6 Tips for Calmful Aging
By Anna Soref, Editor in Chief
As I quickly approach 50, the process of aging is on my mind more and more often. I see the signs under my eyes and in the gentle lines that now mark my face. Most days I find these changes to be more interesting than annoying, but there are moments when seeing my crow’s feet feels a bit depressing. But why? I’m 47 and this is normal. I should be okay with it, right?
As the lines and gray hairs multiply, women are faced with conflicting messages.
What I’m struggling with are issues that almost all women face, according to Vivian Diller, PhD and author of Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change. It begins with the first gray hair or line we get. “It hits on a very basic level that something is changing that will never be the same,” Diller explains. “It is the subconscious recognition that your role as a woman in our culture is going to change. It’s not just that youth and beauty has been so emphasized in contemporary culture, but also on some much deeper level we feel like we are losing our position, our function, our value.”
As the lines and gray hairs multiply, women are faced with conflicting messages, making it difficult to navigate the physical signs of aging. Diller refers to this as the Beauty Paradox. “The messages in our culture pull us in different directions. On one hand, because of the feminist revolution, we get the message Be true to yourself. Be genuine—authentic. That was what women burned their bras for. But at the same time there’s been an expansion of the opposite—if you are true to yourself to the point where you no longer compete to look beautiful, all will be lost.”
Diller has created a framework for dealing with the physical signs of aging. I have found her insights, as well as those of Didi Wong, integrative wellness and life coach, helpful in navigating these issues with happiness, grace and empowerment.
Find passion. It’s important for women dealing with aging to find their passion, says Wong. “If you are doing things in your life that you love, then when you look in the mirror you’ll see all of those parts of yourself as well. You may see wrinkles but you are still happy because you are happy on the inside.”
Let go without letting go. “Let go of maintaining your 20s or 30s body, and accept that your body and looks have changed. At the same time still take care yourself,” says Dillard. Don’t be frightened that your body is changing, but rather allow those changes to happen while tending to both your health and appearance. “Balance that with other things in your life that truly make you feel and look younger, like having passion,” Dillard says.
Deal with triggers. “It sounds corny, but really you have to remind yourself when the triggers hit and you think, ‘Uh-oh, is my role being lost?’ No. You may no longer be able to have children, and no you will not look like you did in your 20s, but there are many things you can do that your grandmother and great grandmother couldn’t, and that will help you maintain and live a vital life into your 80s and 90s,” says Dillard.
Adopt a self-care ritual. Embrace a simple routine in the a.m. and p.m. “I follow my mom’s, who is 73 and so beautiful,” says Wong. “Before bed I brush my teeth, use a simple face cleanser then toner, and serum like vitamin C, which brightens. Then moisturizer and eye cream. I always put hand and lip cream on right before bed. In the morning I do the same routine, but in the shower I also do a proper body scrub when I have time. I try and do a facial mask about once a month. My kids see me with it on and it’s teaching them about self-care.”
Find new activities. “Find some real things you can do both emotionally and physically. I use myself as an example. I used to be a pro ballet dancer, but I’ve let go of myself as I once was. Now I am an avid tennis player and golfer, and I take care of my hair and skin. I think that for 63 I look pretty darn good. So it’s a shift in perspective instead of trying to look younger,” Dillard explains.
Broaden your perspective. Consider the many cultures where signs of aging convey wisdom, Wong says. “In Hong Kong there is great respect for older women. Those lines and wrinkles signal how you’ve lived. I probably have more wrinkles than my two sisters because I have laughed more in my life. I have always been a happy spirit.”
I find the advice from these experts heartening. Some of the tips are actually things I’ve started doing in my life. I’m taking a creative writing class, for example. I am also working with an integrative medicine doctor to overhaul my diet so that I can look and feel as healthy as possible. I’m looking forward to 50 and all that goes along with it.