WHAT CAUSES STRESS IN MIDLIFE?

What causes stress in Midlife? Maybe it's trying to do or be something that is in conflict with our true self? #stress #midlife

WHEN STRESS IS YOUR NEW NORMAL

I do a LOT of pinning - in fact, I think I might actually be a bit of a Pinaholic. What I notice when I'm pinning quotes is that I have a run on a particular theme and that theme will always reflect what's going on in my life. For the last few months my Pinterest board called Quotes ~ Stress has received a lot of pins about stress, what it does to us, who causes it, and how to cope with it. So I thought I should write about Midlife Stress today because it's so much on my mind.

WORK STRESS

Anyone who's read any of my recent posts would know that I quit my job several weeks ago because the stress was doing my head in. I'm not a quitter and I did everything I could to make the job work, but the drama and the upheavals that were standard background issues just did my head in after a few years. I'd come home from work and unload it onto my husband, I'd talk about it, think about it, dream about it, and then go back the following week and do it all again - Ground Hog Day but with no happy ending. 

I wondered why I needed to talk about it so much and then saw this wonderful quote (below) that summed it up beautifully. It wasn't about resolving the situation magically (although that would have been very nice!) it was about airing it out and getting it out of my system in a way that cleared my head without necessarily blurting it out all over the place when it wouldn't have been appropriate. Regardless, the stress was killing me.

Sometimes you just need to talk about something—not to get sympathy or help, but just to kill its power by allowing the truth of things to hit the air.

WHAT CAUSES STRESS?

I'm sure that psychologists can give you a very detailed explanation about the causes of stress. I completely agree with the concept that stress is different for everyone - what causes one person stress can have no impact whatsoever on another person. A lot of it has to do with how easily you can detach from the situation and I think men are better at avoiding stress because they can compartmentalize things much better than a woman can in general.

Recently I found a definition of stress from Emily Maroutian that I found really interesting:

Stress happens when you hold two opposing thoughts in your mind about the same subject. “I want that, but I can’t have it.” “I’m sitting in traffic, but I don’t want to be.” I should be doing this, but I don’t want to.” This creates disharmony in the mind and gives rise to stressful emotions. You are at odds with yourself. When an opposing thought contradicts a desire, you have to either change the thought or let go of the desire. You can’t drive down two different roads at the same time. You must pick one.

I think this has been a key issue in how I define "stress" in Midlife. I found it with work in that I had a great job but not a great work environment. I kept 'driving down' the "I have a great job" road when in fact my job wasn't that great and in the end the stress of denying my situation drove me to leave. I've found it happens in family situations too where the "I want it but can't have it" scenario comes into play - I want my children living closer, I want to be more involved in their lives still, I want to be the perfect mother/wife/daughter, and so forth. None of these are going to happen, and the conflict in my head increases my stress levels. Acceptance of what is, rather than what I think it should be is the key to cutting that stress back several notches. 

OVER-THINKING AND STRESS

Another killer for Midlife women can be over-thinking things. We can tend to read a lot more into a situation than actually exists and that extrapolates into working out solutions to problems that don't exist, having conversations in our head with people to rehearse an encounter that may not happen, and worrying/planning what to do about situations that may never arise. All of this leads to increased stress, loss of sleep, and losing our peace of mind.

I'm not sure why we do it, but being aware that we're over-thinking is a great step in preventing it from becoming our standard default. Sometimes I see it in myself and stop to remind myself that it's a pointless exercise, and often my husband will pick me up on it and ask me why I'm worrying about a situation that is already sorted (my work has been a good example of this). I still churn over how I could have handled things differently, how I could have turned off responding to the issues there, whether I need to look for another job, whether I have enough to fill my day. I could go on ad infinitum (and sometimes do!) but ultimately it's useless over-thinking and it causes me tension and stress I don't need.

Embrace the happy and let go of the crappy

The old "let it go, let it go" mantra is still a big player here. We need to let this stuff go. We need to keep pulling ourselves up and reminding ourselves that thinking something to death just causes stress -  not solutions.

HOW DO WE DE-STRESS OUR LIVES?

I think we begin by choosing our thoughts. We choose joy, happiness, acceptance, positivity. We choose our attitude and stop letting our situation or other people dictate to us how we should be feeling. We do all we can to make things pleasant and we stop trying to control every little thing.

