Reimagine What You Can Do During Menopause and MidlifeAug 08, 2023
What could you do if you actually believed it was possible?
By Selene Yeager
Figure skater Jen McNutt, at the age of 48 after a 26-year hiatus, not only got back to doing double jumps on the ice, but is now trying for triples, because she realized the only thing holding her back was her own self-limiting beliefs.
“I stopped trying to get back to the skater I was. Because I’m not that skater. I was 18. I am the athlete that I am now,” she said in an interview on Hit Play Not Pause. “I’m getting stronger every day. I’m getting more confident on the ice every day. I lifted that ceiling off. And now that I’m not limiting myself, I’m free to see how far I can take this.”
CrossFit athlete Leka Fineman echoed those sentiments during her own Hit Play Not Pause interview. When people around Fineman say, “I can’t do CrossFit” she pushes back and says, “Yes, you can.” “When you toss out the self-limiting beliefs, you can break down the moves, learn and improve technique, and make progress at any age,” says Fineman who recently competed in her fifth CrossFit Games (and won her age group!) at age 56.
Re-examining Your Menopause & Midlife Mindset
If you find yourself thinking, “I can’t,” “I’m too old,” or “My best days are behind me,” it’s worth re-examining your menopause and midlife (which often go hand in hand) mindset. Because many of those thoughts that immediately pop into your mind may not actually be true, says mental fitness and menopause performance coach Cara Bradley, who talked about Mastering Your Menopause Mindset on episode 131 of Hit Play Not Pause.
“Your mindset is a set of beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes you accumulate just by being in the world,” she says. “We accumulate them from our families, from our genders, from our demographics, from our education, and a lot of them–experts often say 90 percent of them–are subconscious. So, we don’t even realize that we’re carrying around a lot of these beliefs.”
That’s bad news because we can stop ourselves short before we even try something new. Bradley invites people to re-examine some of their self-limiting, fixed mindsets and to try adopting an expansive growth mindset instead. This can be extremely helpful as active menopausal women who don’t want to put our best years behind us.
Here are a few thought experiments she recommends to get started.
Ask yourself: What are some of my self-limiting beliefs?
These are the “I can’t because…” beliefs. Usually, they revolve around our age and/or phase of life. We believe that we’re too old, or past that point in our lives, where we can do x, y, or z. For example, maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to surf or climb a 14er or run a marathon, but you feel like you can’t because of one of these limiting beliefs.
Ask yourself: What are some obstacles I feel are in my way because of my current circumstances?
These could be related to time or physical condition, such as “I don’t have any time” or “my body isn’t up for that anymore.”
Ask yourself: What are my strengths?
Now flip the script and ask yourself, “What are my strengths?” List three to five, like “I am intelligent,” “I am curious,” “I am a hard worker,” “I am compassionate,” and so forth.
“These strengths become the sword you can use to slash through your self-limiting thoughts as you become more aware of them,” Bradley explains.
Putting it All Together for Progress
Now put it all together by challenging those self-limiting thoughts and beliefs and counteracting them with your strengths.
Using surfing as an example, this exercise could look like this: You see an image of a woman surfing and think, “I’d like to try that!” But your brain immediately cuts you off with, “I’m too old.” Bradley recommends challenging that thought (and any other self-limiting thoughts) with four questions that are based on The Work by Byron Katie:
Is that true? Your answer may be “Maybe” or “Yes it is!”
Can you absolutely know that it’s true? When you push further, your answer may change to, “Okay, maybe not. What does ‘too old’ mean anyway?”
How does it make me feel when I believe that about myself? I feel defeated when I believe I’m too old.
What would I do without that thought? I’d try to learn to surf!
Now explore how you can use your strengths to do what you want to do! If you’re intelligent and compassionate, you can direct that compassion to yourself to put aside those self-limiting thoughts and explore your options. You could go online and research surfing schools for adults—or even a surf school devoted to midlife women like Tri2Surf with past Hit Play Not Pause guest Lisa Alfano–and get the ball rolling.
In some cases, maybe there is some truth to your self-limiting beliefs. Maybe a past injury would genuinely make it difficult to learn to surf. In that case, you can use your strengths to expand your mindset here, too. If you’re curious and hardworking, you could do some research and maybe work with a physical therapist or trainer who could get you to a place where you would be able to take beginner surf lessons for adults. Or you could do a little more poking around and check out adaptive surfing, where you can ride the waves in a way that works for your body.
At a time when it can feel like our options are shrinking, the world can expand before us once we allow ourselves to believe.
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