As women age, naturally-changing hormone levels and priorities of life are all competing for attention. Rather than just accept that getting older means falling apart, realize that with a careful plan and self-advocacy, life begins at 40!
While it may not be what we’ve been taught, we can flip the script about aging and realize there is so much to look forward to. Midlife can be a time of opportunity and growth.
Laying down healthy habits, becoming a strong self-advocate for your health and needs, and designing a life you love are all reasons why life begins at 40.
Life Begins at 40 When You Follow these 5 Simple Rules
- Simple healthy habits are the foundation of your life– both for now and into the future. If you’ve never given much thought to your health, it’s not too late! Small changes can yield big, positive results.
- Become your best health advocate. You can’t keep your body from going through menopause, but you can become informed about the process. The better educated you are about your options, the better decisions you’ll be able to make.
- Test, Don’t Guess. That means stop reading articles online (yes, even from Well Balanced Women!) and diagnosing yourself. Get yourself to a physician you trust. Ask for tests to measure what’s happening in your body. Use those results to make a plan
- Use lower estrogen to your advantage. There are loads of opportunities that present themselves in midlife, if only we can look at them through the lens of a woman who isn’t the same as she was when she was 25.
- Accept that things change. The more you try to fight Mother Nature, the more frustrated you’re going to be.
Small Healthy Habits Build a Strong Foundation
When you’re ready to commit to a well-designed, intentional life, start small! Making small but meaningful changes are the easiest ones to maintain as life-long habits.
Therefore, rather than swearing off sugar completely, you could choose to eat a sugary treat only on the weekends. Or if you’re working to improve your sleep habits, you don’t have to eliminate your daily glass (or two) of wine. Rather, just enjoy your drink with dinner instead of on the couch at 10pm.
Choosing a habit that feels achievable and sustainable will differ for each person. Here are five common healthy habits to track that will help you build a healthy lifestyle in midlife and beyond.
The most important thing is that you don’t try to overhaul your life in a week. You’ll never be able to stick with it, and that will likely leave you feeling more defeated than before you started.
Become Your Best Health Advocate
Most midlife women were not raised to be strong self-advocates, particularly when it means speaking up to an authority figure like a physician.
This is a problem because our healthcare system is not set up to support women in menopause. The whole process of perimenopause is highly personal, with symptoms ranging from hot flashes to anxiety to slowing metabolism. Some women breeze through the midlife transition with no problems at all, and others struggle with nightly insomnia that leaves them feeling wrecked.
Regardless of your experience, you are your own best health advocate. No one will ever care as much about you as you do. No one will ever know about you as much as you do. Use this to your advantage! The more questions you can ask and dialogue you can have, the better off you’ll be.
One of the great things about aging is that you have experience. Treat your life experience like the rich source of information it is! Rather than just accepting what you’re told, ask questions. Compare the information with what your experience has taught you.
Also, you’ve had years of experience developing your intuition. Whether or not you’ve followed your intuition in the past, now is a great time to start trusting yourself! By combining what you have learned through life experiences with your gut feelings, you can devise a plan of action that resonates with you.
Never hesitate to speak up for yourself, especially when dealing with your health. You’re worth it!
Test, Don’t Guess!
As women age, they may have noticeable changes in the way their body works or feels. Rather than feel despondent about this, recognize that a) it’s normal, and b) there’s probably someone who can help you!
But rather than take shots in the dark about what’s going on, talk to qualified professionals. They’ll know the appropriate tests to run or other practitioners to whom they can refer you.
And while there is a wealth of information on the internet, don’t trust Dr. Google! Self-diagnosing is, at best, the long route. At worst, it’s a dangerous game that can risk your health. You’re worth more than that!
Not sure who to ask for help? As a virtual heath coach, it’s likely I can either help you myself or connect you with someone who can. A health coach who specializes in perimenopause is like a travel agent who gives you options for your upcoming vacation and then connects you with all the best hotels, restaurants, and activities.
Finding quality information about perimenopause and menopause doesn’t have to mean going it alone.
This is important, so I’m going to say it again: Don’t guess at what may be going on.
Find a healthcare provider you trust, advocate for yourself, and ask them to run tests based on your symptoms. Keep inquiring until the answers help you feel your best self again.
Use Lower Estrogen to Your Advantage
Here’s some good news: lower levels of estrogen actually make it easier for you to advocate for yourself. Estrogen is a hormone that fuels a woman’s desire to tend and befriend. It is the nurture hormone.
As estrogen declines, we are physiologically programmed to care less about the needs of others.
Think about it: our estrogen is declining in the phase of life when our children are leaving home. This is a good thing! Our body is so well designed it is allowing us to separate more easily from those to whom we have been most attached.
Declining estrogen also means that we lose the need to please people. Combined with life experience and intuition that may lead you down a different path than what you would have predicted 5, 10, or 20 years ago, lowered estrogen levels allow you to pursue new interests with less guilt. Huzzah!
By the way, if you’ve always been one of those rule-follower good girls (like me), I’m here to tell you: It’s okay to want what you want (even if it’s different from what you think you “should” want). And it’s really okay to want something other than what other people want you to want.
One of the reasons I believe life begins at 40 is that women are finally ready to live the life they’ve always wanted for themselves. Huzzah!
Everything Changes…and That’s a good thing!
It’s easy to forget that we are living creatures. As with all living things, we go through a cycle of life. We are constantly changing. When you embrace the reality that you are an animal, it can be easier to accept that the only constant in life is change.
Rather than fear this change, open yourself to the opportunities that present themselves at each new life stage. You are not the same person you were in your early 20s. Release the expectation that you should act, think, or even look the same.
For women, life after 40 can be the start of a fulfilling third age. It’s a time when we’re ready to speak our truths about who we are and what we want. You don’t need to leave your marriage or get a whole new career to reinvent yourself. You can follow a passion that’s lay dormant or push yourself to achieve a challenging goal.
The book Designing Your Life is a practical, step-by-step method to give your whole life a rethink. If you’re ready to step out into the new you, Designing Your Life is a fantastic companion.
As you’re thinking about how your body is changing and you’re ready to embrace the idea that life begins at 40, remember my favorite mantra:
Imperfect action is still action
Give yourself plenty of grace. Give yourself plenty of time. Work with people who will support you on your journey to achieve your goals. No one needs to be awesome alone!
Karen Shopoff Rooff is an ACE certified health coach specializing in midlife women’s health. The Well Balanced Women blog is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Please discuss your health issues with a licensed medical practitioner.
The older I get, the better and better I know myself and my body. That has come with wisdom from ageing, and I wouldn’t change a thing!