I know that ‘ageing is an inevitable part of life, and with it comes many changes’. Reaching menopause, whilst inevitable, was indeed tumultuous for me. A third of the population in the UK (around 13 million people) are currently peri-menopausal or menopausal in the UK (Wellbeing of Women). Whilst I then count myself in this population, it wasn’t something that brought relief in my anguish.
One of the most significant, yet often under-discussed, phases in a woman’s life is menopause, typically between the ages of 45 and 55, which marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. The journey through menopause can be difficult, and filled with physical, emotional, and psychological struggles.
Read on to hear about my own challenges with getting older, managing the mental aspects of a changing body, and dealing with the looming reality of retirement. I will share some of my experiences that may help you cope with these transformative times.
The Struggle of Getting Older
I woke up on a typical Monday morning in 2021, or as typical as it could be during the COVID-19 pandemic, with lockdown measures in place. What made it particularly unique was that I was turning 50. A friend once remarked that I tend to be quite reflective and analytical on my birthdays. Well, on this day, I was in complete overdrive.
Ageing better can be a struggle in itself. It often feels like you’re racing against the clock, trying to fit in all those dreams and goals before retirement hits. As we age, our bodies naturally change, and for me, as it is for many, this is a source of stress and frustration. The key to managing this struggle remains to embrace change as a natural part of life rather than resisting it.
Ageing Gracefully? -Turning 50
My daughter and husband entered the room, carrying a stunning cake to mark the occasion. My phone was buzzing incessantly with messages of congratulations and love from family and friends. Tears welled in my eyes, a mix of joy for having reached this point and a sense of unease as I contemplated the reality that, if we are to believe life expectancy norms, I have approximately 33.3 years left on the clock.
The subsequent weeks, perhaps even months, or maybe it felt like a blur that lasted a year – it’s hard to recall in the midst of it all. These times were filled with the pragmatic tasks of securing supplies, navigating the challenges posed by the coronavirus, and attempting to teach 6th-grade mathematics when online learning proved challenging. Simultaneously, I was also dealing with the emotional strain of losing my mother and moving countries. It’s safe to say that 2021 was a difficult year, further exacerbated by the lockdown and, yes, the challenges of menopause.
Ways to Deal with Getting Older
Recognising the need for a change, I knew I had to take action to lift myself out of this funk. Ageing better had to be me. Here are some valuable tips I discovered along the way for embracing the process of ageing:
1. Ageing Better: Embrace Your Authentic Self
Embrace the quirks, imperfections, and unique qualities that make you who you are. Authenticity is a beautiful thing.
– I learnt to let go of the expectations I had of myself. This was really hard, as it meant unlearning a lot of the behaviours that had become a part of me.
2. Prioritise Self-Care
Dedicate time to nourishing your body and mind through activities like meditation, yoga, or simply enjoying a relaxing bath. Caring for yourself is an act of self-love.
-I embarked on a meditation course and became a subscriber to CALM. My daily routine now includes meditation sessions, and as an interesting addition, I’ve included refreshing cold water at the end of my morning shower.
3. Stay Physically Active
Regular exercise keeps you physically fit and boosts your mental and emotional well-being. Find an activity you enjoy, whether it’s walking, dancing, or swimming, and make it a part of your routine. Strength training, though, is a game changer for women over 50.
– I had always enjoyed short-distance running. Unfortunately, a troublesome knee issue put a temporary stop to that. However, to my surprise, I stumbled upon strength training, which has proven to be a wonderful way to rejuvenate ageing muscles. I’m now a firm believer in it, as it has noticeably made me stronger.
4. Nurture Your Relationships
– Cultivate meaningful relationships with family and friends. These connections provide a vital support system as you navigate the challenges and joys of ageing.
– For years, I unintentionally let my family and friendship bonds slip through the cracks, largely due to the demands of my busy work life. It’s an ongoing journey, but I’m now actively nurturing connections within my circles that bring me genuine happiness. Simultaneously, I’ve recognised the need to create some distance from toxic relationships for the sake of my well-being.
5. Seek New Experiences
– Don’t let age hold you back from trying new things. Whether it’s travelling to new places, picking up a new hobby, or pursuing a lifelong dream, embracing novelty keeps life exciting and fulfilling.
– Exploring new destinations and experiencing different places has always been a source of immense joy for me. The pandemic, which confined us all to one place for a couple of years, rekindled my passion for travel. This will definitely be something I will do more of.
6. Focus on Gratitude
Practice gratitude daily. Reflect on the blessings in your life, the experiences that have shaped you, and the wisdom you’ve gained. Gratitude can shift your perspective from fear to appreciation.
– Yep – I’ve been an enthusiast of journaling ever since Oprah introduced this practice into my life. While I may not journal religiously, I make it a point to set aside time each day to reflect on the positive moments the day has brought. Having that mindset definitely sets me up for a clearer and happier journey in whatever I do.
7. Challenge Stereotypes
Challenge societal stereotypes about ageing. Prove that age is just a number by pursuing your passions and goals, regardless of what others may expect.
– This was a biggie for me. When I reveal my age in various settings, it often surprises people that I’m past 50. Even though genetics certainly play a part (thanks, Mum and Dad), I attribute much of it to the open-mindedness I’ve cultivated and the time I’ve spent with individuals from diverse backgrounds and with varied passions. It has undeniably played a pivotal role in shaping my mindset.
8. Learn Continuously
The thirst for knowledge shouldn’t diminish with age. Explore new subjects, take courses, and stay curious. Learning keeps your mind sharp and engaged.
– I have had a deep love for reading since my junior school days, making books my primary source of knowledge. However, in today’s world, there are numerous avenues for learning, such as podcasts, YouTube videos, blogs, as well as in-person experiences like seminars, conferences, and social events. Simply by embracing invitations and participating in these various experiences, you can learn so much.
9. Share Your Wisdom
Aging brings a wealth of experiences and wisdom. Share your knowledge and stories with younger generations; mentoring can be a fulfilling way to give back.
– I have recently taken on mentoring roles, both professionally and in more informal settings. It’s incredibly fulfilling to listen to the experiences of young individuals and to offer my insights to help them navigate the complexities of the world. They in turn, introduce fresh perspectives into my own thinking.
10. Embrace Change
Change is a constant in life. Embrace it as a chance to grow and evolve. Remember, some of the best chapters in your life have yet to be written.
– The world is changing, and not always easy, but having the right mindset and tools to navigate change will forever remain in high demand.
11. Seek Professional Guidance
If you find that the challenges of ageing are overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek the support of a therapist or counsellor. They can provide valuable strategies for coping with the emotional aspects of ageing.
– Having been fortunate to have access to counselling as a workplace perk during the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe this support greatly assisted me in managing the overwhelming feeling I experienced in 2021. I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone should consider seeking the services of a professional who is not personally connected to them and, therefore, impartial. It can truly provide a valuable perspective on life and help you cope with whatever challenges you’re facing.
Struggling with the changes that come with menopause and getting older is entirely normal. Ageing better means acknowledging these struggles and actively seeking ways to cope with them. While conventional advice like diet and exercise are vital, the tips mentioned above can offer a fresh perspective on managing the mental and emotional aspects of menopause.
Remember, this is a transformative time in your life, and with the right mindset and support, it can be a rewarding time that you can navigate with grace and embrace the opportunities that come with getting older.