If we do all those things and life is still stressing us out, then we have to choose to walk away. It's hard (I know) to leave a situation, to turn off a road that we thought was the right one and to choose another. Ultimately we have to make a decision that may be quite difficult at the time, to give us an end result that brings peace and contment and removes the constant barrage of stress from our lives. It may be that we have to endure a little more pain now to get a long lasting peace at the end.

What causes stress in Midlife? Maybe it's trying to do or be something that is in conflict with our true self? #stress #midlife

Leaving my job was incredibly hard for me to do. Resisting the urge to go back after taking some leave and trying again was extremely difficult. To admit that I didn't have the ability to resist the stress and withstand the pressure is difficult for me. I'm a do-er and a fixer, I'm tough and I push through, that's been my perception of myself for all my life. Stepping away and not fighting my way through has been a steep learning curve for me - it's not about admitting defeat, it's about self-care and self-preservation. It's about doing what's right for me and I think ultimately we have to see the detrimental affects of stress and leave the situation behind - not let stress win and beat us down.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Are you dealing with stress in your work or home life? Are you choosing to battle through, choosing your attitude, or choosing to walk away? I don't think we can judge anyone for the choices they make. It has to be what's right for each person in each individual situation - we all respond to stress differently and we all need to approach it in our own way and win the battle on our own terms.

PS: If you missed me proudly announcing it last Saturday - Cresting the Hill has been nominated in the Best Lifestyle Blog category for the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards. If you'd like to vote for me I'd be very grateful - just click HERE and then scroll down to the the Lifestyle Category to vote - it's very easy - (there are some fantastic blogs that I'm sharing the honours with!)


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What causes stress in Midlife? Maybe it's trying to do or be something that is in conflict with our true self? #stress #midlife

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What causes stress in Midlife? Maybe it's trying to do or be something that is in conflict with our true self? #stress #midlife


57 comments

  1. I don't think I've seen anything that more accurately defines stress as the struggle between those 2 opposing thoughts. As you know, I'm neck deep in it at the moment & that paragraph is exactly why. I'm also an over-thinker - so much so that sometimes my brain just can't cram any more in. Thanks for another great read & have a good week x

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    1. Hi Jo - I thought it summed up stress beautifully. That friction between what we think something is, and what it actually is. I often have a slightly rosey view of how I think a situation is going to be and then have to work twice as hard to accept it for what it is and adjust my thinking and expectations down - rather than working harder and harder to make it into something it's not. I think we might be kindred spirits xx

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  2. You have just explained exactly my situatuon with my job and stress level...I have come to the conclusion that it's time for me to move on and am looking for a new job...my next step if the job search doesnt pam out right away is to take a leave for my health..thank you for your post, it makes me realize I am not the only one feeling this way and my issues are justified

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    1. Hi BwB (love your title!) and I'm so sorry you're experiencing the same situation as mine. It can be heartbreaking to think you've found the perfect job and then watch it implode around you - especially when we have the experience and knowledge to think we can handle it and then find that it's out of our control. I hope you find something else to replace yours with - I'm starting to think that I might choose to step away from work - I've given 40 years to the employment gods and maybe it's my time now to reap some of the rewards - we'll see. Good luck!

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  3. HI, Leanne - You have really helped to demystify stress here. Your tips are spot on!
    BTW - I am impressed with your pinning skills. I gave it a sincere try, but sadly, it just wasn't for me.

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    1. Hi Donna - Pinterest is a strange animal. I don't understand using Tailwind and all the automative stuff. I love it for collecting pretty pictures and thoughts and saving them somewhere other than my computer's hard drive! It's another one of those mindless, pleasant pastimes that de-stress me (and I need as many of those as possible these days!)

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  4. Thank you so much for this blog today. It definitely hits home for me. In February I was let go of a job that I have stressed over for the last few years. I decided to start looking for another job even though now I am not sure that was a good ideal. I feel as if I am getting stressed again because I keep thinking it was a good ideal but then I really don’t think it was. I have two different people in my head saying things. So I am very confused. Help please.

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    1. Dianne!!! We could be twins! I refer to those two voices as the good and bad angels on my shoulders (remember those from the cartoons?) One says "you should be looking for another job - there's still 10 years of working life left in you" and the other says "you've worked for most of the last 40 years - give yourself a break" and I swing back and forth between the two. I also hear other people tell me the same two versions and it's so confusing.

