Barbara Hannah Grufferman on the most common psychological traps we face in midlife — and how to transcend them
For many, midlife can be a scary time. But it can also be empowering – if you can learn to avoid the common mindsets that often hold us back. Read on for seven principles to live by:
1) DON’T feel invisible. I’m 54, and part of the largest single demographic group in the history of the world. Our buying power is huge, and we are a political powerhouse. Invisible? Hardly. But as I entered my 50s, I sometimes felt as though I was being pushed aside, ignored and not young or interesting enough to have a voice in the world, as I once did. Luckily, I got a grip, and realized that we have to ignore the noise, embrace our age, not be afraid of it, accept that change is happening, and figure out the best way to address those changes, forging ahead with health and vitality.
2) DON’T be afraid of aging. The best advice I can give you is this: be fearless after 50. Fear will stop you from pursuing your dreams, and could cause you to give up and give in, keeping you a prisoner in your comfort zone. This is the simple concept I learned from researching, writing and living the advice in my book, The Best of Everything After 50: If you’re healthy, you feel good. If you feel good, you look good. If you feel good and look good and have a vision for your future, you feel even better. If you’ve got all that plus the knowledge how to stay that way, you feel amazing. And if you feel amazing, who cares about age?
3) DON’T lose control of your life. When I hit 50, I started to feel as though society had already mapped out my future: I would grow older, fade into the background, continue to pack on post-menopausal pounds, and decide that this was probably going to be how it was going to be. That’s where I was headed until I stopped in my tracks, and said no. Instead, I retreated, revised and re-emerged: I took control, and created a new future for myself which includes exercise, healthy eating, smart skincare, easy makeup and hair, simple style, and a whole new attitude. We can’t control getting older, but we can control how we do it.
4) DON’T get overwhelmed by too much information. Knowledge is power, right? So when I turned 50, I went on a quest to find the answers. I searched the Internet, bookstores and magazines, but it soon turned into information overload. Everybody had an opinion — and most of them conflicted with each other: Eat more protein. No, eat less protein. Take supplements. No, get all your nutrition from foods. You can wear jeans after 50. You can absolutely not wear jeans after 50. And everybody, it seems, wants to sell us something to lose weight or get rid of wrinkles. I was ready to throw the proverbial blanket over my head and stay there. Then one day, it hit me. I didn’t want lots of information; I wanted the best information on what I need to know now about getting older. So, I cut through the noise, and figured out what really works, and what doesn’t.
5) DON’T ignore your inner kid. Smile, play, laugh, have fun, engage, connect. These are all essential for healthy aging. Don’t take yourself, or the world, too seriously. There will always be problems, but do we have to constantly dwell on them? Do you remember how much fun it was when you were a kid to just get outside and run around? I do that with my dog. We run (with walk breaks) four to five miles several times a week. Not only am I keeping my weight at a healthy level and exercising my heart, but all studies have shown that physical activity raises your endorphins and makes you feel good. Play games, engage in a hobby, stay in close touch with friends who care about you, and steer clear of those who don’t. Volunteer, and say “Yay!” as often as you can. It’s contagious.
6) DON’T feel sorry for yourself. It’s not always easy getting older, especially if you, or loved ones, are experiencing illness, loss, or difficult financial times. But feeling sorry for yourself is counterproductive, as it only serves to keep you stuck where you are. Instead, take control, figure out what you need to make your situation easier (or at least, more tolerable), get help from others if you need it, and create a vision of your life which includes getting and staying fit, so you can more readily shoulder whatever comes your way in the future.
7) DO have a financial plan. I interviewed Jane Bryant Quinn, the internationally known financial expert and author, for my book. Jane is a conservative thinker when it comes to financial planning, and she gave me some very good advice for people approaching 50: as we’re heading toward retirement — which probably won’t happen until we’re closer to 70 due to many converging factors — we have to ask ourselves how we’re going to afford to live. One of the most stressful things any of us can go through is financial uncertainty. This is where the simple part comes in: save more, and spend less. No magic … just basic common sense. And understand the different kinds of insurance we need as we get older. You may want to consider hiring a fee-only financial planner to get started.
Barbara Hannah Grufferman is the author of The Best of Everything After 50