[Excerpt from my upcoming book "Aging Naked"]
Many of today’s middle-aged women are raising children, working inside and outside of the home, caring for aging parents, and tending to their partners (or trying to), while doing their best to remain fresh and youthful. And as a result, they often feel over-stretched, overwhelmed, over-exhausted, and under-appreciated.
A recent Gallup Health and Well-Being Index report found that women approaching midlife had the highest levels of stress among all age groups and genders. That’s more stress than younger women, more stress than older women, and more stress than men. Even with our increased choices and handy “time-saving” electronic gadgets, today’s middle-aged women not only experience more stress than all other demographics, but they experience more stress than all previous generations of women as well, and there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight.
The Gallup report also noted that among a range of emotions experienced by over-worked and under-appreciated women, the most pronounced was guilt. No matter how hard we work, no matter how thinly we’re spread, no matter how caring, giving, self-sacrificing (and no matter how good we look while engaging in all these service-related activities) for many women, it never feels like we’re doing quite enough—there is always more we believe we can (and should) do.
The collective stress and guilt many middle-aged women are feeling is taking a big toll on our wellbeing, boring into our skulls and pressing against the pleasure centers of our brain, robbing us of the joy that all middle-aged women so richly deserve.
A more recent Gallup poll found that women’s wellbeing has taken even more of a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly women with children at home (even adult children). Gallup’s researchers define wellbeing as a “life well lived” with a healthy balance achieved in several life domains, including one’s career, social life, finances, fitness, and community life.
One of the most challenging aspects of living a life of chronic stress and low wellbeing is that for many women, they have no one to talk to about all of their emotional angst. The majority of the middle-aged and older women I see in my counseling practice have shared that they don’t talk about their struggles because from the personal vantage point, everyone else in their world seems to be doing just fine.
They perceive their female friends and colleagues swimming effortlessly through their day, without a care in the world. And to avoid burdening others with their fears and anxieties, far too many women keep their feelings to themselves and forge ahead, with twirling baton in hand.
This is a blog for middle-aged women, like me, who want to live a life of increased authenticity, and greater well-being, with fewer façades, less role-playing and a lot more fun. I chose a photo with myself and my son because he is my heart.
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