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Empowering Women in Their Prime: Thriving in Your 40s and 50s

“As a woman gathers more years, she becomes more bold, which is not the same as brave: Brave is jumping in. Bold is jumping in led by Angels. In age, we learn to know the difference, for certain, older is bolder.” ~Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.

When I was young, I assumed that when I got to 50, I would have it all figured out. I’d have my family. I’d have a career that was thriving. I would have a life that was pretty settled—after all, that was the goal my parents had for me—to settle down. So imagine the shock to my system when I was en route to “settling down” in my personal life, my career path would take a dramatic shift into unknown territory. That was ten years ago when I turned 40.

There is a fallacy in belief that as we get older life will start to just coast and that taking it easy would come with the territory. How wrong we all were. Motherhood, marriage, and the maze that is postpartum and then perimenopause would leave me feeling life was anything but easy. However, what I soon realised was that I was in an invaluable moment in my life, one where I was coming into my own; one where I was getting to know who I really was. What became crystal clear to me was that the discomfort of being unsettled was actually the feeling of being shaken out of complacency in order to play an active role in directing the path on which my life would unfold. And that would require me to know myself on a profoundly deep level.

As women step into their 40s and 50s, we navigate our way through a period not only of career growth and life reflection but also significant physiological changes. This age is a testament to maturity and wisdom, yet it comes with unique health, professional, and personal challenges. Understanding and adapting to these changes is crucial. This post delves into the vital areas of holistic health, career transitions, life stage adaptations, and the broader societal expectations, aiming to connect deeply with the needs and goals of women in this vibrant stage of life.

1. Holistic Health: Recognising the Importance of Hormonal Balance

Being excited about life, being able to handle challenges and changes that come our way, and being in a mindset where we feel like we are thriving starts with recognising the impact our hormones have on our physical, mental, and emotional health--especially in this life stage. Hormones govern our bodies in ways we often don't realize—impacting everything from energy levels to mental clarity. As estrogen and progesterone levels decline in our 40s, during perimenopause and menopause, women may experience:

  • Energy Fluctuations and Metabolism: A decrease in hormone levels can lead to reduced energy and a slower metabolism, making it more challenging to maintain vitality and our perceptions of ourselves.

  • Mood and Cognitive Function: Hormones significantly affect mental health. Fluctuations can cause mood swings, anxiety, and impact cognitive functions, altering focus and decision-making skills.

  • Physical Symptoms: Hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and other physical symptoms can affect daily functioning and overall quality of life.

Addressing these changes through lifestyle adjustments (knowing what kind of food and exercise respond well to you), medical consultation, and therapies like hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can significantly enhance quality of life. Also important to consider:

  • Cortisol--the stress hormone is important to understand. Some exercises that may have worked well for us in our 20s or 30s may actually now be detrimental to us by raising cortisol levels leaving us feeling less in control of our metabolism and our physical health. Some foods that were easily digestible may not be now.

  • Be your best advocate. Doctors are still learning about women's health and aren't fully aware of the complexities of our hormones not to mention the more than three dozen symptoms (at least) related to perimenopause. Take responsiblity for your own health. Question everything. Don't be afraid to seem persistent and inquisitive. This is your body, the only one you've got. Do your research to figure out what course of action is best for you after all, you know yourself better than anyone else.

2. Career Advancement and Transition

At this stage, many women are at the height of their careers or perhaps looking to pivot to new ventures. Embracing lifelong learning to acquire new skills, taking on leadership roles, or perhaps starting a business are common paths. What you have to remind yourself whether you're vying for advancement or shifting focus to a new career is the strong foundation you have already built. Every experience counts. You bring with you not just knowledge in your chosen field that is transferable but also life experience that is invaluable.

  • Networking remains vital, not just for career advancement but for personal growth and support through transitional periods. You get to decide what networking looks like for you. It can mean joining or building a community of people who will champion you, refer you, and challenge you to be the next version of you.

  • If you are in the in-between place, the place where you have achieved and are looking for something else but you don't know what that is or what it looks like, this is the most amazing opportunity to get to know yourself, really know yourself on a deep level. Ask yourself 'what do I actually want?' If you don't know the answer to that, ask yourself 'what do I want to feel every day?' Ask yourself, 'what does happiness or a good life look like to me?' Go on a fact-finding mission where the focus of the project is you. Notice yourself, notice the pings and the moments when your heart feels like it is expanding--that's something to move towards. Notice when you feel the energy drain--that's something to avoid.

3. Life Stage Adaptations: Navigating Changes in Personal Life

This period often marks a transition in personal life dynamics as well. Children may be growing more independent or moving out, relationships may evolve, and there may be increased caregiving responsibilities for aging parents. Balancing these personal commitments with professional demands requires flexibility and support, both at work and home.

Feeling confident enough to establish (or reestablish) your boundaries, identifying how/when you function best at work and with your needs at home will help you navigate your way through this change and challenges with a sense of purpose and clarity. Remember you can't control what isn't in your control. Focus on what is in your control. Again, this will help when you get to know yourself better, especially the version of yourself that you wnat to be today.

4. Challenging Societal Expectations

Women in their 40s and 50s often face societal pressures about aging. It's important to champion self-acceptance. It is a privilege to be where we are and to be alive with all that knowledge and experience that we have acquired. It's as the designer Diane Von Furstenberg once said about beauty (I love this quote), "If you're a person who smiles a lot, you will have more smile lines. Your wrinkles reflect the roads you have taken; they form the map of your life." Embracing ourselves unapologetically while recognising we are in a new phase that brings with it new lessons is exciting--if we allow ourselves the grace to see it that way.

Patience is a key component of that grace. Patience is an act of kindness we show ourselves. We spent much of our youth impatient for our lives to "begin". In our 20s and 30s we were impatient for love and success. That impatience worked for us; it was a motivating factor for us to strive and get out of life what we wanted. And we wanted it all. Now we know that we can have it all--just not at the same time and that is a great thing! Having it all at the same time is exhausting. Now, we get to take that experience and knowledge to build trust--trust in the lessons we have learned, trust in the process we have developed to achieve our goals, trust in ourself. We may feel time isn't on our side anymore but this is when we should trust in the timing of our life even more.

For women navigating the complexities of their 40s and 50s, this time is filled with opportunity for self-reinvention and growth. By focusing on our health and wellbeing, redefining what professional relevance means to us , maintaining robust personal relationships that include creating and curating our tribe of support, and seeing ourselves as the beautiful beings that we are , we can set the stage for a fulfilling, vibrant future. This isn't just a period of change—it's a stage for revolutionary personal and professional transformation.


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