From curbing caffeine to cutting back on social media to mouth taping, here are 6 healthy tips for women in their forties.
Last month, I turned the big 4-0. Somehow, this feels like a much bigger deal than turning 30.
Maybe it’s because 40 unofficially signals the halfway point of life. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel old enough or wise enough or accomplished enough to be 40.
But it’s true: Time waits for no man. So while I don’t have the power to slow down time, I do have the power to pause for reflection.
This personal reflection has given me pause to consider so much about my first 40 years and what I now know thanks to trial and error:
I know the optimal hierarchy in my relationships (God first).
I know that rushing through tasks can sour the accomplishments.
I know that I learn as much from my kids as they learn from me.
I know that, oftentimes, less is more.
And I know that good health is never to be taken for granted.
With that being said, age 40 has given me a new fervor for health-related habits. As a person who already enjoys routine and discipline, turning 40 has given me a chance to consider more facets of my life to improve for my long-term health.
Here’s a glimpse of some of the new healthy habits I’ve made during this halfway point of life. Maybe they will inspire you to create new healthy-related habits of your own.
Wean from Caffeine
I didn’t start drinking coffee until my mid-twenties, when I changed my working hours to begin at 7 a.m. to avoid commuting hours in Atlanta. As with most people, I began with just a cup a day, which was plenty to wake me up at 5 a.m. Fast forward 10 years and four children later, and I was up to 2 to 3 cups a day after a decade of erratic sleep. This amount of coffee is nothing unheard of for busy moms and even considered within the safe zone from most experts.
Contrarily, most experts also agree that lowering your caffeine intake will lower your blood pressure, improve the quality of your sleep, even out your ups and downs, decrease anxiety and more.
In the three months leading up to my fortieth birthday, I realized that my coffee consumption was beginning to backfire. Just a few hours after consuming two cups of coffee in the morning, I’d find my energy crashing, which made no sense given the average 5-hour half-life of caffeine. Then, two hours after my post-lunch coffee, I’d also find my energy plummeting right around the time my kids were getting home from school (horrible timing).
Gradually, I cut my caffeine consumption back to roughly a fourth or fifth of what I was consuming when I was crashing. Some days, I have only tea, while other days, I use a homemade mix of caffeinated + decaf coffee so I can make my beloved Carnivore coffee.
And while I’ll be the first to admit that life isn’t quite as exciting with low-caffeine intake, I will say it’s been amazing to circumvent the crashes I’d brushed off for months.
Though it’s rarely publicized, caffeine is the most widespread, heavily advertised, easily accessible, widely accepted drug worldwide. Just ask any coffee, soda or energy drink aficionado to quit cold turkey and you’ll witness the withdrawal symptoms first hand.
Even after heavily researching caffeine online and listening to this book, the allure of full-caff coffee still tugs at me. I still long for those mornings of pep after a rough night of sleep due to my kids, even though I know that too much caffeine doesn’t agree with my body.
At any rate, I’m committed to not getting back to where I was maxing out at three cups of coffee a day. After all, caffeine just masks my tiredness and sends me farther down the cycle of fatigue. Instead, when I’m tired, I try my best to combat it with another new habit I’m working to create . . .
Build in Downtime
As a mom of four, downtime is hard to come by. But as I’ve focused on weaning from caffeine, I’ve realized how crucial it is to carve out downtime. Typically, I fill any moments of downtime from working with my husband or mothering my kids with tasks and to-dos. And if I’m caught up on those, I’ll tackle more enjoyable projects such as writing, baking or yardwork.
But I’m learning that I even need to step back from my creative outlets every once in a while and build in weekly times of recovery. It’s so hard to sit quietly in a chair and still my mind for 20 minutes, but that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
Most recently, I’ll take time during a busy day to read or listen to a book to give my mind and body a break. This has helped tremendously as I’ve cut back on caffeine and also helped to calm my go-go-go pace. I remind myself that the human body wasn’t meant to work at a feverish pace for 12 hours each day.
“Your brain needs a rest now and then. Research has found that taking breaks can improve your mood, boost your performance and increase your ability to concentrate and pay attention.” Cleveland Clinic
Cut Back on Social Media
I alluded to my thoughts about social media in this post, but for the past six weeks, I’ve cut back on all forms of social media and all technology related to my phone. As I was reflecting on turning 40, I became convicted about the amount of time spent on social media, as I used it to fill any downtime such as waiting to pick up my kids in carline, waiting for my kids to finish sports practice, waiting at a doctor’s appointment, etc.
I’m not completely against social media, but I decided that I didn’t want to use social media without any purpose simply to fill a void. At a doctor’s appointment last month, the nurse walked in to see me reading a hardback book and commented, “Wow, I usually come in to see people on their phones, never with a book in hand.” That spoke volumes to me about the infiltration of technology and social media and simply cemented my goal to figure the right level of technology for my life.
That said, I’m still figuring out my personal plan for social media. Maybe I’m just taking a break for a couple months. Maybe I’ll just use it to promote blog posts. Maybe I’ll just use it to share life lessons or big changes. Honestly, I’m not really sure of my strategy at this point.
What I do know is that it’s been freeing to remove the Facebook app from my phone. Checking it during downtime had not only become an mental habit, but a physical one as well. The first week after I removed it, I found myself looking for it on my phone screen during downtime—as if my swiping fingers had a mind of their own.
Though some people swear off social media because they get caught in the comparison trap, that is not my Achilles heel at this point in my life. I have no desire to dance on screen pointing to typed out tips and I know I can’t keep up with any modern trends at this age. For me, it was a matter of time. Am I spending my time well when I scroll through social media? Should I instead invest my time scrolling with more tangible purposes, such as cultivating my real-life relationships?