      I've decided that we have enough financial resources that I can choose to not return to work if all that's out there is more of the same. I'm going to keep my eyes open for a nice little job and if one miraculously appears I'll join the other 200 applicants and hope for the best, if not I'll allow myself the grace of resting and enjoying not getting up early each morning to work for someone who doesn't value me.

      If you want to chat more feel free to email me and we'll go from there xx It's all a bit of a nightmare at times isn't it?

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  5. Congrats again on being in the list for Best Lifestyle Blog - we are a great bunch of bloggers are we not?? I enjoyed reading your post and agree with your thoughts on stress and this says it all to me "we all respond to stress differently and we all need to approach it in our own way and win the battle on our own terms". It's . funny how we seem to have a love/hate relationship with stress and even when things are going well for me, I will stop and over think it by wondering why it's going good??? We choose how to treat each new day and your quotes back this up so very well. I do hope you're enjoying the break from work and away from the stress of it all. Pinned :)

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    1. Hi Deb - yes I'm loving not being at work and not being exposed to the drama and headaches and stress. I think I could adapt to the retired life very easily - time will tell if I get tempted back to the workforce - the longer I'm away, the less appealing it is to go back to the 9-5 grind and all that goes with it.

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    2. That's a great start! Have shared for #mlstl

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  6. Working in a toxic environment or with toxic people is really not healthy so good for you to try but realize this is not for you and to give it the boot!

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    1. I tried so hard Haralee because I had those two opposing stories happening - the great job vs the drama that was doing my head in. I'm still sad to have walked away but my mental state is definitely a lot happier!

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  7. If I get one lil stressor, I tend to over-think and over-stress. Work used to be horrible. Thankfully, I got a new boss. Homelife used to be stressful. I got divorced and not so bad now. The things I stress now are the "what if's" and it bugs the crap out of me. I'm glad that you're eliminating your stress. Life is too darn short.

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    1. I've managed to survive the marriage drama and come out stronger and happier Bren, but the work drama is what did me in - just too much to handle and no hope of the other person moving on or changing. I hate that gut clenching feeling that comes with being stressed and it's lovely to not have it any more.

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  8. Sadly I think stress is something we have to deal with all our lives. Even little kids have stress. But I am overthinker now,so I meditate. It helps me a lot!

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    1. I think stress is endemic now too Carol, but I'm also coming to see that if we don't take action where we can to reduce it, then we end up anxious, or depressed, or bitter, or sad - so I'm working at reducing it wherever I can.

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  9. I have GAD (general anxiety disorder), which is kind of like stress on steroids, so these are good tips to help me dial down a wee bit. Thanks for the post.

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    1. Hi Karen - I'm so sorry you have to deal with that - it must be a nightmare at times. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about letting small things wear me down when I know that others have so much more going on in their lives. I'm glad you liked my post though xx

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  10. Yes, grab the happy and let go of the crappy! I write in my Gratitude Journal every morning before starting my day, then read my scriptures to arm me against any negativity.

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    1. I have a Gratitude Jar Antionette where I put a few things I'm grateful for each week. It helps me see the little things and how blessed we are to be alive in this wonderful world we live in.

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  11. Hi Leanne, we all have some reason to be stressed about, how much ever we try to avoid them.
    You have give some very good and helpful tips on overcoming stress.
    Thanks for sharing. Take care!
    - Pradeep

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    1. Hi Pradeep - thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you found the tips helpful. Hope the AtoZ Challenge is going well for you this year.

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    2. Yes, Leanne, the A to Z Challenge is progressing well. It becomes a bit hectic with one post a day along with the normal routine.
      Actually, I was planning to join the #MLSTL Party this week. I was waiting for Wednesday. And then, it slipped out of mind; and I remembered just today!

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    3. You need to subscribe to my blog for email reminders Pradeep - or Sue can put you on the list for just #MLSTL email reminders. I hope you link up next week because we'd love to have you - and only 10 more days to go for the Challenge!

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  12. Congrats, Leanne, on your blog nomination! You have some good tips on how to de-stress here. Pay attention to our self-care will help us manage our stress better, too (e.g. regular exercise, get enough sleep, try to find humour in difficult situation, etc.) #MLSTL

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    1. Thanks for the congrats Natalie - I'm surrounded by some fabulous bloggers in that category and it was nice to be included. And yes, you're right, self-care is a big one isn't it? It's something I need to remember isn't a reward, but rather - a requirement.

