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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - September 2011 

It could be you ....

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor in private practice after 20yrs with Relate, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet as we pass our half-way markers. 

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column. 



I wish I could relax the way my dog does.

Dear Maggi

I have recently been promoted to an important job. On the surface it is work I’ve done very successfully elsewhere. Now I’ve found another job hidden in the description. It is not at all what I was expecting. It involves site management, alterations to listed buildings and paring spending to the bone through redundancies. I’m cutting the very services I’ve worked in for years to build up. On top of this my husband has been made redundant and one of our sons has returned to the fold for the same reason.

When I first took the job I felt so stimulated and alive, but that changed rapidly as I learned what lay beneath the job description.

I’m sixty, through all my menopause symptoms and for the first time am experiencing anxiety attacks and sleeplessness at three in the morning, exhaustion every evening, memory loss and a definite sinking feeling at the end of each weekend. I’m tending to look forward to opening a bottle of wine every evening and having at least two glasses. I look at our dog who hasn’t a care in the world and envy his ability to chill out anywhere at anytime. This can’t go on.


Maggi Replies

So many people fear the word stress. We are assailed by stories in the media by health gurus and experts of all kinds who assure us that cutting stress from our lives will make everything else fall into place.

It is not itself an illness, more a state of health. Stress is a natural physical and emotional reaction to any factor that threatens the health of the body.

When our fiftieth birthday has come and gone, amid congratulations or commiserations, it seems stresses can build in a way that we find hard to deal with. Whether it is children being tricky teens or leaving home, looking after or losing a parent, marital or health problems, money difficulties or worrying about redundancy or a mean pension, all seem heavier loads to bear than the worries of earlier years.

We are often told how bad it is for us but we need some stress in our lives. Without stress we probably wouldn’t even bother to get out of bed in the morning or speed up when crossing the road.

When do we feel stressed? In varying degrees, much of the time. Our bodies experience it when we learn to walk, ride a bike, swim or ski. When we sit exams or a driving test, fall in love, give birth. We get stressed at job interviews, arrive for our new job - and worry about being good enough.

All of these examples end in some sort of new and positive skill in our armoury. If a baby cries when he or she gets hungry, mother/food arrives and stage one communication skills are learned. When we learn to stand and lift a foot to take the first step we will sometimes fall, learning from the experience and gaining better balance. When we sit an exam or driving test or have a job interview, we revise or practise, anxious lest we forget something crucial. Once it is over we have opened another door of opportunity in life or learned more about where we need to improve our skills.

Falling in love is regarded as a wholly pleasant and desirable experience, but the heart beats faster, our temperature rises and we perspire more; we are distracted, unable to get the person out of our mind. We are in a state of tension and stress. Even pleasure is exhausting.

Stress, in the right circumstances and in the right amount, can be our friend and informer. It is when stress piles upon stress that it tends to lower resistance to illness. Then we ignore it at our peril.

Try to combat the effects of your stress by attacking the problem on several fronts:

Step one: Communicate with key people. At work, talk to your line-manager. Ask for added support. At home, do the same with your husband.

Step two: Delegate the work you are not experienced in to one of your employees who, you say, has been involved in site management for some years. At home, ask your husband to take over the day-to-day running of the house and prepare evening meals. Ask your son to share these tasks and encourage him to search for another job as soon as possible.

Step three: Care for yourself. Book yourself regular weekends away, sometimes with your husband but also, at times, visiting friends alone for a solo break from it all. Because you recognise that tension is leading to your eating and drinking more and you are feeling unfit, join a fitness club or take up some other regular body-challenging exercise. You know that, being over fifty, you do need to be more careful about health and fitness, especially as your stress levels have increased.

Many people of fifty-plus talk of “chickens coming home to roost”. The injuries and general body neglect of earlier, more vigorous times have quietly taken their toll and are beginning to show in the form of weight and joint problems, old sports injuries - the broken ankle or twisted knee, the bad back, all of us could name one thing at least that is a little more trouble than before – and that is before we take into account the effects of ageing or heredity, the heart, lung, joint or digestive problems.

Don’t be downhearted, take regular stock of how your life balances.
Are you feeling over-stretched? What can you do to make things a bit easier for your body so that you maintain good health in your later years? How can you get fitter? Who can you talk to or ask for help if you need to?

Don’t panic about stress. In the right amounts, it’s good for you

Take a look at this book, it has something to fit most stressful situations:

Stress proof your life: 52 Brilliant Ideas for Taking Control
Elisabeth Wilson


You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

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