Somewhere along the line, the signs you’re at midlife happen. But it doesn’t occur at the same age for everyone. You can have a 40th birthday but still feel the same. Or you can start to feel changes as early as your thirties.
Either way, there comes a day your mind and body send you signs you are in a different stage of life. These signs can start as a whisper but eventually, lead to a roar.
Welcome to the midlife health and nutrition ongoing series. After just covering puberty, I’m jumping to this major developmental change in adult life. Because I’m facing it head-on I want to share all I learn with you. I believe how we handle this stage can make a big difference in our health and well-being for years to come.
There are important decisions to make during this time, so I want you all to be informed. So let’s start by talking about the key signs your mind and body send during midlife.
1. Your Body Changes
For many body changes occur first. It might be pants that fit tighter, more aches and pains, or noticing your body doesn’t respond in the same way it used to (to exercise, eating and even stress). This can happen for a variety of reasons we will cover.
In women, fluctuating hormones during perimenopause can bring on a flood of body symptoms (save those for another post). Changes in the hormone testosterone affect men as well (called andropause). Also since 30, there’s a gradual decline in muscle mass which finally shows up around 40, resulting in changes in body composition.
We’ll talk about solutions in terms of what to give our bodies to run at its absolute best, which will be different for every “body.” Plus, body image can take a nosedive and we’ll look for ways to enhance appreciation of our bodies. I will also be interviewing experts about solutions to perimenopause symptoms such as hormone replacement and other natural alternatives.
Read 5 Health Investments to Make After 40
2. You Feel More Emotional
Irritability and mood swings come up during midlife. In fact, women during midlife report higher perceived stress. This could be due to hormonal shifts similar to how stress tolerance decreases during puberty. Mix this with life stressors like taking care of children and aging parents, and you got some fun moods.
In women, this typically has to do with the symptoms of perimenopause and the tendency to put themselves last on the priority list. Often, old issues come up that midlifers thought they had dealt with. We’ll get into this and ways to turn midlife into an emotionally transformative time.
Read: Why Time for Me is a Nonnegotiable at Midlife
3. Old Activities Lose Their Luster
You like running marathons but now you start dreading the long runs. Going out drinking used to be a fun release but it’s starting to lose its luster. Although decreased enjoyment in everyday activities can be a sign of depression, during midlife it can also be a sign it’s time to try new things.
If we used something to avoid difficult feelings like drinking, food, shopping or even eating healthy and exercise, you may be disappointed that these crutches fall short. That’s because at midlife it becomes almost impossible to keep those emotions inside (I will share with you my main crutch and how I’m letting go of it!).
Old activities and emotional crutches can be difficult to let go of because we are attached to them. And in some ways, they have defined who we are. Yet midlife is the ideal time to re-define and discover new things about yourself. Why not use the New Year to create new life-sustaining activities that make you feel good.
4. You Have Less Energy
One key sign of midlife is losing that zip of energy. There are many reasons for this including the aforementioned hormonal changes and the lack of sleep that often goes with them.
What’s hidden here are the “energy depleters” that seem more effective at robbing you. These could be circumstances that haven’t changed (needy friends/family, energy-robbing activities, diet, exercise, etc) but affect you more intensely now. Or new circumstances that are particularly difficult you need help with. Now is a great time to figure out what gives you energy, and what takes it away!
5. You Feel Restless
Midlife is a time to reflect and figure out what you want to do moving forward. Ask yourself: Do I really want to keep doing this job or try something new? Am I happy with how I’m spending my free time? I say travel is important but what trips have I taken? What are my core values and I living them out?
This restlessness is the search for meaning and purpose in our lives. At midlife, we realize that time is of the essence and if there’s something we need to do, now (and not later) would be a good time. We may find we’ve done everything we thought we were supposed to do but missed out on what our hearts called out for us to do.
It’s about learning to listen to what we really want and being okay with taking some risks. Midlife is an opportune time to reinvent yourself from the inside and out. For me, it’s about getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
Why it Matters
At midlife, our internal compass is trying to tell us where to go and what we need and it’s rarely pointing us in the same direction we’ve been going. And I’m determined to figure it all out. So tell me, what would you like to see offered in these posts about midlife? What concerns you and what signs have your body been sending you?
Want to learn more? Follow Midlife Strong on Instagram or join Maryann’s private Facebook group.
Shuree Koutnik says
I’m very excited for this series! I’m feeling all of those things you mentioned and I’m really having a hard time dealing with it. Food has always been my crutch, and I’m determined to change that this year!
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
Great Shuree! I’m hoping to get a good dialogue going since everyone experiences different things. I’m looking forward to it too!
Cinnamon Rogers says
Perfect timing, I’ve been struggling with this as well. I’m exhausted all the time but my 2 youngest (6 and 7) are just starting to get busy (martial arts, dance, swimming lessons, actual homework). Getting up at 5 am to do my exercising is getting more and more difficult (after decades of doing this with no problems) I find I’m skipping days and my day does not allow for me to fit it anywhere else. I feel like my weight keeps increasing no matter what I do. It’s so discouraging.
Ideas about meals that encourage energy, are high in iron (with out actually eating red meat would be nice) and if magically possible not time consuming would be a very helpful post in this series. Thank you for your great blog.
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
Thanks Cinnamon. I will take that into account as I develop posts. We will definitely be discussing easy nutritious meals along with other things you can do to increase energy. Thanks for reading!
Fiona Manoon says
Really amazing article.