The Zen of Aging
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The Zen of Aging

As I glanced at the selfie, I blurted out, Yikes, look at those wrinkles!

My daughter quickly said, "I don’t see wrinkles. I see years of smiling!"

This made me laugh for a few reasons.

First, she's clearly been listening to what I say and how I coach. Secondly, because I realized I haven’t completely embodied this truth for myself.

I’m a health coach for women over 40, and I’ll admit it— I still occasionally fight The Change instead of embracing it. Luckily, I have plenty of tools to bring me back into alignment when I experience moments of doubt.

With the passing of time comes physical, emotional and mental change. It’s inevitable, and yet most of us try to fight it. We hold onto old clothes that no longer fit us, drive our bodies into the ground even when we feel exhausted, deprive ourselves of the food we love by going on restrictive diets, avoid looking at ourselves in mirrors and photographs, and in general, run away from what our body is telling us.

Now I’m not suggesting we “accept” fatigue or “own” premature aging. What I am saying is that there is another way. A way to grow older (and wiser, and sexier) without avoiding aging entirely OR giving into what we think it has to mean. 

This other way is what I call the Zen of Aging.

Rather than punishment, it requires celebration. Rather than depletion, it asks for nourishment. Self-love is necessary. Gentleness is the way. It’s a surefire strategy to bring more ease and harmony into your body, your hormones, your relationships, and your life after 40. Oh, and it’ll help you get your sexy back— and I would argue, better than ever before.

How We Do “Aging” All Wrong

You know why I think it’s so difficult for women to transition into their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond? We don’t have any positive words associated with this stage in life. When you’re in your mid-30’s and under, you’re “young,” but as soon as you cross that threshold into your late 30’s, you’re by default, "old."

I wanted to embrace my age, so when I first reached my 40’s I would jokingly admit, “I’m old,” but to be honest, I didn’t like the feeling. A teacher once told me, “You should never say you’re old. Every time you do, it tells every cell in your body: you’re old.”

So I don’t even think it’s healthy to try to “own up” to being old. I don’t think it’s as much about “owning” your age as it is about expanding your definition of it. For me, better words associated with being in my 40’s, 50's and beyond include vitality, clarity, confidence, strength, experience, love, and permission, to name a few.

Along with positive mindset shifts, we also need diet and lifestyle shifts that support our changing bodies during this time. While in our 20’s we might have been able to scoot by on 4 hours of sleep, high levels of stress, and yo-yo dieting— in our 40’s, our bodies keep us a lot more honest.

We need different nutrients. We need a more loving approach. We need tenderness, rest, and self-care.

Below I’ve outlined 8 tips to help women over 40 cultivate their inner zen, and step into the new season of their life with more grace, beauty, and ease.

1. Transitioning from Princess to Queen 

We're not in our 20’s and 30's anymore, and looking, feeling, or being that way shouldn't be the goal, either. If it is, we’ll constantly fall short, and that internal struggle can become visible in our body and spirit.

So I'd like to introduce a new archetype for you to embrace: the Queen.

When you think about the word Queen, how does it make you feel?

Does it make you sit up taller in your seat? Feel a little more regal? Confident? In control?

The truth is, there is nothing sexier than a woman who is confident in her own skin.

When a Queen walks in the room, everyone knows it. She commands a great deal of respect, she is sure of herself, and therefore possesses a beauty that cannot be duplicated, or competed with. 

Sure, Princesses might have flawless skin or tiny waists, and their ups and downs might be what the media is fixated on.

But if you really think about it, when you were in your 20’s, how much time did you spend proving yourself, changing yourself, fighting your way to the top or struggling to find yourself?

Exhausting, if you ask me. She can have the tiara ;)

As Queens, we trade out our tiaras for crowns. We live life unapologetically, rooted in all of our wisdom, and committed to living truly authentic, joyful lives. We know what we like, and what we need to be happy–– in our relationships, our careers, in bed… We can look at our reflection and focus on what we love about ourselves–– and we are less likely to be shaken by other people's opinions of us.

Let me ask you, as the Queen of your kingdom who would you be? What would you give yourself permission to think or do? What kind of changes would you make? And most importantly, how would it feel.

