Women nowadays play multiple roles, both in their career and families. According to overseas research, women between 40-60 years old are most stressful compared with other age groups. Chronic stress is not just detrimental to physical health, but can also trigger mood disorders. Early identification and management of the sources of stress together with improvement in lifestyle practices would enable middle-aged women to face the different challenges in life and avoid burn-out.
Symptoms and signs of stress
- Physical aspect: muscle soreness, dizziness, palpitations, shortness of breath, poor digestion, dry mouth, diarrhoea, high blood pressure and blood sugar level, low sex drive, fatigue, insomnia and poor appetite
Emotional aspect: feeling down, anxious, frustrated and inferior, being bad-tempered and forgetful, having poor concentration
Behavioural aspect: agitated and socially withdrawn
Common stressors for middle-aged women
- Personality: Perfectionistic, time-urgent, impatient, competitive in nature
- Negative cognition: Catastrophic and irrational thinking, emotional reasoning
Physical and psychological changes associated with menopause: Physically, they may experience hot flushes, excessive sweating, fatigue, irregular menstruation, and vaginal dryness. Emotionally, they may become annoyed, nervous and agitated
Worry about ageing: Changes of appearance, deterioration in physical abilities and health condition
- Work stress
Marital relationship: Lack of communication with spouse/partner, preoccupation with work and/or household duties and thus neglecting the needs of the spouse
- Empty nest syndrome: Feeling empty and lost when children grow up and move out of their homes
- Care-giving stress: e.g. Chronically burdened with caring duties of the family without support
- Financial stress
Stress management – Physical and psychological regulation plus management strategies targeted at the stressors
- Positive cognition
Analyse the situation objectively, look for solutions, take action to solve problems, and then evaluate its effectiveness.
- Relaxation exercises
Practise deep breathing, progressive muscular relaxation and stretching exercises to relieve stress
- Healthy lifestyle
Sleep: Establish a regular sleep-wake routine, psyche up a relaxed mood and set up a suitable environment for sleep
Diet: Maintain a balanced diet and do not binge
Exercise: Do regular exercise
- Target at the stressors
- Slow down pace of life and get rid of perfectionism.
- Consult a doctor if menopause becomes problematic.
- Practise healthy lifestyle and seek for social support.
- Working women should take a break and relax a bit.
- Maintain couple intimacy through communication and sharing.
- Explore new interests early and then empty nest syndrome will not be a worry.
- Share household duties with family and never do it on your own.
- Avoid aggressive investment and spend wisely to make ends meet.
If all of the above is achieved, middle-aged women should become care-free.