4 Self-Care and Life Saving Tips For Midlife Career WomenFeb 17, 2022
I'm not a big advocate of work-life balance. It implies that you'll forever be locked in a constant push-pull between your personal and professional life. So instead, I invite my clients to create career-life alignment.
Your career fits within a greater ecosystem of your life, and it's essential to know where your career is located along with your family, health, and self-care. Too often, high-achieving women at midlife neglect their self-care in favor of climbing the ladder of success or maintaining a level of success in their career. This is a clear sign that you're out of alignment.
To thrive in your career and life, you must prioritize your mental, physical, and spiritual health. Moreover, in the age of COVID fatigue and the mental health challenges, so many of us have experienced these past two years, managing your self-care has never been more paramount.
In addition to engaging in mind-body self-care techniques like creating boundaries, managing your mindset, setting limits, exercising, and meditation or quiet focused time through the day, here are four simple and easy ways you jumpstart the process.
Ditch the Sweats
After two years in pajamas, sweats, and loungewear, it's time to say enough is enough. If your daily work attire consists of a sweater and leggings, it's time to dial up your appearance. Studies show that what you wear directly impacts your mood and how you feel about yourself.
Whether you're working remotely, a hybrid, or have gone back to the office full-time, reinvest your time and energy into your wardrobe. It's easy to throw on "any old thing" when you're in a crunch trying to get yourself ready for work or your kiddos ready for school, but when you put on "any old thing," you'll feel less than motivated or inspired to show as your best self. While you may not have felt that way at the beginning of the pandemic, you have noticed that it has significantly impacted your effectiveness and productivity over time.
Instead, give yourself ample time in the morning to focus your mind, take care of your body, and put together a great outfit. Whether your commute consists of you walking downstairs or 30-minutes on the road, create a morning routine that prioritizes your mental and physical well-being. Make sure you're washing your face and applying an anti-aging face cream to help reduce the appearance of any stress lines or dark circles. Use essential oils to reduce stress or boost your mood. When you get dressed, avoid grays and black and instead go for a colorful blazer, comfortable wide-legged pants, and if heading out of the house, pair it with a bright, fun metallic tote bag instead of what you typically take to work.
Now maybe the best time to rethink or change your entire wardrobe, and working with a great image consultant can help you feel your best and make a confident impression in your workplace. And yes, it's ok to treat yourself.
Unplug From the World
We're surrounded by technology. Over the last few years, the lines between work, home, and school have become blurred, and you may find yourself connected to some device 24/7. Family time consists of you and your family working on your laptops together in your living room, checking your phones over dinner, and snuggling up with your iPads in bed reading, studying, or catching the latest movie on Netflix.
Studies have found that sitting on your phone or computer all day can lead to poor heart health. Looking down at your screen all day can give you "tech neck." Texting all day can contribute to joint pain. Also, the eye strain and mental anxiety that comes from being on your devices all day can lead to decreased unhappiness and depression.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your health is to unplug from the world for a moment. Turn off your devices and start reconnecting with yourself and your family the "old-fashioned" way. With 24 hour access to everything and everyone, it's critical to draw a line in the sand and unplug from the world. Set a time when you'll power off your devices and disconnect from work. You won't be tempted by notifications or check your emails when you turn them off. It may be helpful for you and other members of your family to try an app blocker to restrict access to your accounts temporarily.
Fuel Your Passions
Researchers noted that professionals 45 and older were more likely to have made bad or less successful career decisions earlier in their careers, which have led to less than successful outcomes. Through my work and research, I've found two contributors: (1) following traditional career progression advice and (2) building a career based on titles and income and not meaningful and satisfying work.
The excellent news is that midlife career professionals don't have to follow the status quo and take control of their careers. Now is the perfect time to design a career and life you love. Whether you're looking to pivot, transition, advance, or start a side-hustle, you also have the option to dive into freelance work and create a portfolio career.
However, your passions don't have to be found just in your work or career. If you enjoy the work you're doing but have a passion for baking, flower arranging, playing an instrument, etc., allow yourself time to do the things that are meaningful to you. Engaging in work you love or your passions can actually extend your life, so be sure, one way or another, you're providing the time and space to fuel your passions.
Just Say No
To say "yes" to what's already been laid out, you're going to have to start saying "no" to those things that will hinder your ability to prioritize your self-care. That means saying no at work and home. Get clear on your boundaries, and be sure to communicate them clearly to others. Create more structure in your schedule assigning time for meetings, tasks, breaks, focus time, and fun. While this may feel like you're adding restrictions, you're actually creating more freedom and greater productivity. For example, this will help you minimize those impromptu meetings or disruptions by co-workers randomly "dropping" by your office because it's clear that you're working on other things. The key is to follow your schedule once you create it. If you don't respect it, neither will those around you. Creating boundaries and saying no to more work is an act of self-care that can make you more productive and efficient because you'll manage your time better and dramatically reduce stress and burnout, which will ultimately prolong your life.
Women are natural nurturers and tend to be self-sacrificing. Now that you're in midlife, you may have been trained and created a pattern of putting others' needs and demands before yourself. If that's the case, saying "no" will be challenging. Just remember saying "no" to someone else means saying "yes" to yourself. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, and stress is a top contributor. Stress affects women's hearts more than men's. So the next time you're presented with another project or feel a need to compromise a boundary, ask yourself if it's necessary or required. If not, just say no.
Suppose you've been less than stellar at prioritizing your self-care; no need to judge yourself or beat yourself up. There's no time like the present to turn things around and reward yourself with the countless benefits to your mental, spiritual, and physical well-being. These strategies will help propel your career forward and extend your life.
You can start by choosing one of these strategies to begin with, and see which of these techniques resonate with you the most. Then, note what works, change what doesn't, and watch how these small changes can enhance your life personally and professionally.