preoccupied, the pants-on-fire overall urgency of driving with a foot on the gas pedal and one on the brake, all lead to cascading health stresses.

Did you know 90% of people that seek out a doctor do so because of a stress-born issue?

my tips for handling stress

I once ran the self-help group for my area for anxiety disorders back in my late 20s and early 30s. I wrote articles printed around the world, gave lectures and workshops, and sponsored dozens to recovery. I learned a lot about stress reduction. 

I learned even more recently when I assumed I am able to handle life no matter how crazy and I'm still standing so I assumed I tolerate stress more than others. 

I was deadly wrong. Stress is a quiet, persistent, insidious thing that permeates every decision from eating to sleep, love life to job, hopelessness to exhaustion.

My #1 tip is go back to childhood. I know it's crazy but one time in your life when you were carefree and unaccountable for the most part, you were spontaneous, full of song, and playful. 

You were a blank slate with no learned roles or responsibilities. Everything was magical. Anything was possible. 


I keep containers of bubbles around the house. I blow. This helps reset breathing and the lovely colorful bubbles make me smile as they float and pop. 


Did you bike around your neighborhood? Pump up your tires!


There's a reason people seek out the ocean, lakes, streams, and hot baths - water soothes. The act of floating or soaking gives the entire body sensations so that you go from being inward directed on thoughts and focused on how relaxed your body feels. Even standing near running water like a stream or waterfalls creates negative ions. These things create a sense of well-being and invincibility.


A pillow to hug, sunlight behind your eyelids creating a soothing orange glow, drifting off to the sound of an old black and white movie in the background or binaural beats music on YouTube, and you are ready to drift. The body reset is a brilliant boost for an exhausted mind and body.


My first suggestion is music from your childhood. The 1970s for me does it every time. I remember the hope, the crushes, the excitement, the long happy summers.... There are also very relaxing audios you can find on YouTube, such as a creaking sailboat with gulls, a waterfall, or binaural beats made for relaxing. Along the same vein, singing and dancing to music is a way of feeling very alive.


Sitting out in the sun with some sunblock, eyes closed, letting it warm your skin immediately gives euphoria. Sunshine is extremely good at calming stress and increases critical vitamin D for your system to make your immune system stronger and your mood improved. When you leave the sunlight, you feel like you just had a great workout. 


Cognitive-behavioral/rational-emotive techniques help the brain to see things logically and take the excessive emotion out of the situation. When we feel something to an extreme, it means we are evaluating our world in an illogical way, either with expectations of how it or people should be or with illogical expectations of ourselves. 

The two books I used as the guide for my self-help group were excellent -

A Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis and Robert Harper

The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns, MD.

There are some pretty simple and well-known stress relievers like exercise, meditation, and prayer. Whether you can adhere to any of these over time is your decision, but if you need simple options at any time that are relatively easy and fast, the ones above that I mentioned are great.

A list of daily commitments and ongoing projects is another way to help whittle down stress. I literally had to stop working, take months off to recover from Bell's palsy that interfered with my eyes and speech, and learn what it was like to not be on fire all the time. When I looked at the list of what I commit myself to every day, I was surprised to see how many things I could whittle off the list that were not doing me any good or making me feel used. 

Delegating is critical. Saying no is critical.

Anything you've worked hard on and it's not paying you back, reevaluate its worth in your life. 

Feelings of being obliged to email, text, and message with people online can be changed when you simply aren't as available anymore. 

Clock watching, cell phone watching, video game playing, are all things that create background stress that adds up. They involve a sense of urgency that creates constant muscle tension. Now and then, check in with the parts of your body and find out what you tend to tense up without realizing it.

And, expecting to be everything for everyone is going to cause guilt and another sense of urgency. Stop and evaluate the relationships because it may be that they don't push your or insist, so there is no need to feel terribly responsible. And, if they do push you and insist, reevaluate that relationship. 

And, another reliever is pressing on accupressure points to relieve anxiety. Breathe, float above the situation where it's neutral and nonjudgmental, look toward the future with things working out and this time being temporary.

Above all, come from gratitude. Gratitude has a wonderful way of making you understand that whatever you're feeling now, it all works out. 

Here's some videos that might help - 

Sometimes, it's about gaining perspective. I have found, as odd as it sounds, that watching videos containing interviews with people who had near-death experiences teaches a confidence that you are part of a bigger network, a higher dimension, an energy and it is without judgment or death. 

The soul remains. When you realize you are not a human being having a spiritual experience, but a spiritual being having a human experience, it gives you a place to tap into that is above this mortal plane and makes many of the drama here a mortal issue that can't touch your soul.

As hippie as it sounds, "life - it's all about love."