The Important of Building Fun & Rest into MidlifeSep 05, 2022
Midlife can be a time of burnout for many women. Women in their 40s and beyond often feel financially and energetically squeezed as they balance the complex needs of their young adult children, careers, partner, and aging parents. Marriages and jobs may not bring the same joy they once did. There tends not to be the opportunity for spontaneous fun they way there was in your 20s and 30s. If you do not build joy into your life, you can go for days, weeks, or months without doing anything that you love. Taking the time to figure out what makes you happy and then budgeting the time, energy and money for both joy and rest is critical. Here are some tips I use with my clients to help them consciously build joy into their lives.
1. Normalize feeling good. For those of us in midlife and beyond, we grew up with that “women are expected to do it all” mentality. Most of us were so busy juggling parenting, working, and volunteering that we had little time, money or energy to do what we loved. Midlife and beyond is a chance to make joy and rest part of our lives and it’s important for it to be included on our calendars and in our budgets. Happy people are healthy people and budgeting for joy and rest is as important for our health as budgeting for healthy food, medical appointments, and gym memberships. By including things that make us happy in our budgets we are normalizing the importance of feeling good. Make sure you have time and money for concerts, travel, a massage, and a good mattress and linens to optimize your sleep.
Spend money on what you value. Most midlife women would not think of ignoring the cost of housing or food or birthday gifts for friends and family because those things are important and we want to make sure we can afford them. It’s important to treat joy the same way so we don’t get through the month and find we have no money left for plane tickets, dinners out with friends, art, tickets to see our favorite performer etc. If you value joy (and you should!) it’s important to build it into the budget. If you love to travel, for example, have a line item for travel in your budget. It’s been proven that planning for something like a trip adds to the joy of the event so planning ahead is not just good for the budget but also for the soul.
Diarize fun and rest. You are likely balancing work, children, marriage and aging parents. If you don’t schedule rest and fun into your calendar, you can find all of your time is consumed with other obligations. This can lead to resentment, burnout and illness. We are meant to live in a state of flow: work and rest, responsibility and fun. The old adage that you have to put your oxygen mask on first is true. If you are depleted and resentful because you are not taking care of yourself, that’s going to spill over into your work and family life. It is just as important to schedule an hour-long nap or coffee with a friend on a Saturday afternoon than it is to schedule in housework, work meetings or taking your kids to soccer. A image often used in coaching is that of the jar filled with sand and stones. Sand represents all of the little things in your life that take up time and money: housework, errands, meetings, Amazon purchases, appointments, coffee with acquaintances etc. Stones represent the things you value: travel, experiences with your kids, time and money for your business, visiting dear friends, etc. If you pour sand into the jar first, you will have trouble fitting all of the stones into the jar. If you put the stones in first and then pour in the sand, the sand will fill in the gaps between the stones and you can fit more in and ensure the important things fit. If you don't prioritize the things that are important to you, you will find your days and budgets are consumed by things you don't care about and you won't be able to make space for the things that make up a great life. Add the pebbles into the jar first.
Normalize being rested and happy. When you ask the average midlife woman how they are doing the answer is often “busy” or “stressed.” A lot of women equate being busy with being needed, and it’s easy to create a habit where you normalize too full days, not enough sleep and no time for fun. Even the most important and in demand people in the world build in time for rest (almost all US presidents play golf.) If you want to be healthy and happy, rest and fun is just as important as eating well, exercising, and an annual physical. The busier you are, the more important it is to make sure you engage in self-care so that when something urgent does arise, you have the energy to deal with it.
Build in daily rest. It’s important to build rest and fun into each day. Make a commitment to take have a daily walk, nap or chat with a friend. Find a hobby you enjoy and take some time each day to work on it. If you don't rest and take time for fun, you are more likely to burn out or get sick (women often feel too guilty to rest and will only take time off when they get sick.) Daily breaks will allow you to be more productive, happier and healthier.
Involve the family. Your kids need to learn the value of rest and fun. Normalize family nap time, mental health days and planning fun and rest. Your kids are watching how you are living your life and it's important to model healthy living.
When kids are small and you are building a career, it can be very hard to build in rest and fun. Now that you are in midlife, you have a chance to hit the reset button. This is the time to build some healthy habits around rest and fun so that you are setting the stage for the next season of your life. If you want to be happy and healthy, rest and fun should be an important part of your life.