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Podcast: Women in Midlife: Your Opportunity for Renewal with Helene Stelian


Midlife can be a challenging time for women. Dr Orlena chats to Helene Stelian to find out why. And of course, what we can do about it to enjoy and flourish in midlife.

Transcription of Women in Midlife: Your Opportunity for Renewal with Helene Stelian

Hello. Hello. Welcome to Fit and Fabulous with me, Dr. Orlena, and happy birthday to me. It's my birthday today and I am super excited. I'm firstly super excited to welcome Helene, to talk to you about midlife and how we don't wanna see it as a time of doom and gloom. We want to see it. Really an opportunity for renewal and to really step into this last exciting phase of our life and really make the most of it.

Now, before we dive in and start talking to Helene, I want to let you know that I have bought back the Get Unstuck Chat. The Get Unstuck chat was amazing. So many people had fabulous breakthroughs. So for February, I am bringing back the Get Unstuck Chat. Now this is a chat for you. You want to lose weight and be more healthy and you feel that you are stuck and you'd like to get there more quickly, more easily, or it's all just a disaster and you're not really sure what's going on, in which case, book and get Unstuck Chat.

Allow an hour, and these are totally free chats. What we'll do is we'll talk about. What's going on for you? Why you are feeling stuck, how you can get unstuck, what it's gonna look like moving forwards, and of course how I can help you and support you going forwards if that's what you are interested to.

Now, the places are limited. I don't have unlimited time to be able to do these calls. They are an hour long. You are more than welcome to book one, but what I really ask you to do is really commit to, to turning up and doing that session. And obviously if you book a call and you can't make it, please let me know because I'm a real person with real kids and a real life and there's only one of me.

So I really look forward to chatting to you and really urge you that if you're feeling stuck and you want to lose weight to get more healthy, then come and book one of those calls and I will leave the link in the show notes, okay on with today's show.

Welcome, welcome. Hello, hello, hello. Welcome to Fit and Fabulous with me, Dr.Orlena Kerek. I am super excited because today we are talking to someone super special. We are talking to Helene Stalian and we are gonna talk about challenges in midlife and how we can make midlife amazing. So, Helene, thank you so much for being with us. Would you like to start by introducing yourself?

Thank you so much for having me, Orlena. I'm very excited to be here. And yeah, I mean, I don't wanna give you too long of a version, but I will give you a bit of a, a bit of a history about myself. I, you know, I spent a long time in corporate America and then I chose to stay home. I had the privilege to stay home with my daughters you know, when they were young.

I have twin daughters worked on nonprofit boards, wrote a few parenting books. But what was interesting is that as my daughter became teens and I was nearing the age of 50. I really felt a call to kind of define myself beyond my roles as a mother, as a wife, as a community organizer. And because we'd moved from the suburbs of Chicago back into the city, I also felt a loss of identity and a loss of connection, and I felt a lot of fear about the future.

I think I just was really unsure what the future held for me and. What I did in those cases, which I do a lot, is I did a lot of reading, I did a lot of research, and I reached out to other women, and that's where I found out that this is not that uncommon at this stage of life when your kids are kind of growing up and kind of saying, you know, okay, I'm, I need some independence.

And if you've made your parenting, whether you hold down a, a job outside the home or. When you've made parenting such a critical aspect of your life and of your identity, then you know, when the kids are leaving, there's often that that sense of unease. And so in talking to other women, I found out that a lot of them were feeling that same you know, sort of midlife malaise.

And then I also talked to others who'd been through that and sort of came out on the other end, stronger will fulfill than ever. And that's when I decided I wanted to connect the two, sort of learn from those who'd been there before, and inform those of us who were sort of entering into this midlife space.

And that's where I launched my blog Next Act for Women, where I've interviewed hundreds of women now. Who have reinvented in some way, some significant way, either personally or professionally at, you know, 40 or later. And it's after doing that for about a year, even though I kept the blog up, I really felt pulled to do more than just report on success stories.

And I wanted to to, to get more involved in the. Transformation and the transition for women. And that's when I was trained to become certified as a life coach for a year long training. And, and I reinvented myself. And now I'm the midlife mentor and I'm really passionate about facilitating personal development for women 40 and over.

And I do that with my. Thrive community. It's a personal growth community where I help introspective and curious and motivated women deepen their journeys of self-discovery and growth. And honestly, I believe they can create their next chapter, but this time with courage, with intention, which many of us are not so intentional in our lives.

So in. Community. We have interactive expert led workshops. We've got self-paced classes around purpose and happiness and regrets and all these things we're grappling with in midlife and life group coaching monthly. So it's a really robust community and one that I, I put everything I do into that community now.