2.  Re-Evaluate Your Lifestyle

As we get into our 40’s, 50’s and beyond, a few things can happen. Our hormones change, our metabolism can slow down, our sleep can become disrupted, it can be harder to lose weight, and many of our normal dietary and alcohol habits can have a harsher impact on our bodies than ever before.

Often, in an attempt to ditch the bloat, we’ll double-down on exercise, or get even stricter with our diet. Our old tricks no longer seem to be working, and instead of finding new ones, we might start thinking our metabolism is broken, or there’s something wrong with us. The truth is, our bodies are changing, and they need new tools to help them regain optimal health.

For instance, when I first started experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, I felt exhausted all day and wired all night. I didn’t connect the dots at the time, but my lack of sleep was affecting everything from my mood, my anxiety, and my appearance to my weight.

After a breaking point, I began testing everything I was doing to figure out what was helping, or hurting, my sleep. One thing I realized was that wine almost always led to poor sleep.

At some point, I had gotten into the habit of rewarding myself with a glass of wine and a bath after a hard day’s work. I thought I was doing a great job at self-care, and maybe for a while, it worked. But in this new stage of life, it was wreaking havoc on my sleep.

By removing wine from my diet throughout the week (I still enjoy it on the weekends if I feel like it), adding in some peppermint essential oil, and ditching the screens 2 hours before bedtime, I was able to restore my sleep, which replenished my energy, mood, and sanity.

There are plenty of other examples of how normal, everyday habits and routines that worked for us for years might no longer serve us as we get into our 40’s, 50’s and beyond. It doesn’t mean we give up all the fun stuff, it just means we have to find some new habits and behaviors to support our health rather than deplete it.

Although many symptoms of aging and menopause are inevitable, they are often exacerbated by diet and lifestyle choices. Luckily, by this same token— they can be relieved through diet and lifestyle amendments. The trick is to be open to a new “healthy” foods and behaviors, as they might be different from what worked before.

 3. Curate Your Surroundings

Rather than being bombarded with 20-year old actresses and models, it can be beneficial to be a little more choosy about what kinds of standards of beauty you're exposing yourself to on a regular basis.

There are plenty of beautiful, inspiring role models of all ages and sizes. By surrounding yourself with fabulous 40, 50, 60, 70 year olds, you can be reminded that age does not have to mean anything you don't want it to mean. It doesn't mean you have to slow down, stop feeling attractive, stop taking care of yourself, or be in pain. It doesn't mean that life gets less exciting or adventurous. In fact, it can mean quite the opposite!

Here are a few inspirational women over 50 to follow on Instagram:

  

4. Pick Up Something New

The absolute best way to keep your mind, body, and spirit flexible and youthful is to keep learning new things.

Now, this is easier said than done, because our brains are naturally resistant to new things as a means of protecting us. But in order to grow, we have to step outside of our comfort zone and say yes to something that scares us a bit. Chances are it will also be something that we aren’t immediately good at, so check your perfectionism at the door and try to simply show up, and play.

 

Here are a few ideas:

  • Go on a meditation retreat
  • Take a Kundalini yoga workshop
  • Learn how to make your own kombucha
  • Take a latin dance class
  • Travel to a new country and try to learn the language
  • Learn how to cook your favorite foreign cuisine

At first, you’ll probably feel uncomfortable, and this is a good sign! It means you’re doing something truly new.

When judgment arises (whether towards yourself or other people), notice it, as it usually is a sign of something important for you to work on. Transform your judgment into curiosity, and take in the lessons that come your way.

5. Drop the Ball

Ever notice how 90-year-olds tend to shed their inhibitions, and have no problem saying exactly what's on their minds? Why do you think they do this? My guess is that they just don't care anymore. It's too much work to try to please everyone else, and life is too short!

Often, as women, we think we have to do it all. Whether it’s our home, our family, our career, our community, or all of the above— many of us, at one point or another, got used to being overachievers.

And, at one point or another, we stopped asking for help. Maybe we learned there was no point in asking since they probably won’t do it right anyway.

But the point is that by trying to do everything, we not only stay distracted from embodying our higher purpose, but we can also cut others out of being engaged in home and family life.

Tiffany Dufu, author of Drop the Ball, defines it as,

“Drop the Ball: to release unrealistic expectations of doing it all and engage others to achieve what matters most to us, deepening our relationships and enriching our lives”

I really like this concept, because I know I, for one, can get so caught up in perfectionism and take a lot of pride in not dropping any balls. But sometimes it’s a nice practice to let something go, and be reminded that the world doesn’t fall apart like we feared it would.

