Looking for ways to reach and maintain midlife balance? Do not neglect these 3 areas.
Updated: May 6
Midlife can come like a storm for many women. When unprepared, it's easy to lose the sense of balance and grounding and feel like you're lost in a storm. I find that those who are able to maintain a healthy level of balance through midlife and beyond, are usually those who choose to embrace a lifestyle that includes a number of key wellness areas, particularly these three:
Building a sense of self-awareness around their body and food choices
Maintaining social connectedness; and
Pursuing life's purpose.
What does self-awareness have to do with balance?
Self-awareness helps to establish a direct link between what we do or sense and how we feel. It is an action/response relationship that brings meaning and clarity to our inner and outer worlds.
With regards to foods for example, self-awareness serves as an internal alert system that guides us towards making the right food choices. The concept known as bio-individuality reminds us that we alone know which foods agree with us. With a strong sense of self-awareness, we can make a direct connection between how our bodies feel and what we ate prior to that feeling. Foods that are healthy for us will not cause acid reflux, bloating, constipation or other digestive issues that manifest themselves instantly or can develop over time.
Self-awareness is key to eating right for one's body. Eating well or making healthy food choices is not enough because some healthy foods are not the right foods for our unique body, based on existing level of imbalance on the inside.
To succeed may require keeping a journal and monitoring and recording how specific foods make us feel when we eat them. If we feel good not just immediately but also within a few hours, a day or two, we can count that food as being right for us. If, on the other hand, eating certain foods leave us feeling uncomfortable, bloated, or cause constipation, skin breakouts and others, they may not be right for us even if they may be healthy foods for others.
Self-awareness also enables us to recognize what we are hungry for, because sometimes we think we are hungry when in reality, we are dehydrated or we feel lonely. Self-awareness can guide us away from overeating as well. With a deep sense of self-awareness, we know when to stop eating because we are full, instead of continuing to use foods (often the wrong ones) to numb other feelings that we may not be ready to confront.
If you want to build or increase self-awareness, yoga and meditation are known practices that can help to build our self-awareness muscles. We all need time alone, to reflect and connect with the spirit in us. Overtime, our sense of self-awareness will increase as we get in the habit of spending peaceful and relaxing time alone.
And once established, self-awareness does not start and end with our personal needs and desires. It can increase our sense of connection and awareness of the needs of others, leading to enhanced social connectedness.
Where does social connectedness fit into the quest for balance?
Human beings are social beings. People living in environments where they stay connected with others, those in family settings or in households where they eat meals together tend to establish stronger bonds with each other, compared with those where individuals stay away from others at meal time or any time. Provided their food choices are also good choices, they get to bond around meals that will boost everyone's physical and emotional well-being.
Social connectedness can add value by providing individuals with opportunities to start preparing more balanced meals, especially when they know they will have company and are cooking not just for themselves but also for others, family or friends.
It's often easy to skip meals, rely on snacks, eat out regularly or eat quick and easy to prepare meals that are not always the most nourishing when we eat alone most of the time.
Eating out is not always bad. In fact, it can provide an opportunity for making new social connections. It can also give a much- needed break from the kitchen to those who otherwise spend a lot of time cooking home-made meals. However, many restaurants tend to prioritize taste over the health and balance of customers. High levels of salt and deep-fried foods are common in restaurant food choices. Such foods may taste good but what is questionable is the real quality and nutritional value. The body is a machine that can handle occasional overly salted and fried foods. On a regular basis, however, such foods are known to increase health risks for consumers, including high blood pressure and heart disease and with high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids in common cooking oils, these acids, can lead to the formation of carcinogens, which are cancer-causing agents.
Therefore, while eating out can be beneficial and create opportunities for social connections, the way to make it count in your favor is to aim for the best food choices that limit the use of ingredients that will not be beneficial for you in the end.
If eating in or out is similar in terms of your food choices, then at least you will benefit from being around others outside than staying on your own and eating alone all the time. In fact, this can be so detrimental to balance as research continues to link lack of social connectedness to health issues including depression. In his book, Spontaneous Happiness, Dr Andrew Weil writes that, “if you want to be in optimum emotional health, realize that social isolation stands between you and it.” He recommends reaching out to others and joining communities of interest as a key to mental health and happiness.