So that's a little bit about my story and just how sort of through my own journey of, you know, the midlife mes. Figured out sort of my path of renewal and now help other women do that for themselves. Fabulous. Fabulous. And I love the way you've flippantly said, oh, I just wrote a few parenting books, so congratulations on your parenting books.

But yeah, I, I think, you know, what I'm really hearing is these challenges that women face and, you know, as you say, they get hidden. A lot of people don't talk about them. It's not like people come and say, oh, I've got this challenge. It's almost like it's happening quietly. And I know from my own journey, my journey was slightly different.

I moved to Spain and Then sort of lost my identity. And on the outside I know that I looked like somebody who was functioning perfectly well. And all my friends would say to me, Hey, you live on holiday. What a dream life you have. But nobody has a, a dream life. There's always problems, there's always issues.

And that inside, there was just this sort of like bubbling of disquiet that I couldn't quite figure out what I did figure out. But I totally hear what you're saying. Nobody talks about these challenges and so everyone thinks they're totally alone in little buckets of isolation. So what are the top challenges that you see that women struggle with in this time of life?

Yeah, and, and. It's interesting this time. Life does seem to be kind of like the perfect storm for challenges. You know, you gotta think about it first. We're in the sandwich generation and that's not, that's not just something people say. I mean, you've got your kids leaving home, but still needing your support in a lot of ways.

You know, they're still your kids and they're still kind of. Figuring life out. Then at the same time, you've got aging parents. Oftentimes, if you're lucky enough to still have your parents, and many of us still do, there's issues around their aging and support that they need. And then looking at our own lives, we've got marital strain often shows up in midlife.

You know, especially if you've, like I did put a lot of emphasis on parenting, and then the kids are gone and suddenly you're looking at each other going. I don't know. Can we make it for the net? Do we wanna spend the rest of our lives together? Do we have decades left? You know, you often might feel disconnection.

I mean, the great divorce is a thing. Work issues often appear because if you've been in a traditional, you know, maybe a corporation or something, you may find it harder to ad to advance, or you may kind of feel bored with your work. Or if you haven't been in the workforce and choose to go back.

Reentry can be challenging. So there's work issues financial issues. I mean, usually you're a little bit more stable financially, but maybe you're helping with your kids' college tuition, which here in the US can be quite sizable. And then you're concerned about retirement security. You know oftentimes you're also moving, maybe, maybe you're downsizing or your friends are moving communities, and so.

you're feeling that loss of community and you're, you're really sort of looking for who are my people? And I mean, we haven't even touched on. Menopause, the physical changes we're going through, some of the cognitive changes we're, we're feeling, you know, so it's, it's a lot. And so, and not surprisingly, with all of that happening at the same time, there's an increase in anxiety and depression at, in, at this time of life.

And an increase in sort of coping mechanism, which, which we may not always be super healthy, right? Whether we're overeating or drinking too much. You know, getting hooked on painkillers or whatever it is. So there's, there's a lot of, a lot of difficulties, a lot of challenges going on at, at this time of life.

And you know, and that's why actually that I wanted to mention the uur of happiness because it's not unique to the US or to a certain ton of population. I mean, this has been shown. In like 72 countries that happiness follows a uur and that the lowest point is in midlife. And so in the US for example, happiness peaks at 20 and then again at 70.

So that's the silver lining here is that, oh wait, it's gonna get better. So as, as much as we're kind of in the trth of that, you right now it does get better. And I think, you know, What that has to do with as to why that happens, why it gets better is because we're, we're letting go of unrealistic dreams.

We're coming to terms with regrets. We're owning who we are, like we're just embracing ourselves more and kind of like letting go of some of the past and also developing, I think more realistic expectations, finding some peace and. Sort of focused on what matters to us now as opposed to everybody else.

So, so that's the good news of the Uur is that, you know, if you're feeling all these challenges, if you're feeling that, that midlife malaise, you're in good company it's been shown, like I said, in 72 countries and and it's bound to get better, but there's some work to do in midlife around that, around these challenge.

Yes, I agree with you. And I, I like work. I think another thing as well, you know, for me it's often about health and wellness. Like, you know, at that stage people start looking at their future and thinking, oh my goodness, if I don't make changes, hey, what am I, what am I facing? And I think that's a really important thing.

And another thing I think, you know, to add to your whole list of challenges, , is, is that we have habits. We have so many habits that we have brought. that we have ingrained in ourselves in every single part of our life. So whether that's your relationship with yourself or your relationship with your family how you look after yourself, how you think about yourself, your emotions that you have, all of these habits are contributing because you're not aware of them to, yeah, any dissatisfaction you have.