So the next time you’re rushing home from work and thinking about ALL of the things on your To Do list, I encourage you to throw a few of them by the wayside and practice sitting down on the couch and doing something wholly selfish and pleasurable instead. 

6. Create a Vision Board

Growing older with grace and purpose requires a plan. In the same way that we hold onto an old dress that probably won’t ever fit us the same anymore, we can hold onto old ideas of what “success” or “happiness” looks like, even though they don’t really fit us anymore. As the years pass by and life happens, sometimes reality can look a little different from those initial dreams we sketched out for ourselves.

As we enter into a new phase in life with purpose and confidence, it can be helpful to apply our newfound clarity to create a new plan for life.

What do you want your life to look like in 10 years? Spend some time writing down everything you see, and how you want to feel. The more precise you can get, the better. Cut out some photos from magazines and create a collage that looks like a future you want to step into.

Spend some time really embodying the feeling you’re searching for, and return to that place every time you look at your vision board. You’ll get there sooner than you’d think. 

7. Find a Circle of Support 

A few years ago, the Blue Zones Project, a study of the 5 places around the world where the most people live to be over 100, revealed that having regular, lifelong social groups is one of the key pillars to living a long and healthy life.

In Okinawa (one of the Blue Zones), every couple of days in the afternoon, women gather with a small group of friends to drink tea and connect in something they call a Maoi. Throughout the years, this group serves as not just a place to laugh and make small talk, but also as a safety net for life’s ups and downs, including economic troubles, the death of some of their partners, and more.

I think we can learn a lot from these women, especially during this season in life.

As we get into our 40’s and 50’s and beyond and our hormones start changing, we can feel isolated, unsupported, and depressed. Our family cannot fully understand the unique experience we are going through, and so it’s vitally important to have a circle of women your age to connect with over life’s ups and downs, to normalize, celebrate, and support every bit of each other’s experiences.

If you don’t already have a group of women in your life that you trust and feel like you can talk to about anything, then it might be beneficial to put some energy into finding one or cultivating one. Often, we’re so busy that our friendships can be put on the back burner. It’s important to keep in mind that close friendships can play a big impact on health and longevity.

If you simply don’t have a close group of girlfriends, try seeking some out through various meetups, hobbies, spiritual groups, and women’s coaching circles. It can even be a group phone call. The format really doesn’t matter, it’s the sense of belonging that is most important.

8. Get Into The Moment

When I was eight, I distinctly recall an adult telling me, “You’re going to be pretty when you grow up!”

At that moment, I formed a belief that I wasn’t pretty right now, and when I got older I would be pretty. So you could probably imagine— I couldn’t wait to grow up!

However, no matter how much I aged, I never had the feeling that I had arrived. Now, when I look back at pictures during my youth I think, “Wow, I was pretty then!” But when I take a closer look, I remember I never actually felt that way in the present moment.

Year after year, I would only see flaws. Eventually, this led me to dive into self-help books and strive for achievement and success to find fulfillment, my purpose, my passion, and my place.

As I look back, I realize that, while it’s great to want to improve yourself and be the best version of yourself, if you’re not enjoying the process, you will never know when you have arrived.

If you haven’t started some form of meditation yet, I encourage you to try. Personally, it took me a long time to figure out what kind of meditation practice worked for me. I thought I was horrible at it, but then I realized there’s no one way to meditate. 

The point is just to cultivate at least 5 minutes of stillness each day, and preferably in the morning. This way it can have a lasting positive effect on the rest of your day. 

By spending 5-10 minutes each day in meditation, it can serve as a daily reminder to approach life with more appreciation for the moment. 

In Conclusion

Getting into the “zen” of aging requires work— but not in the traditional sense of the word.

It’s not about exertion, but rather, tuning in and listening to the desires of your body and soul.

It’s about self-love, and permission to give yourself what you need.

It’s about nourishing your body with the right nutrients and easeful movement.

It’s about having a circle of supportive women who are navigating this new season in life alongside you.

Finally, it’s about routinely setting aside the time to dream, create, and celebrate every ounce of you, and this one body and life that you are in. 

Free gift? Yes, please! Click here to access your FREE 3 Day Menopause Masterclass.

 

 

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