Living Your Best Life North of Forty and Fifty Plus

The Key to Health North of 40 & 50-plus: The Mind, Body, and Spirit Connection

How are you?

When asked those three little words, we have a choice to make. If the person asking the question is a loved one, family member, or a good friend, we might tell them how we’re really feeling. It’s more likely we’ll say fine or good. However, for most women, the person we should ask is in the mirror. There are a plethora of articles in magazines, books, websites, and shows devoted to talking about women’s issues. Now that it’s March and Women’s History Month, the volume is already getting turned up. There are PSAs on television and online touting women’s accomplishments in areas like astronomy, writing, exploration, education, and more. So, it seems like this is the perfect month to look inward to see what is happening inside of our heads and hearts, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

First, it’s important to note that there is a difference between health and wellness. Health is a state of being/ Whereas wellness is the state of living a healthy lifestyle. Health refers to physical, mental, and social well-being; wellness aims to enhance well-being. According Status of Women Data (2018), in the United States overall, women’s health status has improved in some areas and declined in others. Women’s mortality rates from heart disease, lung cancer, and breast cancer have decreased since the publication of IWPR’s 2004 Status of Women in the States report, as has the incidence of AIDS among female adolescents and adults. Women’s incidence of chlamydia and diabetes, however, have increased. In addition, the average number of poor mental health days per month, suicide mortality rate, and average number of days per month of limited activities have also gone up for women. In 2014, the US Department of Health and Human Services found that one in four women in the United States dies from heart disease. Coronary heart disease—which is the most common form—is the leading cause of death among both women and men. In addition, women are at higher risk than men for other forms of heart disease, such as coronary microvascular disease (in which the walls of the heart’s tiny arteries are damaged or diseased) and stress-induced cardiomyopathy (in which emotional stress leads to severe—but often temporary—heart muscle failure. Women have higher incidences than men of certain mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and eating disorders Multiple factors may contribute to women’s greater likelihood of experiencing such conditions, including higher rates of poverty, greater responsibility in caring for disabled or ill family members, and trauma from gender-based violence.

For women north of forty and fifty-plus, their second-act looks different than what many of us planned. With the cost of living increasing and wages that aren’t high enough to allow for an easy retirement, a lot of women are finding themselves working past the age they planned on retiring. On the other hand, with fewer young adults being able to afford to move out of mom and dad’s house, life as a retiree isn’t what they expected when adult children move home with spouses and grandchildren in tow. On the plus side, they get to spend more time with and develop deeper connections to grandchildren, but they are also taking on the responsibilities of babysitting, helping with homework, preparing meals, and getting the kids around to activities. All of this, and we still have to block out time to spend on our relationship and ourselves so both remain whole, happy, and on track.

Keeping it All Together

It would take a lot more than one post to talk about the importance of the mind, body, and spirit connection. Nevertheless, it’s a subject worth talking and posting about regularly. The world is under stress and as women we suffer from it acutely,

. In order to handle both everyday and unexpected stresses, we must develop ways to deal with life’s little issues so we’re prepared to be able to deal with bigger challenges. This means dealing with every aspect of health head-on. We can do it by being in proactive in our doctor’s office, work lives, and at home. Clear communication is the key.

First, it’s critical comes to speak up in the doctor’s office. It seems odd to state something that seems so obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many women don’t pipe up. Doctors are generally thought of as being on a higher level. They’ve had a lot of education and training. Moreover, it’s something that was ingrained by previous generations that looked up to medical professionals.

However, they only assist you with your health. You’re still the pilot. Doctors are copilots. When there’s an issue, they help treat it, but you’re still in charge. They work with and for you. It might seem radical to point it out, but it’s true and important to keep in mind. Look at it this way, business owners want to employ the best people to help make them successful. However, savvy businesspeople continue to evaluate their team to make sure they’re performing. Those who are doing well are rewarded, and the people who aren’t are let go. Dead weight impedes progress. Why we don’t do that with doctors is beyond me. By the way, you should include their office staff in your evaluation. A staff says as much about a doctors practice as the physician. If communication isn’t great in the front office, it’s generally not good in the back. There’s nothing wrong with changing doctors if you’re not getting what you need. It’s imperative to your overall health to have a good doctor you can talk to.

If you have a doctor you love and you’re happy with him or her, that’s terrific. The only thing I’d advise is to keep talking. In almost all relationships there comes a time when we expect the other person to know what we are thinking. They never do. The only way the doctor will know anything is happening is you have to tell him or her.

If you are looking for a new doctor, it’s good to get referrals and read online reviews. Still, there’s more to do.

