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by: Ann Garnier
March 26, 2021
Ann Garnier joined the growing ranks of female fiftypreneurs and femtech pioneers when she founded Lisa Health with the mission of modernizing the menopause journey for women worldwide. Lisa Health is the first digital health platform to help women manage their menopause journey with evidence-based and science-backed guidance. Menopause is a challenging life stage for nearly all women, but it doesn’t have to remain a challenge. Ann is clearly one of those women who has cracked the code on how to thrive in midlife. We asked Ann what her secrets are to being her best self every day.
Staying active tops my list of must-haves in my midlife thrive kit. Exercise is my superhighway to feeling happy, energetic and less anxious and stressed. Staying fit is also a big priority, so I can continue to do the things I love, like going on challenging hikes and reducing my risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia. Plus, exercise helps to manage menopause symptoms like hot flashes, sleep disturbance and mood issues.
How to Start: Make exercise a priority and set a realistic goal. My goal is to get 60 minutes of exercise every day. In an average week, I am 90% successful, but I used to be much less successful when I didn’t make it a priority. To hold myself accountable, I schedule daily exercise on my calendar. Writing down a goal in a visible place is a great way to create an enduring habit. Feeling out of shape and too overwhelmed to get started? I always encourage women not to let their current fitness level hold them back. Meet yourself where you’re at. Just start moving, gradually move a little more, and move in more challenging ways. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish!
I was fortunate to eat a healthy diet with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, and very little junk food growing up. Eating a plant-based diet has always been a way of life for me, but I’ve made many tweaks, especially in midlife. We all know that weight gain is typical during menopause. Still, other health risks like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia make your diet absolutely critical to healthy aging. Over the last few years, I’ve upped my vegetable intake, especially leafy greens, increased my lean protein, reduced the carbs, and cut out as much sugar as possible. The payoffs in menopause have been big. Eating well every day gives me tons of energy, boosts my mood, helps keep my weight where I want it, banishes brain fog, and lowers my disease risk.
How to Start: Ditch the traditional calorie- and food-restricting diets. They don’t work. Follow the principles of intuitive eating and focus on proven healthy eating methods like the Mediterranean Diet, the MIND Diet, and a whole food plant-based diet. Gradually wean yourself off sugar, simple carbs and junk food. This doesn’t mean you can’t have any of the treats you love. I live by the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time, you observe your healthy eating practices, and twenty percent of the time, you eat what you want. This sustainable balance seems to work well for most people.
Until a couple of years ago, I used to take sleep for granted. I would immediately fall asleep and sleep like the dead until my alarm went off, waking up feeling energized and restored. Suddenly, my sleep patterns changed. I was getting less sleep from waking up in the night. My sleep quality declined, leaving me with that feeling of fatigue many menopausal women report. I dug into the research and learned just how vital sleep is to our health, and techniques that can make a difference in sleep quality and quantity. It motivated me to adopt new sleep hygiene habits like turning my cell phone off a couple of hours before bed to help wind down and prepare for sleep. To wake up every day with the energy I need and want, I stick as closely as possible to my sleep hygiene routine.
How to Start: Like exercise, you need to make sleep a priority. Too many women are running around every day juggling a packed schedule on an empty gas tank, so to speak. There are a dozen or so different sleep hygiene techniques. I don’t recommend tackling them all at once. To be successful in creating a new habit, pick one technique at a time and focus on it until it becomes second nature. The sleep experts agree that if you can only make one change, make sure you follow a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, including weekends. If you’ve tried everything and still sleep poorly, talk to a clinician and get expert help. Sleep truly is vital to healthy aging and longevity.
My general outlook on life and demeanor has always been one of positivity. Menopause, though, brought on shifts in my mood that were unexpected. Suddenly, I was experiencing anxiety and irritability. Where did that come from? Turns out that our midlife hormonal rollercoaster ride can wreak havoc on our mental health. A skeptic of things that I considered “woo woo,” like meditation, mindfulness and deep breathing, it took me a while before I was willing to give these strategies a try. But you know what, they work! In the last couple of years, I’ve been working on taking a daily mindful moment. For me, that often involves simply taking one minute of the day to practice deep breathing or going outside to revel in the beauty of my garden for five or ten minutes.
How to Start: Many techniques like meditation can be intimidating. Who can sit in one spot for 15-minutes with zero thoughts going through their brain? Not me! The best way to get started is to create a mini-habit like one-minute of meditation daily or a five-minute yoga session. Don’t hold yourself to some impossibly difficult standard that takes years of practice and discipline to work up to. Even short, simple exercises have a mood-boosting effect. Plus, they are easy to whip out when you hit an emotional speed bump during the day. Feeling anxiety creeping up? Take three deep breaths. Feeling irritable? Take a mini-meditation. Feeling depressed? Go for a 5-minute walk. Build up your personal mood boost toolkit. Learn what your levers are to stop a negative emotion in its tracks and regain your sense of calm and happiness.
Last but not least, I’ve learned the importance of having balance in my life. For years I focused almost exclusively on work and shouldered most of the responsibility in my home life. Now, I give myself permission to put work aside and finish the day at a reasonable time and my husband has taken on more chores. I’ve mentioned a few of my balance activities, like exercising and taking a mindful moment. Other things that help me keep balance are reading for pleasure, gardening and relaxing with a glass of wine at dinner with my husband (always red and just one!). Post-pandemic, I am excited to travel, my ultimate find-balance technique!
How to Start: If you are not used to allocating much, if any, time to yourself, it can be hard to break old habits of spending your waking hours serving others' needs. There are many complicated reasons women put their needs second, but we won’t unpack those now. One key move you need to make to find balance is to shift responsibility off your plate and onto someone else. Usually, that’s your partner, but it can include shifting duties at work, for elder care and more. The point is, the load has to lighten, and it has to go somewhere. Achieving this step can take time, but be persistent! Strive to free up at least 30-minutes a day and make sure you spend that time on 100% guilt-free self-care for you! When you are ready for a big find-balance move, I always recommend taking a solo trip. Carve out a couple of days away on your own to do exactly what you want and need to nourish your soul!
Thriving on Your Journey
Every woman deserves to thrive on her midlife journey. Acknowledging that you deserve to thrive is the first step toward flipping the negative attitudes and stereotypes about menopause and aging. Embrace where you’re at and who you are. Build your own daily practices to be your very best self every day. For more support, join me on the journey at Lisa Health!
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