Cutting back on social media has given me more downtime for reading, writing, gardening, landscaping, home projects, cooking, baking and being more present in the moment with my family. It’s helped me to see and even to meet the needs of others more often because my eyes are lifted up instead of cast down at my phone. And it’s really helped me to think about how I want my kids to handle technology as they become teenagers. But first, I have to set the example for them.
Nevertheless, you will likely see me again on social media, but I’m still working out a plan for how to use it purposefully.
Prioritize Weight Lifting
Though I’ve always made working out and exercising a priority, now that I’m 40, I’m ensuring that weight lifting is my highest health priority in the gym. As women age, we tend to lose muscle mass, possibly 3 to 8% of muscle mass every decade starting in our 30s. And the less muscle we have, the slower our metabolism becomes.
After age 40, women are also edging closer to peri-menopausal age, when hormones such as estrogen and progesterone began to decrease. This causes insulin resistance and weight gain, which is why some studies say that the average woman gains 5+ pound as she approaches menopause. But the counter news is that lifting weights causes our bodies to create more insulin receptors and, therefore, make our bodies more sensitive to insulin. This sensitivity helps to decrease the likelihood of storing extra fat around our mid sections.
Additionally, women tend to lose bone density as we age, making us more susceptible to injury and fractures. But lifting weights can help to increase bone density, as tension on our muscles and tendons causes the bone to produce more tissue. This helps to protect us from osteopenia, osteoporosis and fractures.
Exercising with weights has been a great mental outlet for me since my college days, when I began consistently working out at a gym. But now that I’m more aware of aging, it’s also become crucial to optimizing my body for the second half of my life.
Supplement with Collagen
I won’t claim that turning 40 hasn’t made me scrutinize my looks. In fact, I think a new patch of gray hair decided to pop up my birthday week just to get me riled up.
Besides covering up grays, there are countless other more invasive means of extending youthfulness, but so far, I’m leaning towards the more natural route. That’s where supplementing with collagen comes into play.
As we age, we begin to lose skin elasticity (which contributes a youthful look), especially in our forties and beyond. And less collagen also contributes to more skin dryness and wrinkles.
I consistently began adding collagen into my diet right before I hit 35 years old, because that’s about the time your cells that make collagen start slowing down production.
Besides skin health, collagen is also linked to improvements in many areas of the body, from joints to hair to bones. And anecdotally, collagen is touted to help boost muscle mass, promote heart health and improve gut and brain health.
Nowadays, you can find collagen at most every food grocer in-store and online. Here are some of my favorite brands of collagen—and yes, we’ve used them all over the past few years!
Having a cup of low-caff Carnivore Coffee is one of my favorite ways to incorporate collagen into my diet, but here are other easy ways to add collagen to your diet.
Start Mouth Taping
If you’re a mouth breather at night like me, there’s no time like the present to consider mouth taping. This is a brand new concept for many people, but I’ve been happily (and safely) mouth taping for 9 months.
I’m a notorious mouth breather at night, and any time I end up on my back while sleeping, it’s just a matter of time before I’m snoring. But once I started mouth taping, all my snoring went away as my body began to breathe the way it was intended at night.
As the name implies, mouth taping is simply taping your mouth shut at night with skin-safe tape so you breathe through your nose. Nose breathing is the way humans were naturally designed.
Though there are many specific mouth-taping products, I personally prefer this silicone tape that I cut to my size preference. It’s basic, doesn’t hurt my skin, plus it’s much cheaper than the other products on the market.
Besides combatting snoring, mouth taping also has many other benefits. It helps with air filtration, regulates breathing patterns and optimizes oxygen intake. Mouth taping has also been credited with improved REM sleep and better dental hygiene.
I know my husband is thankful I started mouth taping, since my snoring worsened after my pregnancies. The only drawback of mouth taping is when a child startles you awake in the middle of the night and you try to respond, only to realize your mouth is taped! Luckily, that doesn’t happen too often in my house anymore, but it ‘s a weird feeling to muster up a tired response only to realize you can’t talk.
Bonus: Home Hair Removal
I debated on whether to include this tip at all, but for me, hair removal has been an amazing bonus that I think will make my life so much easier this summer. In my mind, it’s one of those things that will take time and consistency up front, but pay off dividends with extra time in the future. And that has to play into my mental health, right?! Or at least give me a chance for more downtime.
I plan to dedicate an entire post to this topic, but my husband gifted me Braun’s Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Home Hair Removal System for Christmas. For years, I’ve toyed with the idea of getting professional hair removal, but between the cost and time involved, I never made it a priority.
Least to say, I was surprised to open up a gift box with Braun’s Silk Expert Pro 5 on Christmas Day. Right away, I began the touted 12-session program to remove the hair from my legs, underarms, bikini area and face.
After about 9 treatments, I noticed very minimal regrowth on my legs and underarms. My bikini area and face are taking a little longer, but the treatments have definitely slowed the growth, so I will continue doing treatments every 5-7 days until the hair growth is stunted. Luckily for me, I will finish up just in time for swimsuit season.
The great news is that after finishing the 12 weekly treatment sessions (or once my stubborn areas are cleared) you only have to treat every 1 to 2 months to continue to keep the hairs at bay. That translates to shaving only every 6 to 12 times a year. Can you even imagine?! Like I said, I’m excited that I’ll be finished before summertime so I can be on-the-go with my kids without having to worry about such personal hygiene matters.
Though I’ve likely reached the halfway point of my life, I realize I still have plenty of room for improvement. These are just a few of the healthy habits I’m focusing on in my forties. Do you have any health tips for women as they age?