2 min read
With aging comes a natural inclination to reminisce and tell stories, as you work toward making sense of your life and finding meaning in its many challenges.
And research findings suggest that the way that you make sense of these jagged edges in your life story has important implications for stress and health.
In one study with late-middle age and older adults exhibiting signs of depression, my colleagues and I asked people to describe the life event or experience that was currently most distressing for them.
Some wrote about recent life stressors, like coping with a new health diagnosis or having lost a loved one. Others focused on more long-standing concerns, such as conflict with an adult child or caregiving for a relative with chronic illness.
Regardless of what people wrote about, we found that those who felt that they had somehow ‘made sense’ of these experiences were less likely to show elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that when dysregulated has been linked to a host of mental and physical health problems.
Notably, the extent to which a stressful life event was rated as ‘comprehensible’ within the larger frame of their life story ended up being a more reliable predictor of stress hormones than the severity of their current depression symptoms.
So, do you want to find out if you’ve made sense of a difficult life experience in your life? Take the quiz below and learn more about where you’re at in your journey and how you can smooth out the rough edges of your life story.
And let us know what you learn in the comments section!
Holland, J. M., Currier, J. M., Coleman, R. A., & Neimeyer, R. A. (2010). The Integration of Stressful Life Experiences Scale (ISLES): Development and initial validation of a new measure. International Journal of Stress Management, 17, 325-352.
Holland, J. M., Rengifo, J., Currier, J. M., O’Hara, R., Sudheimer, K., & Gallagher-Thompson, D. (2014). Psychosocial predictors of salivary cortisol among older adults with depression. International Psychogeriatrics, 26, 1531-1539.