A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I was embracing the change that’s happening for me in midlife as a positive thing – a midlife reframe. By its very nature, a reframe suggests positive change – growth, rather than loss. I’m choosing to notice the benefits of my age as much as I’m aware of needing to accommodate the less fun things (hello achy joints and patchy eyebrows!) Of all the things I’ve noticed since menopause, improving my energy in midlife has been by far the most challenging. Here’s what I’ve started doing:
Getting more daylight
I’ve really started listening to my body, trying to notice what’s doing me good from an emotional perspective rather than because of societal messages I’ve instilled into myself over the years about what I ‘should’ be doing. (Damn all those self-help books of the nineties!) Alongside early nights, good quality chocolate and putting the central heating on, I’ve realised that daylight is a staple requirement for me to function. On the days when I don’t get outside for a walk, I’m pretty much done by 3pm and the family will be lucky to get more than a bowl of plain pasta for dinner. So, whether I like it or not, rain or shine, I need to be outdoors more often.
It’s hard to motivate myself on the days of grey, cold rain that seems to seep into your bones, but I ALWAYS feel better for having gone out and felt the elements on my face. Without that, I stagnate and end my day feeling a bit disappointed with myself – and no one needs that. So I’ve introduced a new clothing item into my wardrobe:
Advertorial content: my winter coat was gifted to me by Lighthouse Clothing. Post contains affiliate links.
This Savannah coat from Lighthouse Clothing gets me through every weather eventuality. On this particular winter day, we had glorious sunshine but it was still freezing. In my new coat I barely noticed the cold though. It’s fully padded with a lightweight filler that’s 100% recycled, and has a thick but lightweight hood for the days when a hat just isn’t enough. The filler is made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, so that feels even better. It’s also really long, which I love! I remember my mum telling me to put tights on under my trousers in the winter “or your legs will get cold” and I thought she was mad. I hear you now, Mum! As I’ve aged, I feel cold in all sorts of places I never imagined being cold, including my legs, so I’m now firmly in the camp of let’s cover it all up. That said, this coat can feel quite snug round my boots, so I love that it has poppers to open up the sides – you know, for when I’m really striding out to get home faster!
On this particular day, it was -6C – even the rivers were frozen at the edges with icicles along the banks. It was my my most enjoyable walk this year and I really didn’t feel the cold. The reviews on this coat say it’s roomy, and it is, so if you prefer a snug fit, order a size down from Lighthouse, but I like the fact that on colder days I can fit one of my uniform chunky jumpers under my coat with no problem. All I need is warm socks and fur-lined boots and I’m good for anything.
Reading easy books
The A-level literature student in me has spent nearly 40 years tutting at me whenever I pick up a Marian Keyes or a Sophie Kinsella, but I’ve learned to reassure her that reading page turners doesn’t mean I’m letting the side down. Rather, having a book on the go that’s so good I can’t wait for bedtime is good for me. It may not be improving my academic prowess, but life isn’t all about A-stars and career progression. Nurture is the name of the game now, and losing myself in a good story is good for my soul. My inner child revels in the twists and turns of a plot and rejoices that she’ll never have to write an essay about it.
Talking of which, if you want a book like this, read The Hike, by Lucy Clarke – I was guessing until the very end and devoured it in days.
Oh, how I wish I’d allowed my younger self the joy of reading page turners instead of books that promised to improve my mind. Let me tell you how to improve your mind – read things that make you happy rather than things that feel like homework. I absolutely adore my current book club for this reason – they want fiction, and point blank refuse to read anything longer than 350 pages. It feels rebellious, and it’s bliss.
If you want something doing, ask a busy mother, or so the saying goes. Well, I challenge you – all of us – to stop taking on other people’s stuff! One thing I’ve learned as a counsellor is quite how physically exhausting emotional energy is. I’ve found that even if I’ve had a relatively relaxing day, I’m likely to feel physically shattered if I’ve had a tough phone call or meeting to navigate, or had to deal with an emotionally difficult situation. It’s one of the reasons I think parenting teenagers can still feel tiring, even though they often don’t need a lot from us in a practical sense. The sometimes emotionally overwhelming worries we have about our older kids can leave us exhausted and needing sleep in the same way that newborn sleep deprivation and toddler energy does.
Nothing drains energy in midlife more than mental hard work. So we need to manage how much of it we do. We need boundaries. We need to learn to put ourselves first more often, and sometimes that means saying no, even to people you care about.
If you think of your energy resource as a phone battery drained by multiple uses and touch points, then it’s logical that instances of happiness or contentment will top it up. So as I’ve become more self-aware, I’ve actively tried to seek out joy. What I mean by this is not partying or entertainment, but anything that gives me a lift I can feel in my body. Seeing the sun in a bright blue sky makes me smile; so do cute dogs, and – currently – adorable toddlers.
Not so long ago, someone told me my life was lacking in joy, but I didn’t know where to even begin knowing what I needed. She told me to experiment and notice how I felt in my body. So I went to an art gallery. My brain said I would enjoy it, because people are supposed to enjoy looking at art, right? My body told me it was dead inside trying to take in all the information on the little cards by the pictures (is it just me who goes all perfectionist in these situations?) So that was it – no more art galleries for me. Instead, I’ve found that singing, and opportunities to play music with others gives me a lift. No matter how tired I am when I set out, I always have more energy when I get back. That’s my joy.
Menopause and ageing can feel difficult, but finding ways to preserve and build your energy in midlife is possible. Who knows, you might even find a new hobby!