Women over 40 are truly amazing! Achieving goals in work and relationships, taking care of family and friends and being an inspiration for others. But at what cost? We need to find a balance point where we can help others but not at the detriment of our own health and well-being. Please continue on to read this week's blog by guest blogger, Katie Zupan!
It must be written somewhere that being female is synonymous with overextending oneself. Let’s face it, a majority of the day to day tasks as well as bigger life responsibilities lie in the laps of women. I’d like to think that the reason for this is because there is something built within the second X chromosome which makes women overly capable. It truly is an honor to be bestowed with female superpowers. However, as we know too well, there is a downside to this superpower – stress and burnout. Chronic stress ages us. By learning to find balance in our lives, not only do we improve our appearance, we feel better, live longer and learn to enjoy the ride.
The balancing act is not a natural state for us. We have to teach ourselves how to slow down and become more connected with those activities that serve us while still being present for others.
So, as women, how do we find balance while still exercising our superpowers? Here are some helpful tips you can start today:
1. Take Notes
The first step in the process of finding balance is to sit down and take note of all your daily activities and responsibilities. Getting out of your head and recording thoughts on paper is the first step to action. Make two columns on your paper. In the first column, write down the responsibilities you do on a daily basis, from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep. Use the second column to record how each activity makes you feel. Try and use a single word to record these emotions (such as ‘happy’, ‘tired’ or ‘angry’.) Making a list will help you to recognize the need to find greater balance in your life and where to begin making changes. This list is also the first step in setting an intention to make some changes.
2. Set Limits
Once you’ve identified all the activities and responsibilities you cram into your day, choose 2-3 to eliminate right now. Draw a line through these activities to emphasize the intention to rid yourself of this stress. If the responsibility you chose to eliminate was something as significant as your job, this is a different conversation and one worth having as you explore your feelings in this exercise. Now that you have identified your 2-3 items, begin to eliminate these items today. Setting limits also means not taking on new responsibilities. As women, our natural tendency is to want to help out. Saying yes to others is a wonderful feeling but can really add extra stress to your already busy day. Before you know it, you have taken on much more than any one person can fit into a 24-hour period. Setting limits with yourself and others is very powerful. Declining to add more to your plate is an honor to yourself and a declaration of mental and physical health.
3. Be Mindful
Make sure you take the time to be mindful during this transition period. Connecting with yourself is a crucial step in finding balance. By practicing mindfulness, you are more aware and connected to the feelings that arise as you perform certain activities. Have you tried meditation yet? Incorporating just 5-10 minutes of meditation into your day helps to set positive intentions and bring focus and clarity. Once you become more mindful, you begin to recognize the activities and situations that serve you and those that do not. Identifying activities that do not bring you joy is bringing mindful alignment with your true self. You will start to notice how mindfulness makes your life more simple and enjoyable, ultimately providing the balance you need.
4. Call on other Superheroes
Do not be afraid of asking for help. Many women are under the misperception that asking for help makes us weak or incapable. Actually, the opposite is true. There is strength in recognizing what you need and being proactive in seeking assistance. If you don’t want to place burden on a friend, seek help from technology or a college age kid who needs the money and experience! There are some great apps out there to help lessen the load such as Instacart (to help with grocery shopping), Care.com (to help with running errands). Try out the Nextdoor app to find a college kid who can help run some errands for you. By asking for a little assistance, you are helping to lighten your load and create more free space in your day.
5. Take off your cape
Even superheroes need a break. And because you are reading this, your cape is long overdue for a dry-cleaning. Building in your own breaks throughout the week is essential to finding balance. Schedule a certain time every day or a larger chunk of time once a week to unwind and treat yourself. If you need this break daily then think about taking a bath every evening or a walk after dinner (without your phone). If you prefer a weekly date then schedule a recurring manicure, pedicure or simple lunch date. Anticipating these mini breaks is important to mental health and provide release of the feel-good hormone, dopamine. Balance only happens when you understand the importance of these breaks.