Inspiring Women's Leadership

Being an Executive Woman in Midlife: Straight Talk and Strategies

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Women arrive at midlife to find themselves surprised by emotional pain, upheaval, rebirth and transformation. It’s entirely normal, and ridiculously common.

In my last couple of articles I offered you some thoughts on this transformative time and how you can use it to your benefit. In The Midlife Female Executive: Questions For Reflection & Growth I included a worksheet you can download and use to spark personal growth. In The Transformational Power of Women’s Midlife I discussed how to use this time to foster positive change.

For my third post in the Midlife series, I want to offer some straight talk about the physical and emotional components of this stage of life.

Welcome to the new world of midlife.

The first and most important new rule of midlife is that we can say the word “midlife”. We can talk about it in polite company and not in the hushed tones of being a woman “of a certain age”. We even get to talk about aging with grace and wisdom. We get to talk about menopause and peri-menopause and to learn about what is happening and how to deal with it.

So in this article let’s talk about some of the physical and psychological aspects of peri-menopause and menopause. At least once every couple of weeks, a client will ask me, “I feel like I am losing my mind! Do any of your other clients feel like this?” What this intelligent, over-busy, already stressed senior executive woman is experiencing is absolutely common for a woman in her early forties to mid-fifties.

What she may be experiencing could be any or all of the following:

  • sleeplessness
  • restlessness
  • fatigue
  • night sweats
  • hot flashes
  • memory lapses
  • heightened and unpredictable emotional reactions
  • migraines
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • loss of libido

The reason this may all be happening to you too, is that your hormones are starting to shift around. It is not unlike the kind of hormonal craziness that happens in adolescence.

For some women, these symptoms are accompanied by the stressful challenges of raising equally hormonal teenagers and/or taking care of aging or infirm parents or other relatives. Not fun.

It helps to know that this is a normal and temporary state of affairs and that there are lots of ways to address it. I recommend a mindfulness practice to all of my clients – learning the profoundly valuable practice of some form of meditation and use of deep breathing. These are invaluable for addressing anxiety and stress. I also recommend getting your hormone levels tested and having a conversation with your Medical Doctor, Nurse Practitioner or someone who practices Naturopathic Medicine. You may choose to consider some form of temporary hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Acupuncture and herbal remedies can address many of the symptoms such as hot flashes and associated sleep disturbances. Diet and exercise are relevant and important for most of these symptoms.

I also recommend simple fixes for the busy executive:

  • Dress in layers so that you can respond to your own changing micro-climates.
  • Don’t wear silk scarves – they keep the heat in around your neck and amplify the experience of a hot-flash and the accompanying anxiety.
  • Keep a glass of ice-water (lots of ice!) handy. When you are in an important meeting or doing a presentation the simple act of wrapping your hand around a cold glass of water can nip a hot-flash in the bud. Also – drink the ice-cold water!
  • When you are feeling anxious and irritable, stop and take several slow, deep breaths. Deep breathing helps your body and mind to relax.
  • Eating spicy foods and drinking alcohol and caffeine may exacerbate your symptoms so observe your own reactions.
  • Get out of the office and take a brisk walk for a few minutes.

This ends – trust me. It is not your new normal.

Next up: The Stages of Midlife Adult Development and What That Means to You

Resources

  • Mindful – learn more and get started with meditation
  • Headspace – short, guided meditations, tiered “freemium” membership options
  • 10% Happier, Dan Harris – For those of you who think meditation will never work for you, this is the place to start. The ABC News anchor writes candidly about his experiences with stress, anxiety, trying to quiet his overactive mind, and meditation. He’ll make you laugh, and he’ll bring the concept of meditation into focus for the driven, ambitious executive.
  • The Greater Good – everything from the science behind mindfulness to definitions, exercises, webinars and classes.

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