Stress is the number 1 factor in a host of health problems and excess weight gain for women over 40.
As I have been conducting research on the effects of stress and how to help women in mid-life, I encountered a highly respected Dr. Angela Griffiths, who specializes in helping women regain control of their health and vitality through the use of functional medicine principles, addressing the root causes of problems, not just the symptoms, which are often grounded in lifestyle choices, environmental exposures, and genetic influences.
This is part of my interview with Dr. Griffiths called Stress for Women Over 40 and What to Do
Q. Dr. Griffiths, can you please talk to us about how stress for women over 40 and how it affects us?
A. Stress is different for each of us. It may have happened "to us" a long time ago through no fault of our own or it may have become a state of being that our brain has adapted to (even yoyo-dieting is a form of repeated and chronic stress). Our Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal-Thyroid-Gonadal Axis may be stuck in an unhealthy loop due to PTSD or other grief or trauma that we have suffered.
The effects of stress heighten in mid-life. As we enter perimenopause, our body is starting to make hormonal shifts, with the eventual end of the ovaries producing estrogen and progesterone. The natural transition at this time is for the adrenals to step up and begin to signal the creation of the sex hormones from that time on.
We still have estrogen until the day we die, it is just not at reproductive levels. BUT, if the adrenals have been “fatigued” and are otherwise not at an optimum level, perimenopause can cause them to be strained even further.
Q. So, we hear a lot about how stress is bad for us but what exactly does it do to our bodies, especially as we get into mid-life?
A. Chronic stress causes a domino effect of damage to the body over time.
Basically, when we experience a stress trigger, adrenaline goes up, causing the body to go into fight-or-flight mode. When feeling chased by a bear, we cannot "rest" our mind or body OR "digest" our food. High adrenaline levels cause a cortisol release. Over time, the adrenal glands can get "tired" of constantly being called on and fail to respond.
Chronically high adrenaline can leave testosterone, estrogen and/or progesterone way out of balance.
Reduced secretory IgA can compromise gastro-intestinal immune response.
Glucose is released which then causes blood sugar instability often resulting in diabetes.
Then, we see fat storage increased, especially at the waist and belly area.
Essential minerals and vitamins (especially B Vitamins) are burned up, which can cause problems with methylation and gene expression, leading to problems with serotonin, dopamine, melatonin and more of the “feel good and rest well” hormones.
If we are stuck in a constant state of fight-or-flight, we can't breakdown food, digest nutrients from our food or sometimes we can't even SWALLOW our food. Eventually our methylation does not work...and we feel SICK.
Q. What is methylation? That sounds important!
A. Yes, it is very important! Methylation is the vital metabolic process that happens in every cell and every organ of our body. We aren’t alive without this process. We can’t think, process food appropriately, have a healthy immune system or normal heart beat or detoxify our body without proper methylation.
Q. So what are some of the things that we may be doing, eating, drinking that are contributing to this domino effect?
A. When women find themselves in this state I’ve described, they often turn to certain foods and substances to cope such as coffee, sugar, chocolate, cigarettes and other addictive substances. All of these may bring short term relief but they are actually making us even sicker.
Q. Okay so what can we do about this domino effect of stress on the body Dr.?
I will tell you that popping a few nutrient pills (prescription or vitamin) is not going to fix this. Healing the adrenals and the whole system requires a host of actions and I recommend the following:
1) determining and removing source of the stress
2) retraining your brain to recognize stress triggers and tension and take action to find way to relax
3) assessing stage of adrenal dysfunction (Adrenal Stress Test)
4) eating high quality nutrients, maintaining steady blood sugar
5) removing stimulants (caffeine, sugar, nicotine, etc.)
6) supplementing specific to stage of adrenal dysfunction which is determined by your doctor’s assessment
7) THEN and only then can you attempt to "heal" your gut lining and reverse any symptoms caused by affected gene expression
Dr. Griffiths is an author, international speaker, licensed chiropractor and functional medicine practitioner, certified health counselor and fitness coach (personal, rehabilitative, triathlon and TRX-team). She specializes in helping women regain control of their health and vitality through the use of functional medicine principles, addressing the root causes of problems, not just the symptoms, which are often grounded in lifestyle choices, environmental exposures, and genetic influences. Her approach is that of a team, doctor and patient working together to review and address a patient’s health. She presently conducts virtual coaching, one-on-one patient management, group coaching, public speaking, retreats and e-teaching modules. You can schedule an appointment with Dr. Griffiths or just read more about her work at http://angelagriffithsdc.com/.