  • Set up interviews with potential doctors. After all, he or she is under consideration to be your doctor. Conduct a lot of interviews. I know people who have put potential several wedding/event planners through their paces in order to decide if they’d be hired. Just like making sure you have the best people watching your children, you need the best doctors so you can stay healthy and present in their lives.
  • Do a background check of their credentials. Most doctors don’t have a problem with you looking into their education, medical license, etc. This is essential for every specialty, but if you’re looking for a good cardiologist or plastic surgeon, do your due-diligence
  • Trust your gut. A physician might have a wall full of diplomas and is the top in his or her field, but it you don’t feel like you’re vibing with them, move on. It’s in your best interest to see a doctor that you’re comfortable with.

Women are well aware of what stress can do to your health. What must be addressed is making time for yourself. Add artistic outlets to your routine as a way of approaching stress relief in a well-rounded manner. Baking, cooking, painting, drawing, knitting, embroidering, and sewing are great hobbies. Moreover, if you’re the type of woman who likes to be in the garage, add car enthusiast, woodworker, or playing music. According to the New York Times and Wicked Local, whether you learn a new computer program, start scrapbooking or just start reading a good book, the act of engaging in a hobby has been found to increase your serotonin levels (the feel-good chemical that is made in your brain) and exercises your brain in a healthy way.

Finding a way to maintain our health and reduce stress levels is an ongoing fight. There are only so many hours in the day, and everyone you know want to lay claim to your time. But, as nice as it is to feel indispensable, our most important resource is ourselves. If we let other people’s needs come before ours constantly, we will wear out. Then what good would we be to anyone. Focusing inward regularly will allow us to be on top of our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. When these needs are addressed, life feels lighter, brighter, and more fulfilling. It’s everything you could want in your second act as a north of forty and fifty-plus woman.

I still love to laminate dough when I feel stressed. I tried this recipe for rough puff pastry on My Recipe.

How to make your own rough puff

1. Prep the butter.

Start with a chilled, European-style butter  if possible. You can use Plugra or Kerrygold  which many bakeries use for their laminated doughs. It has a higher butterfat content than American butters, which will give you both a richer flavor and a more controlled puff, since there is less water in it.

To prepare, decide if you are going to grate or slice the butter. If you have a food processor with a thin slicing blade, I find that gives a really good result, but a large grating blade or the large side of your box grater will also work.

Take your chilled butter from the fridge and put it into your freezer for 20-30 minutes. This will firm it up but not freeze it solid. I use one 8-ounce brick of unsalted Plugra, but you can use 2 sticks of regular unsalted butter.

Put the butter through your slicer blade or grater blade, or grate by hand. The little chunk that will be left either on top of the blade or at the end of the sticks can be used for another purpose; you’ll end up with between 7-7½ ounces of sliced or grated butter.

Put the butter on a plate or in a bowl and return to the fridge while you make the dough.

2. Make the dough.

If you used the food processor, you don’t need to clean it; just swap out the slicer or grater blade for the regular blade. (Or you can mix by hand in a large bowl.)

Measure ½ cup super-cold water in a measuring cup. Set aside.

Put 1 1/3 cups of bread flour and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt) in the processor, and pulse to combine. With the processor running, drizzle in the water until it just barely comes together in a ball.

Sprinkle more flour on your work surface, and remove the dough ball, and knead it just until it comes together and feels smooth and pliable, maybe 15-30 seconds. You don’t want to build up too much gluten or it will have trouble rolling.

3. Roll the dough.

Roll your dough on a floured surface to ¼-inch thick and about 8-10 inches wide. This will give you a long rectangle somewhere around 18 inches long. Using a soft brush, brush any excess flour off the surface of the dough. You want the short end of the dough facing you.

4. Layer the butter.

Get your chilled butter, and put it in an even layer, either shingling the slices so that their edges are barely touching or making an even layer of the grated butter. Leave about a 3-inch unbuttered section at the end closest to you.

5. Fold up.

Starting at the end closest to you, fold the 3-inch unbuttered section up over the butter. Brush any excess flour off the dough. Fold this up again and brush off. Keep folding up and over, brushing the excess flour off after each fold, until you have a flat rectangle. Place the seam side down.

6. Do one turn.

Turn the dough so that the short side is facing you and roll out again to about ¼ inch thickness. Repeat the same folding process as before, obviously this time with no butter, but still brushing off excess flour between each fold. Once it is folded up, cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes just to rechill the butter. If your kitchen is warm, you might want to chill for 20-30 minutes before continuing.

7. Do two more turns.

Remove from fridge and repeat the process, rolling to ¼ inch thick, folding up while brushing off excess flour, then turn again and fold up. After the third turn you will have a piece of laminated rough puff pastry!

If you want to use it for a recipe within a couple of days, wrap it well in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. If you want to freeze it, wrap it well in plastic wrap then put into a zip-top bag and freeze: It will store for up to three months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before using.

Sources: Status of Women Data Org. Wicked Deal, New York Times, My Recipes

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