It is sometimes known as the “Noble Path,” but what must you do to travel this path, and to arrive at your goal of an enjoyable and peaceful existence? Consider these six tips to getting on the path to enjoyment by adding life to your years:
Reduce your stress. If not now, when will you come to terms with your life and reduce the “BS”? Stress kills! Stress diminishes our body’s natural immune system protection. Stress leaves you more vulnerable to disease (especially cardiovascular and cancer). Bluntly stated, your risk of diminished health and increase in weakness, fatigue, and risk for early death is massively higher with ongoing stress, especially that low-grade nefarious internal stress or unresolved conflict. How do you reduce stress? Here is a barebones outline:
· Admit it. If you are stressed, you are stressed, and no amount of cover up or blaming other people will diminish its internal effect. Stress is NEVER someone else’s “fault.” Others may act in disturbing, demeaning, demanding, needy, etc. ways. That is THEIR problem. You always have a choice: to react to them or to disengage, step back, and consider your action, not reaction.
· Reduce it. Only you have control over this. Here are several suggestions:
o Many of us have “high maintenance” friends who regularly seem to be in crisis and who never truly deal with their issues but only periodically let off steam to diffuse them, only to have another “problem” crop up again. Politely tell that person that, although you love them and would like to maintain limited contact, you are no longer available to be a “steam valve” for their problems. You will need to limit contact with this person; she or he will have to solve his/her issues her/himself.
o Downsize your home. Eliminate the extra room that allows our “revolving door children” to return and crash with us for a while when their lives take a (usually self-inflicted) downward turn. Your children need to find their own path and be responsible for their own actions. You are not responsible for being their safety net all the time.
o Come to terms with your relationship, if you have not already. Getting out of a long-term relationship is difficult and scary. Continuing in a demeaning and loveless or abusive relationship is destructive. Which will it be? Seek counseling if it will help, but “sh_ _ or get off the pot” to protect your immune system. Continued bitching while remaining “on the griddle” is destructive.
o Come to terms with your job. You can’t be stressed eight hours, five days a week, and expect to simply decompress at home. Either come to terms, live with it, or change it.
o Practice stress reduction via mindfulness techniques. Paced respiration, breath or visualization meditation, yoga, vigorous exercise, etc. (I teach this in my office and will devote an entire essay to easy-to-practice techniques in my next newsletter.)
o Create boundaries with parents. If aged parents must live with you, do all possible to limit your contact with them (caregivers; separate area of home, etc) unless your relationship with your aged Mom and Dad is truly “easy.”
Stay physically and mentally healthy. Vigorous exercise is imperative. “You don’t have to like it, just have to do it.” Working, playing, shopping, preparing and eating meals, housekeeping, etc. tend to come naturally. Exercise rarely does. You must be committed, prepare for it, and drag your behind into some vigorous activity on a regular basis, most days of the week. Vigorous, out of breath, sweaty. This is work, and is every bit as important as the wage-earning, housekeeping, kids slaving work you do daily. You will not be healthy without it.
There can be no excuses (“I sprained my ankle” or “My mother-in-law came to stay” or “We’re so busy remodeling the house,” etc. You may need to modify what you do or change your timing, but regular, vigorous physical activity must take its place alongside all these other so-called important activities.
Honestly evaluate your sexuality. Few things in life are fun and free: sex is one. If your sexual life (or lack of one) is truly fine, it is not an issue. Otherwise, I suggest the following:
1. Evaluate and communicate: What do you want and how will you get it? Sexual satisfaction will not fall like manna from the sky. Seek the help of a professional if needed to become comfortable with self-pleasuring, learning how to educate yourself on “toys,” “new tricks,” fantasy, and especially how to communicate with your partner regarding both of your needs.
2. Understand that men and women’s sexuality is different. Men are ruled by desire, women by trust and intimacy. Desire initiates men’s sexuality, not women’s. Trust and intimacy does.
3. Use available resources to help; be a life-long learner. Check out the website of Dr. Michael Metz (www.michaelmetzphd.com). Check out his “Good Enough Sex” model for Couple’s Sexual Satisfaction. It saves a lot of frustration. Also, check out Dr. Gina Ogden’s work (Where Sex and Spirit Meet) on her website: www.ginaogden.com.
4. Understand that your “sexual issue”, may involve “partner issues.” Be prepared to evaluate that avenue!
Practice thankfulness and healthy communication. Write out (long hand or electronically) all the things you like and appreciate about your life partner or your children and actually send it to them with thanks. Write out your needs, desires, joys, and frustrations. Reread, fine tune, and work on them to actualize. Send this letter/list to your life partner (if you have one) as a means of notification, education, and for discussion.
Balance yourself. Navigating the stormy seas of midlife and beyond is immensely more gratifying if you are not fighting the internal turmoil of hormonal changes at the same time. Ovarian and adrenal hormone support can be safely provided. Seek a professional guide who has the time, knowledge, and inclination to provide assistance. Even if you elect to forego hormone therapy, other methods, either herbal/botanical, lifestyle (including avoiding “triggers” and practicing stress reduction and exercise), and non-hormonal medications are available. Equally important is to balance your life. You should strive to spend equal amounts of time working, playing, and giving to others (of course, sleep is important, too!).
Take care of yourself first. The kids, ailing mother, the house, the job, the garden—the list can go on and on and on! Women seem to always put others first! Well, if you are not healthy—physically and spiritually—how on earth can you give to others? Take care of yourself first!