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  13. Such a timely post Leanne as I am very deep in stress at the moment. A private matter that I don't discuss on the blog. You did the right thing leaving your workplace. I stayed in my workplace longer than I should have, living with chronic stress for many years, and I paid the price. BTW - I have voted for you. Good luck! xo

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    1. Hi Min - thanks so much for the vote and I'm so sorry to hear you're under so much strain atm. I hope things resolve themselves and it all settles down again before much longer - it's a horrible state of mind to be in for any length of time. I also think of you and Deb and Sue and the work dramas you guys faced before retiring - it seems to be something that's rife out there - not a good thing.

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  14. I really enjoyed reading this Leanne. A few years ago I walked away from a job that was causing me major stress. I felt I was selling myself out by staying and was so relieved when I stepped away. The definition of stress in your post would have to be the best I’ve seen.

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    1. It was a great definition wasn't it Jennifer - it just clicked in my head when I read it because it sums up what's happening when the stress starts to build. It's also interesting to see how many of us have had to walk away from jobs due to the drama of other people - so sad to see.

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  15. Congratulations on the nomination I have voted. I see no way out of the stress I am under at this time but I am dealing with it. Soon I should have someone coming in to help me and that will be great.

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    1. Thanks for the vote Victoria - and I'm SO glad you might be getting a helping hand soon. It will certainly lighten your load a little and you are so deserving of some time out and a little bit of self care and self focus x

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  16. Leanne, your thoughts on stress and quotes to go with them are right on! I think our brains are always going to be on slight overdrive, but genuinely being happy produces those important endorphins that keep some of the stress at bay! Catching up #MLSTL

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    1. Hi Terri - happiness is such a vital component of life, I don't think we can be happy all the time, but being happy enough and content enough in life to balance out the rough patches makes all the difference.

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  17. Once again, you've hit the nail on the head, Leanne. We were just discussing the double arrow of suffering. The first arrow is the event, and the second arrow (usually the most painful) is the story we tell ourselves about the event. This isn't fair. Things should be some other way. I should have done something else. And on and on. When we learn to let things go and accept things as they are and make the most of what we do have, we reduce stress and suffering. #MLSTL

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    1. That's such an important concept isn't it Christie. I read "The Choice" by Edith Egar recently (a Holocaust survivor) and she talks a lot about not taking on the mantle of being a victim because it can define us for the rest of our life. I think we all go through tough times, stress, and grief, but we need to be proactive and move through them or they conquer us - and nobody wants that.

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  18. What a great definition of stress. I'm fortunate that life is not stressful for me right now. This might be because I've begun to just let things go. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

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    1. I'm getting there Janet - walking away was just the beginning though, because I need to re-define who I am without that job and without all that went with it (good and bad). It's a different type of stress and I'll be glad when I'm completely out the other side.

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  19. This post really clarified a few things for me today. On a perfect family holiday but feeling all kinds of stress, over thinking, not being good enough, and so on and so forth. It makes me feel just crap, and I need to stop thinking crappy thoughts and just 'be'. The story I tell myself is absolutely not what others are thinking about me. And by the way a BIG WELL DONE on your blog nomination for Best Lifestyle Blog - wishing you all the very best of luck. #MLSTL and Shared on SM x

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    1. Hi Jo - it's interesting that you're experiencing it on a familiy holiday. A friend of mine did the dream family Europe trip with her 'adult' children and husband. She organized it all and said that she was constantly stressed because it was all about trying to make sure everyone was having a good time and being catered to. She said she'd never do it again! And thanks for the cheer for the nomination x

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  20. Thank you for sharing with such heart-felt honesty. I know when I am in conflict internally: call it heart v head, my anxiety and then my IBS symptoms tell me. I learned.....over a long time....to now let go of what I have no control over. I am sure, over time, this will happen for you. I took till my late 60s! Learn from me and others if you like to "get that notion" earlier. I would have saved myself SO.MUCH.HEARTACHE. Denyse #mlstl

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    1. You're so right Denyse - I often berate myself for taking until my 50's to learn some very basic lessons - looks like I still haven't finished the learning process - and waiting another decade for it to sink in would be such a waste of precious time and heart space!

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  21. When I'm able to let it go, like Chris and I did with our move by reminding ourselves that we were where we wanted to be, stress is manageable. But when I can't let it go, stress takes it out on me physically with a gift of psoriasis on my right hand. No where else. Just the hand that I do everything with. Ugh.

