Life is so hectic. We have media at our finger tips and switching off is hard. As women of the 'sandwich generation' many of us have busy careers and caring responsibilities, whether that be children, elderly relatives or our neighbours. How can we take time out to reflect, so that we are better prepared for our future? 
 
We tell ourselves that we cannot afford to stop or slow down in life. There are too many things that we need to deal with and the world will stop if we do. As women, our self-talk often enforces that we are indispensible and we have to support everyone else in our lives. Generally this isn't true. For any of you who have become ill or incapacitated, you know that those around you will step into the breach and look after you for a change. I am not saying this is comfortable for us, but it is possible. 
 
When we are hurtling through life at 100 miles an hour we have very little time to reflect on what we are doing, how we are behaving, what habits we have built and whether we are being effective with our time. We get into a reactive 'fire fighting' state and are almost running to stand still. We get addicted to the 'opium of action' whether we are being smart in how we use our time or not. This makes us feel inportant and valued. In many ways we are comfortable being rushed off our feet. At least we have a purpose.  
 
The ability to thrive in this holding pattern, however, is limited. This busy reactive state is all abour survival, nor sur-thrival. To thrive we have to take time out and assess what is going on, what is important and where we really want to spend our time. 
 
Time to Stop 
I, like many of you, have a busy life. I thrive on being stetched at work and challenging myself with fitness goals, whilst raising my two daughters. I get a kick out of being frantic at times and I can find it energising. 
 
Over the last 6 months I have been working on my fitness goals and this has led me to exercise, strenuously, 5 times per week, doing strength training and cardio. A big part of my regime has been lifting heavy weights, as I am keen to build better muscle tone and enhance my physique. This is not easy for a 49 year old woman. Our bodies do not want to build muscle. If they did, we would produce testosterone and I would now be built like Arnold Swarzenegger!  
 
Over the last few weeks I started to feel really tired. I was that exhausted that I got a blood test to see if there were any other reasons for my fatigue. Nothing came back from the blood tests, so I carried on exercising. Training from home has not been easy and the volume of exercise made it even harder. Regardless of these signals to slow down, I carried on. Stopping or easing up was not an option. I needed to carry on. Then a couple of weeks ago, I had a barbell on my shoulders, squatting and my lower back spasmed. The pain was so bad that I couldn't totally straighten up. What made it worse - I couldn't get to see a physio for over a week. This was a disaster. 
 
When I did eventually see the physio, he told me that my lumbar spine was in spasm and he warned me off several exercises until it was sorted. This was not ideal. I was at a crucial point in my training plan and easing up would have had a negative impact. Basically I had no choice. My body could not do what I wanted it to do. I had to step back. 
 
That was two weeks ago and I am still pretty stiff. I am exercising again but I now need to adjust my approach - lift lighter weights and be respectful to my injury until the healing is complete. I have found the experience really frustrating. I didn't want to slow down and it was a huge inconvenience to me and my goals. In the early days I could not exercise at all. I kept mobile but my walking was impacted and you could tell I was in pain. During this time I had the chance to reflect and think about what I could learn from this unintentional interlude. 
 
Post physio - strapped up to assist my healing 
 
The first thing I reflected on was how much I needed the rest. I have put my body through it's paces over the last few months - never let up, not missing a single training session, all in the pursuit of my goals. I was so focused on the end game and had refused to listen to my body. This is not an option going forward. Over the last three weeks I have seen how losing your health and mobility can have dramatic impact on your physical and mental health. Honestly, it has scared me. I felt like I was witnessing my future and I didn't like what I saw. 
How do you push yourself to your limit and beyond at times? How does this make you feel physically and mentally? What impacts will this have if you do not stop from time to time? Are you at risk of burn out? 
 
The second thing I learnt was to accept myself more. I have always been a goal driven person and self-improvement is in my DNA, be that physical or professional. I have started to appreciate myself more since my injury and see what is good and positive, rather than look for my weaknesses. Nobody is perfect and we have to make peace with what we have been given in life. Do I still want to improve? Of course - but not at any cost. I want to stay well, feel energised and positive and to do that I need to rest to recover. 
Do you accept what is good about yourself? How do you feel about not being perfect and accepting that that is ok? How can you focus on your natural strengths to help you be at your best? 
 
The third thing I learnt was to use my reflection time well. When I first hurt myself I had to stop altogether. Even though this was really frustrating I was also relieved. This enforced stop made me reflect and assess my approach. If it hadn't happened, how worse could it have been? I needed something to stop me, so that I could assess my behaviour and adapt to a more nurturing approach. 
How often to you stop and reflect on the choices you are making? Do you look at your behaviour objectively and challenge yourself to adapt? Do you listen to your loved ones when they let you know that change is necessary or do you carry on regardless? 
 
The fourth and final learning was about my need for control. I am a self-confessed control freak and I feel a strong drive to keep all plates spinning and to achieve whatever it is that I set out to do. In some ways, lockdown has heightened this for me. My exercise has given me a focus, in addition to my work and family, and has added some richness to the more simple life we have all adjusted to. I had to let go of control when I injured myself and give in to the situation. The world didn't end and I actually felt better for it. 
Do you feel like you have a high need for control? What happens when others volunteer to help you? How does this need for control sabotage your own well-being? 
 
Making time to slow down and stop every now and again is vital if we are going to thrive. Reflection is the cornerstone of personal development. This takes discipline and a dedication to self care that many of us do not believe we deserve. You do deserve it and I'm sure your friends, family and loved ones would prefer that you did. 
 
If you would like time and space to reflect but are struggling to make it happen, our ‘Better Balance’ Program starts on Tuesday 20th April at 7pm. It has been created to help women build a more positive, balanced future within a supportive group. This 6-week program is being offered for a special price of £295 and includes weekly virtual live training (90 minutes), weekly reflection assignments and a private Facebook group for additional support. If you would like to learn more you can book a discovery call (link at the bottom of this page) or contact us via email at contact@thriveover40.co.uk. 
 
https://www.thriveover40.co.uk/our-programmes/better-balance/ 
 
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