Midlife worries: 3 steps to letting them go
Throughout our lives we hear things like, “Just let it go.” and “Don’t worry about it.” Sure, we would if we could, right? That’s what I would have said a few years ago. But, guess what? We can. We can let go of these worries we have in (and about) midlife.
But, it’s true – we can have a LOT of worries! Am I right? I recently posed a question to women around age 45-55 asking what they worry about most. It was in a Facebook group and I was surprised how many people responded!
I wanted to tell each of them that they really can let go of their midlife worries, but I didn’t want to sound like I was minimizing their problems.
And that’s not what this post is about. I never want to minimize anyone’s problems OR compare one person’s problems with another’s.
This post is about how we can roll with it. How we can “be in flow” with life rather than “paddling upstream.”
Each phase of life comes with its unique challenges. Midlife is no different. Not all of us struggle with the same things, but you can probably relate to one or more of the following things:
- Aging parents – worrying about them, their health and their future, and maybe you’re even a caretaker of one or more parents.
- Adult or soon to be adult children – we always worry about our kids, no matter how old they are. They have their own struggles and a lot of the time, we take those on as our own.
- Job/Work – I know many people who get to this age and are tired of the job they’ve been doing for “it seems like forever.” They feel stuck or bored with the work. They feel like they aren’t living their purpose and may not really know what their purpose is.
- Finances – As we get older, the “plan” was to retire at some point, right? Not everyone has been able to save that much money. Sometimes the best laid plans don’t pan out or something happens to disrupt our plans. I know that happened to me when I got divorced.
- Health – Not only are we suffering with additional aches and pains due to our aging bodies, but we may have other health issues – physical or mental – that need to be addressed, and take a lot of our time, energy, and money. Plus…one word – menopause.
- Relationships – I know a lot of people who have lost touch with friends they once had. If you had children and were busy parenting and keeping up with the day-to-day things, it was easy to focus only on the kids and family, and not carve out time for your own social/personal life. Sometimes we can lose the connection we’ve had with a partner too.
- Purpose – Like I mentioned, some of us don’t even know what our purpose is. We may have been a parent and now, with an empty nest, feel…well – empty. We may have been in a job that has run its course or we never really felt passionate about. We may have always wanted to do something, like join or start a group or start a business, but life “got in the way.” And, now we just feel confused, but also like something is missing.
You might be worrying about one or more of these things or maybe something else. Yes, midlife comes with a special group of “problems.”
Thankfully, we have made it through all kinds of stuff to get to this point in our lives. All of those lessons can help us as we attempt to roll with the punches in midlife.
But, we can always ALWAYS learn new things too.
If you’re still reading…maybe today is one of those days where you learn a new way to let go of worries in midlife (and beyond).
3 Steps to Let Go of Worries in Midlife
STEP #1: Become aware of your thoughts about the circumstances or situation that you are worrying about.
For much of our lives, we go along on “autopilot,” not really paying too much attention to where our thoughts are coming from, why we have certain thoughts, or even that we are “spiraling” on a certain issue or problem.
Obviously, we do recognize our thoughts to a point, but do we really pay attention to them? Not often. And, if we don’t pay attention, we certainly won’t be doing anything about them. We won’t realize that many of our thoughts are working against us.
They may be draining our energy.
They may be criticizing us or beating us up.
They may be blaming other people or circumstances.
They may be generally negative.
None of these are “helpful” thoughts. They aren’t working FOR you.
STEP #2: Accept your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
It’s important, however, that when we do begin to notice or become aware of our thoughts that we don’t judge them.
Acceptance of what is – the circumstances, the situation, AND our thoughts and feelings – allows us to FLOW vs. RESIST.
Acceptance of the circumstances can look like this:
- Nonjudgment of yourself for having the thoughts and feelings.
- Allowing the feelings that you are having to come naturally and just be there.
- Reminding yourself that:
- You are ok in this present moment.
- You can learn from all experiences.
- Moving WITH the situation, rather than struggling against it or trying to “swim upstream.”
It can definitely take some practice to become more accepting of circumstances, outcomes, thoughts, feelings, etc.
That’s where mindfulness can be really helpful.
What is mindfulness?
It is paying attention.
In the present moment
We can practice mindfulness during meditation and we can practice it throughout our day.
So, during mindfulness meditation, we are focusing on the present moment while paying attention to what’s going on inside of us or around us. It is a practice of bringing ourselves back to the present moment.
Thoughts naturally come into our minds, and we just bring our focus back to the moment. And, without judging ourselves for “losing that focus.” (Check out my resources page for some tools to get started.)
Practicing mindfulness throughout your day can look like – pausing to take some intentional breaths, really noticing the taste, texture, and smell of your food, being fully present with your child or grandchild and feeling into the happiness, etc.
Little moments of mindfulness, practiced consistently, can be transformative! (Sign up for my e-mail list to get your free monthly calendars with simple daily mindfulness ideas.)
STEP #3: Take some easy actions – The 3 Rs.
Rather than avoid or hold tightly to our difficult emotions, we can allow them to pass through us and move on.
According to American Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chödrön, if you allow an emotion to exist for 90 seconds without judging it will disappear.
Try this – if you just let the feeling be there for a minute or so, recognize it and name it, and then feel its release. It’s really helpful to take some deep intentional breaths here. Then, you will be able to think clearly, without getting sucked further into the negative spiral.
When we release emotions by allowing our feelings to pass through us and intentionally release tension in the body, we will automatically begin to feel more relaxed.
Being relaxed also allows us to think more clearly. Things won’t seem so overwhelming or worrisome.
Try this – sitting in a comfortable position or lying down, focus on intentionally relaxing each part of your body (don’t rush it), starting with your right foot – up your right calf/shin and thighs, and the entire right side of your body – down the left side to your left foot – and then your back and chest area – and finally your head and face.
Another quick way to relax is to take in a conscious breath and breathe out for a few more seconds longer than your inhale. Do this a few times. It will stimulate your vagus nerve and can slow down your heart rate and trigger a relaxation response. (Very helpful when you’re feeling anxiety.)
3) Recharge or re-energize
Worrying can deplete our energy. It’s a huge culprit of leaking energy. There are a lot of little simple things we can do to recharge. Each of us is unique and certain things are more appealing to us than others. Some ideas for recharging include:
- Yoga or some other movement/stretching.
- Listening to music
- EFT Tapping
- Spending time with friends or family
- Crafting or being creative in some way
So, the 3 steps to letting go of our midlife worries are:
1) Become AWARE of your thoughts that are creating your feelings about the thing(s) you’re worried about.
2) Find ACCEPTANCE without judging yourself for having the thoughts. Flow with what’s happening, rather than pushing against life’s circumstances.
3) Take simple ACTIONS to release, relax, and recharge. Release your feelings about what’s going on by being with them, allowing them to be there. Relax and recharge so that you have the capacity to think more clearly about what’s going on.
Our thoughts are not facts. Our thoughts are what causes our feelings, including feelings of worry. Worrying won’t do anything to change our situation. Anxiety doesn’t help us find solutions to problems.
Being calm and nonjudgmental of ourselves will lead to clearer thinking and the energy to take steps to improve our situation.
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