Belonging to such communities can also increase opportunities for us to discover our passion and purpose in life.
What does pursuing your life's purpose have to do with midlife balance?
Finding our purpose allows us to live life in ways that makes us relevant in the world. It gives our lives meaning, provides opportunities for our voices to be heard, and enables our values to guide us in the decisions and choices we make.
We gain a sense of peace when we have found our purpose and allow ourselves to pursue it. When whatever we do, is aligned with who we are at the core and what we value the most, pursuing our purpose.allows us to put to use our innate gifts in ways that can transform and bring encouragement, love and highlight the gifts and beauty in those around us. With a deep sense of purpose comes the drive to do what we know is right because it serves the needs of others in ways that is empowering.
Why midlife then?
Midlife tends to be the perfect phase for many women to rediscover themselves. It can be a time when our eyes open to the reality that perhaps life has more to offer than we may have believed in previous stages. It can come as an eye-opener, a new awakening, nudging many to embrace and no longer be afraid to go after what they believe is right. It is a phase of renewal, or starting over again. Some may switch careers, others start a new hobby, and others may find untapped opportunities to serve others, or become more open to focusing on inner-healing in ways they may have neglected in previous stages of their lives. With such an awakening, they listen and hear better that voice within, calling them “to be the person we were born to be, hence fulfilling the original selfhood given us at birth by God,” as Parker J. Palmer shares, in his book, Let your Life Speak.
A deep sense of purpose is not shaken by life’s turmoil, in an emotionally damaging way. Even when things go wrong, women (and men) with a strong sense of purpose are able to bounce back much more easily and reconnect with the deeper meaning of life and what is most valuable in the grand scheme of things. Many women in midlife are often much more intuitive, intentional and less bound by social norms and expectations. They are able to overcome challenges by tapping into resources that are available to them and that can enable them to rise stronger and bounce back from setbacks. They are more resilient than their younger versions of themselves. They are looking more for what they can do to leave a worthwhile legacy than quick self-centered gains.
Therefore, to reach and maintain a good sense of balance midlife and even beyond, taking the time to build muscles around these three areas: increasing our self-awareness, focusing on social connectedness, and living with a sense of purpose, offer many personal and social benefit. Focusing on these areas can enable us to look inward for ways to enhance our physical and emotional well-being, awaken us to the importance of reaching out and maintaining connections with others, and challenge us to apply individual talents and abilities to make an impact in the lives of others so that our fulfillment is tied to the impact we are able to make in this world. That is the beauty of midlife awakening. It takes us on a path that makes us more relevant as we strengthen our foundation for balance, in midlife and beyond! A detailed account of my own midlife awakening and the steps that helped me restore midlife balance are included in my book: Belly Fat in Midlife: Practical Steps to Revitalize Your Changing Body. You'll find in it important lessons that can help you manage midlife changes in a more balance way as well.
And if you're interested in going deeper? The 21-Day "Detox, Nourish & Trim Belly Fat" program will teach you how to establish self-awareness around foods. It includes a journal that you can use to monitor and document how certain foods make you feel, which affect your weight and well-being and which support fat-burning. It includes also a workbook to help you document the changes that you will establish during the program. It's a guided program with daily tips and messages of encouragement, a sample meal plan, a food shopping list that includes the foods you'll need to feel nourished and in balance, and three calls to address questions that you may have already and those that may come up during the program. Even afterwards, you will appreciate the value of the program as you seek to maintain those healthy changes you will start to adopt during the program. Sounds good? Then go here, enroll today, and get ready to welcome a new YOU!
And if you're a woman at midlife (or beyond), you may be interested in joining our private Facebook group: "Balance for Women Over 40". There you'll get regular updates, tips and inspirations to stay on the right side of balance. Remember, when you aim for balance, you inspire balance in others! This alone is a worthwhile goal. This my goal. And I invite you to make it yours as well!
Cheers to you and everyone!