One of the 3 keys I talk about with my clients that is necessary for losing weight and keeping it off over 40 is having a foundation of love, respect and honor for yourself.
Your WHOLE self.
Body, mind and spirit.
And we are not talking about narcissistic self-absorbed self-love. We are talking about deep, abiding respect and genuine caring for the whole being that you are.
If I ask you if you love or loathe yourself, chances are you will deny that you loathe yourself. Loathing is such a strong word, right?
But how many times have you looked in the mirror and groaned and cursed your excess fat?
How many times have you examined the lines in your face, emerging age-spots or graying hair and deep down felt disgust?
Pivoting from self-loathing to self-love is absolutely key if you want to feel free and light in your body, mind and spirit.
I help women over 40 lose weight, yes. But not through the traditional way of dieting.
I help women release the heavy thoughts and beliefs that are weighing them down. Self hatred packs on the pounds mentally, emotionally and physically.
Every moment you spend questioning your worth and criticizing yourself is not only a waste of your precious time in this life, but it's working against your desire to release excess weight and keep it off.
Today is the day to start loving yourself.
Here are seven ways to love yourself body, mind and spirit:
1. Accept that you are good enough just the way you are here and now.
Look in the mirror every day before you get in the shower. Take a pause and stand naked. Choose to accept your flaws realizing that you are where you are because of all you've been through. Weight loss over 40 begins with acceptance of your body and your life as it is in this present moment. You came to be where you are now because you've been through difficulties. Accept that in this moment you are absolutely more than good enough just the way you are.This inner culture of self acceptance is the spring-board for change.
2. Teach others how to treat you.
You are already teaching other people how to treat you when you allow someone to talk down to you or insult you. When you choose to love, respect and honor yourself, you are choosing to no longer tolerate abuse from others. Women who truly love and honor themselves expect to be treated with respect and honor from others. They set healthy boundaries and, if these boundaries are crossed they speak up clearly and directly. When boundaries are repeatedly violated they know when it's time to walk away.
3. Believe you CAN overcome your challenges and learn from them.
Women who truly love themselves know that big challenges are how we grow, learn and derive meaning from life. Learn to find humor in your mistakes and look at the curve-balls life throws at you as learning opportunities. The discomfort you feel when difficult situations arise provide rich soil for new growth. Believe that you do have the where-with-all to learn and go beyond the challenges you are facing.
4. Take full responsibility for your part of conflict or trouble without beating yourself up.
When there is a conflict, a disagreement, a blow up or some other trouble, it's important to scan the situation for your contribution and take responsibility. Own it. But don't grind your teeth and whip yourself with critical words. Women who truly love themselves are able to quickly recognize where they have erred, admit it openly, apologize sincerely and then let it go - even if the other person is still angry.
5. See your life as school.
Your body, your pain, your joys, your thoughts, your experiences, your relationships... they are all classes in this advanced graduate course called life. To love and honor yourself is to embrace everything about your body and your experiences as rich opportunity to learn. Instead of gnashing your teeth because the numbers on the scale are too high, get CURIOUS. Ask yourself, "What can I learn from this?" Remember that you are a soul, a spirit having a human experience. You are here to learn. Women who love themselves realize this and therefore are gentle with themselves when things go awry.
6. Follow your bliss.
Women who love themselves know that they must find and follow their deepest inner-longings. Spend time listening for the whispers of your heart. You might start by thinking back to what that thing was you most wanted to do and experience when you were young... and find way to DO THAT. When you love yourself, you will know that the inner-longings are important and you will choose to dig in and find way to honor and nurture those desires.
Much of the time the hunger we feel is not physical hunger. Instead of reaching for potato chips or brownies, reach deep within to what it is your spirit hungers for. Feed that and losing weight over the age of 40 becomes much simpler.
7. Live your life in the present moment.
This moment is the only moment that exists. Eckhart Tolle says, "The past is merely a memory trace. The future is only a vision. All there is is this present moment. Accept the present moment as if you have chosen it."
Women who truly love and honor themselves feel greater joy in accepting where they are and embracing the present moment. They do not wallow in aching for what used to be. They do not twist about in anxious agony about what MIGHT happen. They return to the present and work with what IS.
