Sorting out your Shit!
Why life is great as you get older – Part 1
Sorting out your Shit!
Why now is the best time to take a good hard look at who you are and begin to heal those old emotional wounds.
By the time you reach midlife, you will have had many experiences; some good, some bad and many, many in-between. You will have run the whole gamut of emotions including joy, sorrow, anger, fear, hope, gratitude, contentment, anxiety, guilt, inspiration, and indifference to name but a few. Some of these negative feelings and the experiences that created them may need processing if you want to live a satisfying, fulfilling life without regrets.
Midlife is a really good time for us to examine the experiences that have had the biggest negative effect on our lives. By now we should have the skills and the maturity to be able to see what happened more objectively and to accept and forgive ourselves and others for the pain caused. Many events in our lives can upset us, and if they are repeated, can lead to destructive behaviour and bad habits. If we want to have the best possible time during the second half of our life, we will need to process some of the bad habits and limiting beliefs we have accumulated that are holding us back.
This might seem daunting, and I am not suggesting that you try to deal with everything at the same time. But there will almost certainly be particular behavioural patterns that you recognise in yourself that you would like to change. The most frequent include:
- Feeling unloved or unlovable
- Procrastination and perfectionism
- People pleasing
- Negative self-talk
- Refusing to ask for or accept help
- Blaming others
- Not feeling good enough
When we succumb to these, they often result in destructive actions such as letting others take advantage of us or being in relationships with people who make us unhappy.
If this behaviour is so destructive then why do it?
Before you can start to work on your bad habits it is useful to understand why you have them. The way we behave is rarely down to rational thinking. Instead, it is a result of our upbringing, the behaviour of the people around us and how we react to fear and stress. It is our way of coping with particularly difficult situations. For example, procrastination and perfectionism are responses that allow us to put off doing things we find scary. Our brains do not differentiate between truly harmful fears like running out into the road and the act of putting off a task. The emotions they evoke are the same – fear, and our brains react to save us by stopping us from walking across the road in front of a bus or releasing our first podcast (in my case).
How do you know what is bad for you?
You can usually tell if something is harmful by how you feel emotionally and physically. Emotional symptoms include anxiety, anger, nervousness, or paranoia. Stress can be manifested physically so if you are tired and have no energy all the time or suffer from nausea, stress headaches or are overwhelmed by fear then these could be a response to negative behaviour patterns. Alternatively, if a particular type of behaviour makes you feel afraid or uncomfortable in any way, then that is a sign that things are not right.
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What can you do about it?
As a hypnotherapist, I treated many people for issues such as low self-esteem and confidence, emotional eating, and anxiety. These problems often occurred as a result of something that happened to them in the past. Then an event triggered a response that knocked them for six and they came to me for help. Fortunately, there are some techniques you can try yourself to help change negative behaviour patterns. This should not be instead of seeing a professional, if you need one, but should be used to help you understand why you behave as you do and how you can begin to help yourself.
Start by taking a look at what is having the most negative impact on your life. It could be you are unhappy in your job or your relationship because you feel undervalued or it could be a character trait you dislike such as a quick temper or being overly pessimistic. Don’t make the mistake of trying to tackle more than one issue at a time, pick one to start with. You can always go back to any others when you have done what you can with the first one.
Once you have identified a particular behaviour trait you want to change, start looking for the triggers that set it off. Begin by noticing which events or people cause that negative emotion. When you have got a sense of what is setting you off you can take a deeper look at why this might be and how you can change or adapt your behaviour to stop it from being so destructive.
For example, I am prone to negative talk, berating myself and calling myself ‘stupid’ when I drop things or forget to do something. When I looked at what set off this tirade, I found it usually happened when I was in or rush and hadn’t given myself enough time. This made me clumsy and distracted so I make mistakes. I often got really worked up about the most trivial thing that it gave me a headache.
I have devised several strategies to help me cope with this. The first seems obvious, give myself more time, but as this behaviour is a form of procrastination, it is unlikely to work until I have got to the root of why I procrastinate. This is the best response, and I am working on it, but I need something to use immediately when I start negative self-talk. So, another strategy I use is to look at why I am getting so angry and ask myself what it is achieving, and if it is worth the effort (it rarely is! My favourite approach is much easier and has more immediate results. When I find myself losing my temper and shouting at myself, I turn the insult into a song. Sometimes I just sing whatever earworm is in my head other times I pick a particular song to accompany it. Around Christmas, I put it to the tune of Jingle Bells and sang “Stupid cow, stupid cow, jingle all the way….” etc. It made me laugh and defused the tension.
If you want more help with identifying and finding coping strategies take a look at my ‘How to Become a Wise Woman’ online course which gives you a comprehensive plan for making the most of the second half of your life.
The most important thing you can do for yourself at this time in your life is to practice self-care. This is particularly crucial if you are experiencing menopause symptoms as these can are often made worse when you are stressed.
Self-care can be expressed in many ways including:
- Looking after yourself. Make sure you have a healthy diet and take plenty of exercise.
- Heeding signs that tell you there is a problem. For example, if your body feels in need of a massage, then take one, if you can.
- Tending to your own needs, not just others.
- Asking for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling.
- Get outside and spend time in nature alone or with friends.
- Spending time with friends. This can be a great help, especially if they are going through a similar experience.
I am not saying any of this is easy – if it were, it would have been sorted out long ago. It is unlikely there will be a quick fix either, be prepared to put in time and effort. After all, it took years for these habits to form they are not going to disappear overnight. Even so, I think when we get to midlife it is a really good time to take a look at what we can do to improve the quality of our lives and this is one way to do just that. If you find that you cannot sort out a problem on your own and need some assistance find a good professional to help you.
Note: If you are suffering from a major trauma you will need professional help before you can begin this work. If you do have any adverse reactions when trying any of this, please check in with a medical professional.
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