Women arrive at midlife to perhaps find themselves surprised by emotional pain, upheaval, rebirth and transformation. It’s entirely normal, and ridiculously common. In my last couple of articles I offered you some thoughts on this transformative time and how you can use it to your benefit.
Welcome to the new world of midlife. The first and most important new rule of midlife is that we can say the word “midlife”. We can talk about it in polite company and not in the hushed tones of being “a woman of a certain age”. We even get to talk about aging with grace and wisdom. We get to talk about menopause and peri-menopause and to learn about what is happening and how to deal with it.
So, in this article let’s talk about some of the physical and psychological aspects of peri-menopause and menopause. At least once every couple of weeks, a client will ask me, “I feel like I am losing my mind! Do any of your other clients feel like this?” What this intelligent, over-busy, already stressed senior executive woman is experiencing is absolutely common for a woman in her early forties to mid-fifties. What she may be experiencing could be any or all of the following: sleeplessness, restlessness, fatigue, night sweats, hot flashes, memory lapses, heightened and unpredictable emotional reactions, migraines, depression, anxiety, irritability and loss of libido. The reason this may all be happening to you too, is that your hormones are starting to shift around. It is not unlike the kind of hormonal craziness that happens in adolescence.
For some women, these symptoms are accompanied by the stressful challenges of raising equally hormonal teenagers and/or taking care of aging or infirm parents or other relatives. Not fun.
It helps to know that this is a normal and temporary state of affairs and that there are lots of ways to address it. I recommend a mindfulness practice to all of my clients - learning the profoundly valuable practice of some form of meditation and use of deep breathing. These are invaluable for addressing anxiety and stress. I also recommend getting your hormone levels tested and having a conversation with your Medical Doctor, Nurse Practitioner or someone who practices Naturopathic Medicine. You may choose to consider some form of temporary hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Acupuncture and herbal remedies can address many of the symptoms such as hot flashes and associated sleep disturbances. Diet and exercise are relevant and important for most of these symptoms.
I also recommend simple fixes for the busy executive:
This ends - trust me. It is not your new normal.
Next up: The Stages of Midlife Adult Development and What That Means to You
Resources for Mindfulness and Meditation
What is midlife anyway? It is a term that elicits a lot of reactions from people in it, people approaching it and people past it. Midlife has gotten a bad rap.
It is actually a misnomer in this day and age. It is a psychological, emotional, spiritual and cultural phenomenon that hits us around our late thirties to early forties even though many of us are living longer and healthier lives these days than average eighty years.
There are certainly aspects to it that are connected to our physiology, especially for women who feel the impact of peri-menopause and menopause, but even women who have undergone a hysterectomy at a younger age feel the pull of the “midlife experience” around the time forty candles adorn the annual cake.
It often starts with an inner urge – a feeling that a change is in the offing.
An internal curiosity or concern might pop-up as you wonder, “What is going on with me?” We might feel a little scared and maybe a little excited. It causes us to question if we are at the right place in our careers and in our lives; to look to what is next.
Some women are launched into the experience of midlife as a result of various life experiences: becoming an empty-nester, losing a spouse or partner to divorce or death, a career road-block, or maybe the loss of a parent. This will cause some women feel disconnected and disoriented.
However one arrives at the moment of realization of being at midlife, it is the threshold to a whole different experience of oneself. It is also the point at which we confront the question: “What is my life purpose?” As we mature into the process of sorting out our conflicting desires and impulses the question becomes a clear voice from the inside seeking clarity about what it is that we truly want in our lives; “Am I living the life that I truly want to live?” Over time the coping styles and defense mechanisms of our childhood and young adulthood give way to a deeper questioning. There is a truth inside that wants to express itself.
Some people move through this process and come out the other side with a sense of clarity and peace of mind; for others it is a crisis. However, understanding the process can open the door to the excitement of this time of life - a time of re-igniting old passions and accessing new ones. It is a time to explore and reach for big dreams, to respond to the awakening of deep inner wisdom.
Midlife presents cultural challenges in that as we age; we seem to become more invisible. Herein lies a paradox. While a predominant message in our youth oriented culture may lead us to experience ourselves as more invisible (and perhaps powerless), an inner power is emerging and we see ourselves more clearly than ever. The conscious choice to be present banishes our confusion and releases our energy. When we embrace the freedom to speak and live our true selves it becomes a passionate commitment.
Midlife draws us into a mystery. If we are willing to enter into that seeming chaos we are rewarded with fresh, creative energy and spirit. It means being willing to bear the challenge of insight and to confront what is no longer working for us. By coming into the full experience of ourselves, we unburden our souls and clear the way to live on purpose rather than randomly. We feel true to ourselves and complete rather than feeling that there is something missing. By remembering that we are the owners of our lives, we become powerful beyond measure.
As we let go of what has become familiar and move toward what is to be, we experience both a loss and an incredible craving. We grieve the loss of the patterns, the roles we have had in our lives up to this point while we long for new meanings and a deeper sense of meaning. This letting go allows the soul to open to new personal and spiritual growth. We discover previously hidden and emerging talents, desires and confidence. The longings for meaning, integrity, and wholeness are driving forces in midlife. Being present with those driving forces provides a promise of renewed clarity, enthusiasm and strength.
Through Full Circle Institute’s program, "A Time Of My Own", you can give yourself the opportunity to explore and understand your experience and get clarity about who you want to become and what you want to accomplish at this profound time in your life!
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