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    1. Isn't it interesting how our bodies tell us stuff that we're trying to ignore with our heads and hearts Jennifer? I think the headaches I was experiencing all the time were my body screaming at me to leave that job. Since going, I've had a huge reduction in stress and the head pain that accompanied it - so I need to remember that before diving in again!

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  22. Hi Leanne,
    Loved this...shared to SM, gotta live #MLSTL!
    I find that I hold stress, even now that I have left my career behind. I think it is just "in me" and am finding that I have to actively work on destressing. What I am doing...
    Daily long walks...4-5 miles...for exercise.
    Meditation app...Smiling Minds on my phone helps me focus because I find meditation difficult.
    Healthy eating...lots of veggies and flax
    Limiting alcohol. Rather than relaxing me, which it did in the moment, I found myself even more anxious afterwards. Love my beer, but just have to be mindful.
    Mind over matter and breathing exercises.
    I think some of us are just more wired this way.

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    1. I definitely agree about the wiring towards stress. The woman I job-shared with is still working there because she's more able to brush it off and not take it in internally. It doesn't seem to eat at her like it did with me. I just couldn't stop it taking over my life. Now I find walking and breathing and consciously reminding myself to stop dwelling on things, all help to make me a little more "zen" about life.

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  23. I had a lot of stress in my former life and it lessened considerable when I quit my job. That said, most of it was self-imposed stress. I am very good at stressing myself out by over work and over thinking things.

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    1. I'm good at the self-inflicted stress too Michele - so really, it's up to me to create a life where the externals don't add into that mess. Deliberately choosing to return each week to an environment that drove my stress levels through the roof was not smart thinking on my behalf - and I need to write that on the wall somewhere before I do it all again - repeat offender!

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  24. I try to live by the mantra: "grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." but I hear you on the over-thinking things piece. I didn't realize how much I did this until I was talking to a complete stranger on the phone about a government document and he finally, quietly, said "You know you're over-thinking this, right?"
    I still do it... but try to notice that I'm doing it and back down a bit.
    Congrats on the nomination! and Good Luck!

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    1. I think recognizing when we're in a toxic situation, or when we're over-thinking, or trying to control the uncontrollable is the biggest positive step we can take Agnes. It is the catalyst for making change - or at least stopping the problem in its tracks and then giving ourselves some breathing room to decide what needs to change. I'm getting better at seeing myself doing these things and giving myself a pep talk to stop it before it controls me too much.

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  25. Such a great post! I had a job that was very much like what you described. Like you, I'm not a quitter so I hung in there for six very long years before I finally quit. Once I quit, I couldn't believe I didn't quit sooner. It was so not worth it.

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    1. You're right about wishing I'd realized sooner Amy - or maybe asked for advice from others before the "too good to be true" proved to be a blatant lie. Several people knew the background story of my workplace, but I leapt in and then reaped the consequences - any new decisions will be made with a completely different set of parameters before I commit to anything long term again!

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  26. Hi Leanne, as you know my life is a wee but stressful at the moment. However, I do believe that my running and exercise routine are my saviour. I'm a worrier but if I go for a run it clears my mind and I puts me in the right mindset to fix what I'm worrying about or just let it go. Love that quote: 'Embrace the Happy, Let Go of the Crappy' just what I need this week! Thanks for being my fabulous co-host for #MLSTL. Sorry I'm late to the party but I've shared on social media. xx

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    1. Hi Sue - glad you made it here and yes, getting outside in the fresh air definitely gives me a chance to let things run through my mind and then exit without sitting there cluttering everything else up. I'm really needing to give myself a stern talking to if I start thinking of returning to the workforce - and make much smarter and more self-caring decisions in the future. I'll also be bouncing any ideas off you - that's what BBB's are for!

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  27. very two two conflicting thoughts make you feel unhappy and stressed. thanks for joining the bloggers pit stop - pit stop crew

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  28. Leanne, It is apparent that you are speaking from experience (LOL) Really though, when you say that stress is a conflict of thought - this is the right path but I can't get on it!! I have done my best but my efforts just make more conflict and stress :( Time to make some adjustments. We do have to feature this post as I am sure it can help more bloggers who may be struggling. BTW you sure got my vote!
    Kathleen
    Blogger's Pit Stop

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Thanks so much for your comment - it's where the connection begins.