Do you ever wonder if your life could be better, if you could have more energy, or if you could feel happier? Do you question whether middle age is causing you to live life to the fullest? Do you wonder if the flame inside you is burning much lower than it had in your past? Have you felt irritated, tired, bored, or anxious? Have you depended on food, alcohol, or other compulsive behaviors to help distract these thoughts and feelings? Are you having trouble sleeping, or having interrupted sleep more lately? Are you wanting to emotionally eat more and move less because you are tired and feel overwhelmed?
In addition to these questions, perhaps you are thinking more about your body image, possible weight gain, skin changes, and energy changes. Women in middle and older age groups oftentimes deal with issues concerning body image and acceptance, eating issues, and self-esteem. The International Journal of Eating Disorders published a study that surveyed about 2000 women ages 50 and older, showing that more than 70% of them were trying to lose weight, and 80% said that their weight and body shape affected their self image.
Many of my middle-aged clients have felt ashamed to come to treatment. They often think they should be able to handle mid-life with ease, and that this phase should not be difficult. Some of my clients had an eating disorder in the past, and then resurfaced during peri-menopause or after menopause. It is difficult to tell family members if you are struggling all of a sudden and can’t figure out why. Hormonal changes can lead to mood changes, and sometimes to weight gain. This can be hard to take for someone who has had an eating disorder in the past but thought they recovered. It also can be very difficult for someone who has never recovered from an eating disorder. Eating issues can arise after a son or daughter goes to college, and then there is the “empty nest.” Having children in the house for several years and then being at home with a spouse, or sometimes alone, is a very different feeling, and a significant life transition.
I see many people at this time of life, and some clients come to me feeling a little lost, tired, and stressed. In many cases women and men can have depression in middle age, and don’t realize that they are depressed. You can be functional and continue to work, but lower energy, lack of passion for what was enjoyed in the past, and a general feeling of not being as happy or excited about things as in earlier years, can be symptoms of a low grade, but functional, depression.
I like helping people to connect or reconnect with a spirit inside themselves that may have been buried, or perhaps they may never have found. I enjoy supporting people into the second part of life’s journey to figure out who they are, what they want to continue to become, and to look ahead for a happier and better life. It is a time for reflection—to accept and explore feelings. Perhaps it is time to set new goals, to volunteer, and to have a new focus on you, your spouse, and your relationship. Who says you are growing older… you are growing wiser, certainly, and have a lot of life experience. You CAN grow to feel better and happier—even if there have been years spent focusing on others, it’s time to rekindle what makes you tick inside. I often suggest for those who are ready, to look into interest groups, an exercise/movement, yoga or relaxation class, or whatever feels best at that particular time. I also help support people by finding a connection with themselves again—trying to focus on that wonderful person who has been hiding behind taking care of others, whether that be providing for the family with a full time job, or helping to raise children. Middle-age can provide time for new insight, and a way to look at life differently. Most of all, it is a time to begin caring for yourself in a different way, and trying to care a little less about what others are thinking.