6 top tips for self care in midlife

Do you ever feel like you've lost yourself in the midst of midlife? Here's how it might have happened - and what you can do about it.

One minute you're in your twenties

It’s late one summer’s afternoon. I’m sitting in the park and I’m having a picnic with friends in the glorious sunshine. I’ve got no idea what the time is, nor do I need to think about what I’ll be making for dinner.

I’m free to do as I choose, I have just myself to think about. Life may not be perfect, but I have the head space to deal with life’s issues as they arise, one at a time.

Then suddenly you find yourself in your forties, fifties and beyond!

Wow, life’s so hectic! How did I get here?

How do we midlife women get to a point where our lives and are heads are so full?

The culprits?

It can start with children. If we have opted for a life with kids, and been fortunate enough to succeed on that front, we can be consumed by their lives as they go through adolescence into adulthood with all the problems that can bring.

We may have a child with particular challenges, which means their path through education and into the outside world presents a relentless stream of issues.  An unexpected minor illness of one of our children can strike at any time requiring us to put all our other plans on hold.

Throw in a husband into the mix and if the relationship is not loving and supportive, then that can put a further strain on life and our ability to cope.

Invariably, we are the primary carer of our kids and we tend to bear the brunt of the responsibility of running a home. The many mundane tasks can significantly contribute to our levels of stress, particularly if they are taking us away from a career that’s been put on hold.

For the working mums, striving to get the balance between work and family life is a constant challenge.

In the sandwich generation, we are often having to take care of both our children and our aging parents, which can place an added burden on our finances.

To compound matters, the menopausal transition giving rise to hormonal fluctuations, can cause our stress levels to soar. This puts us at a greater risk of burnout, anxiety and/or depression. Worse still, there is evidence to support the fact that stress may exacerbate menopausal symptoms, which can become quite debilitating.

What it comes down to is:

We are so time poor that our own well-being gets pushed down to the bottom of the pile.

If we allow things to spiral out of control, we can’t possibly be effective in carrying out all of our responsibilities.

So what we need to do is:

Put on our oxygen masks first before helping everyone else with theirs.

We must not allow ourselves to be free-falling through life before stopping to take care of ourselves. The key is to watch out for the warning signs such as mood swings, increased irritability, poor sleep, lethargy, skin rashes, hair loss, joint pain, muscular tension and just about any chronic condition.

So here are my 6 top tips to keep you healthy and avoid burnout in midlife and beyond:

1. Reduce Your Burden :

Delegate:

Ask yourself ‘where am I over-extending?’ and get creative about to whom and how you might be able to delegate some of the things on your ‘to-do’ list.

Say ‘no’:

Always think ahead before committing yourself to something and ask yourself ‘is it truly realistic for me to be able to fit this in?’ If not, say no nicely and move on!

Allow more time:

Always overestimate how long something will take, whether it be a car journey or a task. Unexpected things happen all the time in life so plan your schedule accordingly.

2. Nourish Your Body:

Eat plenty of a variety of vegetables, healthy fats and good quality protein. Reduce or eliminate sugar, white bread and pasta and processed foods. Only drink alcohol in moderation, 3 or 4 glasses of wine per week (and not all in one go!). Go easy on the coffee, 1-2 cups per day.

3. Prioritise Sleep:

Have a bedtime routine and come off social media and your phone 2 hours beforehand. Aim for 7-8 hours per night.

4. Move Your Body:

Try to do something physical daily, even if it’s just adding in some extra walking or flights of stairs. Pick something you enjoy and start small. Be consistent.

5. Have Fun:

Keep connected with friends and aim to have things in your diary to look forward to.

6. Be Grateful:

Acknowledging the things for which we are grateful has been proven to have tangible benefits to our stress levels. By making a note of the positive aspects in our life and why they make us happy can give us a greater sense of calm.

And so:

Midlife for us women entails juggling many balls each and every day.

Although we may rarely, if ever, have a carefree, lazy afternoon in the sunshine as we did in our twenties, we can mitigate our struggles by incorporating the above highly effective tips into our lives.

If we do so on a consistent basis, we can expect to thrive and enjoy these midlife years. We are after all in a very privileged position to get to experience them.

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