Hilary Rubin, spiritual life coach, taught me an exercise I myself have used and I now use with my clients called "the permission statement."
I'd like to share this with you now because as Hilary taught me, most people are still waiting for someone else to come along and give them permission to do things differently. But, the truth is YOU are the only one who can give yourself permission. Try this on for size today... Write this down on a slip of paper and repeat it out loud 7 times. Say it with feeling. Dig into it. Believe it.
Today, I give myself permission to love myself without condition. I give myself permission to accept myself - my body, my mind, my spirit - just the way I am, and I choose to live my life with gratitude for all the lessons presented to me.
Keep this article open and available to read again and again. Save this permission statement and repeat it daily. Take a look at the habits and patterns in your life that serve you and also those that are holding you back. By doing these things, you’ll create an inner culture of self-love. Through this filter of self-love you will begin to make healthier choices which will lead to natural weight loss.
Today I am featuring my colleague Jessica Sweet, LICSW and Life & Career Coach as my guest blogger. Jess provides coaching services, specializing in helping women over 40 make career changes.
Are you thinking about a career change at 40?
Whether you're 40, 45, 50 or even 55... a career change is still possible for you.
If you're like many women, your 40's and beyond are liberated years. Years when you're free from the worries of caring for very young children, freer from worries about what other people think. But all of a sudden you might face a new limitation.
You might hit that magic birthday and suddenly you're "too old" to make a career change, even if you know that what you're doing now in your career just isn't right for you.
Why should it be that just when you felt you'd finally paid all your dues, you're suddenly trapped into doing a job that you don't like - hate even, when your heart sings to do something else?
Actually, it doesn't have to be that way.
Being stuck is an illusion.
"Right!" You laugh. "Tell that to my mortgage payments."
Well, while it's true that you probably need an income, it's not true that you need to make your income the way you've been making it.
That's the part that's just a tweak of the mindset.
Career Change At 40
Your career change at 40 or beyond can happen. The limitations that you're worried about can be addressed, one at a time and slayed like the dragons they are. Here's how:
First off, write down what you're worried about.
(I'm going to tackle some of the most common worries in just a moment).
Second, get a handle on what you really want to be doing next in your career.
Third, make a plan to move forward - and don't forget to include lots of support!
The Most Common Worries About Career Change At 40 and Beyond
- No one will hire me over younger candidates. There are two reasons that this might be true. First, you're more expensive to hire because your salary costs more and so does your health insurance. Second, they think you won't be in the position very long either because you'll retire or because you're so overqualified you'll quit soon. All of these reasons come down to money for the employer. Once you understand this, you have an advantage. If it's a job you really want, you can do your homework and go the extra mile to convince the employer that you won't cost as much as they think and/or will be worth every penny due to your passion for the job. After all, you get what you pay for.
- I don't have the energy to start something new.If you're feeling that way, then it's not the right thing for you. What I want for you is that you find a career move that has you bouncing out of bed at 5 a.m. (ok 6!) excited - yes excited!! to work on it. If you have to muster the energy it's not right. If you're 44 and you're wondering if something huge, like medical school is the right move, the only way to decide is to dig deep and think about how it feels. Do you want it? Do you want it bad? Because that's what it's going to take. The right next move gives you a thrill. It's out there.
- I have no idea what I want to do next, I just know it's not this! This, my friends, is what I live for.I love helping people figure this out. It is possible to figure out what you want next in your career. Sure you can do all sorts of psychometric tests and mumbo-jumbo (not that I don't believe in those, I do). But I think that they reduce a person to less than the whole. And when you deal with the whole person and understand who they are and what they want and need in order to thrive, be excited, be fulfilled, and happy you really can make huge breakthroughs. You are meant to do something you love, and you can find it.
These are three really common worries, but of course there are more. What worries do you have?
Career change at 40 and older can feel hard, but you can do it! You can break through to a new career or even a dream business. The limitations that hold you back need to be broken down step-by-step so you can move past working at a job that's probably not challenging you and transitioning on to something that fulfills more of your potential.
Jessica Sweet, LICSW is a career and life coach who helps people over 40 make a career change to work they love. She also helps creative entrepreneurs take their solo businesses and business ideas from seed to bloom. Learn more about her services and working with her at Wishingwell Life Coaching, and get her free e-book The Ultimate Guide to Career Change at 40 and Beyond.
As a therapist and a life-redesign coach for women, I often hear clients talk about struggling.
