“When we truly care for ourselves, it becomes possible to care far more profoundly about other people. The more alert and sensitive we are to our own needs, the more loving and generous we can be toward others” (Eda LeShan)

When, on earth, do we have time to nurture ourselves? Between loads of laundry, field trips, college applications, ailing parents and dinner? In my practice, I hear these kinds of questions from exhausted women daily. These questions are always difficult to answer as the woman asking feels defeated and many times without hope. When responding I always guide my patients to focusing on realizing they need to make a change in their priorities and what they can do to make it happen. As women our natural tendency is to automatically think of the ‘I cant’s’ when we are challenged to make ourselves a priority.  The only way we will ever achieve true happiness, be filled with hope and satisfaction in life is when we intentionally take back our lives!

Today’s post is the start of a 2 part written and 5 part video series to encourage and challenge you to Take Back Your Life!

By being intentional in implementing the “7 steps to Take Back Your Life” you will be able to care for yourself and others more than ever before.

1) Understand your hormones

We all know knowledge is power. Understanding our hormones and their impact of your body is the best way to take back your life. Equipping yourself with the knowledge of what is happening to your body as you age allows you to proactively care for your health.

Currently the average age of menopause is 51 years with the onset of hormonal shifts in the early 40’s (that’s where I am now and it’s no picnic!).   Almost 50 million women in the U.S. are between 40-60 years of age. Just imagine if this incredible group of women encouraged one another to take back our lives, there would be no stopping what we could accomplish both individually and collectively. 

It is a fact as our hormones transition, there is a real and measurable shift from nurturing others to nurturing ourselves, documented by the changing chemicals in our brain. We know that estrogen, oxytocin, seratonin and dopamine all decrease with age.  For some, replacing those hormones or medicating deficiencies will be needed and, for that, we have a host of safe, viable options available. For others, this natural state of aging is managed without even noticing (really!) When you learn to understand the effect those chemicals have on your behavior, you will ultimately learn when to trust the instincts they propagate and, hopefully, when NOT to. Sometimes the things we load on our to-do lists legitimately need to be done, and on schedule. Sometimes they don’t.   Maturity, wisdom, life experiences and gut instincts help us to know the difference.

Do you understand the impact hormones have on your life and healthy well being? If not, that is okay, the time to take control of your life, hormones and health is now! What are you going to learn and change about your health to make a difference?

2) Consider your role models

Let’s think about my earlier statement, just imagine if all the women currently going through menopause supported and encouraged one another? One of the best ways to learn and be encouraged by those who have experienced situations before us. Some lessons in life are best learned from others.  

To help us embark on this new era, I invite you to consider your role models. I’m inspired by my patients every day. The ones who have overcome incredible odds to be sitting in front of me, explaining their stresses, their challenges, how they pay their bills by working 3 jobs, how they have survived broken marriages, single-parenting, abuses of vast and horrific proportions. Women rock! I tell them all the same thing - this is YOUR time. Something has brought each of them to a place where they are ready to accept that they can’t do it all. They are asking for help. They feel alone but their challenges are not unique. Trying to be everything to everybody is wearing them thin and they suffer along with the family they are charged with leading. I applaud these women for realizing that they need to focus on different priorities. Sometimes I even cry with them. I learn from them daily.  

Who are your role models? Take a few minutes and think about who has shaped your life and how.

3) Remember you are the most important person in your life

I was once asked, “who is the most important person in your life?” and, as I searched deeply, knowing I was being analyzed for the answer, I indicated that I couldn’t name just one. Secretly thinking I would prove myself an overachiever by putting forth multiple names, I confidently answered, “my mom, my grandmother, my spouse and my

kids, in no specific order”. The response slapped me in the face. I was reminded that "I” am the most important person in my life.  I hadn’t even considered THAT.

Why are we the most important person in our life? If we continue to list ourselves after everyone else our self-care will never be a priority and will not happen. This is why the flight attendant reminds us to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others. If we cannot breathe we are no use to anyone around us. This is, not only, true on an airplane but in everyday life.

How are you going to be sure you are taking care of yourself so you can take care of others?

4) Proudly Wear your age

My favorite part of watching kids celebrate birthdays is when they wear cute badges that proudly announce their age.  The sound of their voices as they smile and announce ‘I am 8 and that’s great!’ always makes me smile.  It makes me wonder when and why we stop celebrating our age. Isn’t it time to set aside the negative images society places on aging and embrace the experiences we have lived?

Throughout my life I have changed hormonally to the mid-lifer that I am and in the process of aging, I have integrated all of my experiences, internalized the results of my good and bad decisions and I have come to be me. I am now the real me, the fully grown version of me. My husband reminds me to, “wear it!”. I don’t fear age because it brings wisdom.  Wisdom is something I used to associate with grey hair and wrinkles, of which I have both, but now see as the reason we age. To gain wisdom. To become who we were meant to be. Why shouldn’t we learn from kids and proudly wear our age?

As we get older (and some may say wiser…) we aren’t about the drama anymore. The monthly ebb and flow of hormones and emotions that was ramped-up during our teen years, flattened slightly during our reproductive years, became downright unbearable during the transition into menopause thankfully settling into a calm, flowing and almost relaxing pool. It is time to proudly wear and embrace our age!  

The time to take back your life is now! Before going back to your busy schedule, I challenge you to take a few minutes to come up with the action items that you will implement this week to be intentional about taking back your life.

Next week in, “7 Steps to Taking Back Your Life”- part 2 we will look at the last 3 steps focusing on taking control of your future!  Make it a great week!