Over recent months there’s been a welcome acknowledgement in the media of the impact of the perimenopause and menopause for women. Much has been written on the hormonal fluctuations that can dominate this stage of a woman’s life. As well as sometimes debilitating physical symptoms, the emotional symptoms of rage and anxiety can play havoc with women’s mental health and well-being. This all comes at a time when women are often navigating multiple pressures. Parenting teenage children who then go on to leave home, caring for increasingly dependent parents, as well as being a partner, work colleague and possibly supporting friends with equally demanding circumstances. Often women start noticing the effects of aging on their body and existential angst may become all-consuming. Many women experience sadness and confusion in the face of these losses and changes. Some struggle to understand and adapt to a new identity feeling unsure and daunted about the next phase of life.
It is not surprising then that Midlife can be the perfect storm for women.
Navigating a way through this often overwhelming and confusing phase may require some careful thought and may take some time. Firstly, it is important that women give themselves permission to feel these feelings. Acknowledging and accepting our feelings is crucial for good mental health, both for present happiness and future well-being. It is also helpful to recognise that where there is change, there is opportunity.
Midlife can be a prime opportunity for women to get to know themselves and reappraise how they want to live their life going forward. For many, this is a time when women realise they have lost touch with who they are and what they need to help them feel fulfilled and satisfied. With the pressures of this midlife stage, it can also be important to re-establish boundaries both for oneself and in relation to the demands of others on women’s time.
The idea of learning to know who we are now can feel overwhelming. Breaking it down into smaller, more manageable steps may be helpful. Finding the joy in the everyday can sound trite and obvious but is so often overlooked. Taking some alone time each day – even if it’s just a few moments – can help with calming anxious feelings. Finding, and spending time with likeminded (perhaps new) friends and nurturing long standing friendships can be validating and calming. Spending time doing activities that are enjoyable. Taking up long put-off interests and adventures/activities. Saying no sometimes. Recognising, and embracing when something isn’t positive anymore. Prioritising and sticking to routines that feel good. Learning to be kinder and more compassionate to our inner often harsh critical voice.
These simple steps may be enough to help navigate the midlife storm, but this may also be a time where therapy can be helpful. Therapy can provide a safe space to explore the wishes, hopes and needs for the next stage of life. It may also help to process specific issues or to think through repeating patterns which are not serving us well and are impacting on positive wellbeing. If you’re interested in talking through your experience of midlife please do get in touch.