In fact, we women over 40 use this word - struggle - often.
Life presents challenge and we struggle. We struggle with knowing what to do next. We struggle with difficult emotions. We struggle with how to handle situations.
I believe it's time for a reframe. After all, here we are over 40, facing the second half of life. It's time to do it all differently.
Ever watched ballroom dancing? I'm no professional dancer, but I can watch and observe the ebb and flow. The give and take. The pauses and then the bursts of energy. The harmony.
Ah.... there's the difference between struggling and dancing!
When we struggle there is tension, pushing and pulling. Struggling connotes a furrowed brow, a white-knuckled grip.
When we dance there is a harmonious flow, blending and cooperation.
So what would this look like to dance with life's challenges? How about this 5 step plan...
1. Challenge arises. Be with it. When a challenge arises, first, consider it a puzzle to be solved. A feat to be faced. Rather than bowing up with resistance, try to accept that it is here and simply have a look.With mindfulness practice, we are able to gently observe what is happening without reaction or judgment. Just gentle observation.
2. Feel the Rhythm. Now that you've noticed the challenge and are just hanging out with it sans reaction, go inward. Take note of sensations in your physical body. Scan for unnecessary tension. See if you can allow the tension to release and soften. Make a note of emotions that are stirring around and breathe into the feelings, noticing the physical sensations that go along with them. Just notice without acting or reacting. Feel your body in space just as a dancer does. Feel the pulse of life in your body.
3. Survey the dance-floor. Consider your options. What is possible? What is within your control? What is outside of your control? What is in the best interest of all involved? What are the consequences of the various choices?
4. Choreograph your plan. Now that you've outlined all your options, measure your steps. Consciously choose which course of action you will take and begin mapping it out.
5. Go with the flow. Allow your plan to be the framework for your dance but allow there to be flow. When the factors of the challenge intensify, you can grow softer and move with that intensity rather than matching it with resistance. When the factors of the challenge back down and ease up, you might lean in and take the lead with action.
The key to dancing with life's challenges is harmonizing. Know when to give. When to take. When to move and when to be still. This is the dance.
The next time you hear yourself saying "I'm really struggling..." take pause. Take a breath. Consider shifting that mind-set and even changing the language to reflect a choice to dance with it rather than struggle.
With the ending of a job, a relationship or the end of a year, for example, we find ourselves on the threshold of new experiences ahead, hopefully having learned from what is behind us.
I call these times in life pivot points.
Pivot points are great opportunities to acknowledge what we have learned and prepare for the new experiences and adventures we face in the fresh starts.
Ringing in the new year is a significant pivot-point.
I have a ritual I observe with my clients when we reach the end of their coaching programs with me called reflect and launch. This is a process I use for myself at the new year and I thought it would be helpful to share this with you.
Here are the steps to my reflect and launch process for the new year:
REFLECT on the year behind you...
- As you look back on 2014, what are 5 things you learned that you did not know before 2014? big or small, no matter! Write them down!
- Was there a theme for the year? Patterns? Was it a year of big change? healing? relationships? career growth?
- What are the feelings, experiences or people in 2014 that you feel grateful for having known?
- What are the feelings, experiences or people in 2014 you would like to now let go of?
- What habits did you have in 2014 that you know were not good for your health and well-being?
- If you could go back and do 2014 differently, what would you do? what would change knowing now what you didn't know then?
LAUNCH into the new year with intention and purpose...
- As you look ahead to 2015 what are 5 things you would like to learn, do, experience?
- What are three words that capture the theme for your ideal 2015?
- Name feelings you would like to have and experience in 2015. How do you want to feel in your daily life? (i.e. content, peaceful, joy)
- What new habits would you like to cultivate so that they stick?
- What relationships do you want to nurture in 2015?
- If you could time-travel to January 1, 2016 and look back on 2015 what would you want to feel about the year? How would you like to feel differently this time next year than you do now?
As I prepare to launch my LIVE 12 Weeks to Total Transformation with a group of women over 40 who are ready for a life-redesign, much of the process will be reflecting on where we have been as we launch into our lives creating newly grooved habits, fresh perspective and a deeper love for Self and others.
Whether you are joining a group or a program like mine or facing your new year resolutions on your own, taking time to reflect on where YOU have been and move forward with clarity of intention will be a huge help in ensuring you continue to grow and expand.
Happy new year!