And so to go back and retrain yourself and have a look at all of those areas in your life, well, as you say, it's exciting, but it's not necessarily. Daunting. It's not necessarily easy work to do, particularly if you don't have somebody like yourself helping. Helping. I agree. I mean, there are a lot of ingrained habits and beliefs and you know, that inner critic in our heads that's always there and, and berating us.

I mean there's, it's, it can be hard to undo some of those lifelong patterns. But what I'm find, what I find with women in midlife. We're also more willing to throw caution to the wind a little bit to be, to to care less what other people think of us, you know, to really sort of own our gifts, you know, and, and deal with the crap that we've been hanging onto.

I mean, and there's something around. I talk to women. I still happen to have both my parents alive. I'm very lucky. The women who I've talked to who have lost one or both parents there's kind of like a reckoning that happens, I think, because you kind of realize, oh, I'm next in line, like I'm the elder here.

and there's a compression of time and urgency that you start feeling around, wait, is this all there? Is? Like, is this you know, how am I gonna do, I wanna spend the rest of my life being hard on myself, living in fear, worried about what other people think. I mean, there's a little bit of a. I think of a loosening of that that happens and a, a desire to, to not live with fear and anxiety a about, about so many things that you just start to realize don't, don't matter, shouldn't matter.

And a, a desire to, to make a change around that, you know, do you know, do you understand what I'm saying? Yeah, totally. Totally. And, and you know, I think one of the things that I really love about your message is there is a brighter side to midlife. So tell us what the brighter side to midlife. Yeah. So first of all, we have more time, right?

I mean, in the, the stats are in 1960, for example, women in the US on average lived until age 73. And in 2015, that's 82. I mean, that's an increase in nine years, in just a few decades. So. These additional years of longevity have an impact on us. I mean, these sort of bonus years, as we call them, are not coming at the end of life.

You know, at the, when we're really disabled, maybe declining, it's like the final years. They're also not extending typically the sort of middle years when we are raising families, building careers, it's like writers have actually. Seeing them as a dawn of a new stage in our adult years, sort of spanning the years 55 to 75.

So if we think of like, sort of the first phase of midlife as 40 to 55, it's kind of like a second middle age when we can envision, you know, pursuing a new set of goals and opportunities and it's been called the Encore or second adulthood. And I love that. I love that there's just like extra time built in there for us to sort of, you.

Find ourselves and create an, you know, our, our best lives yet sort of untethered to the sort of social climbing, professional climbing that we do, maybe in the early earlier phase in midlife. And with more, more freedom for ourselves. So that's one big piece I think of, of the bright side of midlife.

Another one is, We are so much wiser and so much better equipped to handle the challenges of midlife. You know, we've got four or five decades of experience. We have skills, we have knowledge, we have strength, we have wisdom and all that can really guide us. We're much more aware of our strengths, like we can really own them.

We also have a lot of social connections and resources we can call on for support and maybe less of a hesitation to do so to ask for help. We're usually more financially stable, as I mentioned. We've also built up our resilience because we've been through hardship, we've had stuff happen in our lives, right?

We have overcome a lot. So we are now better able to handle crises and to solve problems like, Maybe are less reactive and more thoughtful in our responses, less apt us to, you know, oh my goodness, I can't believe this is happening. You know, it's like we, yeah, life deals us some hardship and we've gone through them and we have more confidence that we are gonna be able to make it through these, the, the whatever life throws at us.

Now, so there's, there's a real feeling that we, we can handle this, we can do this. And then you. I think a lot of women come to the conclusion that the opportunity here is really to focus on ourselves instead of everybody else, because let's face it, we are caregivers. Many of us have put ourselves second to the needs of the men and children and bosses in our lives, and.

Many of us come to see midlife really as a turning point an optimistic stage of life that's full of potential, you know, to really focus on ourselves, our needs, our desires, you know, to be less people pleasing, to let go of how others are telling us we should. Look or behave to accept ourselves in, you know, where's wisdom?

Yes. But we have flaws. And to be like, you know what, I'm human. To invest in ourselves, in our self-care, in our personal growth, in our development and to find our voice, to express it to the world. We have a lot to say. Women have just a lot on their minds and we have a lot to say. So I feel like we have, we're giving ourselves permission to live more authentically and to.

Everything that we are, and that's the opportunity here, is for us to embrace that new sense of freedom, that new confidence that, that creativity that comes up and to take more risks. So, That's why I see so many women making often dramatic changes in midlife. You know, whether it's going back to, to school for a co, the college degree you never got, or a master's degree or a certification like editing or yoga or coaching.

Whether it's starting a new business that showcases your talents, like becoming a photo organizer or a parenting coach. Whether it's, you know, advocating for causes that speak to our hearts. You know, animal rescue or women's rights. I see women embarking on new adventures like active travel or nomad living.

Like I've got, I interviewed a woman who's who moves from house to house in the world, like pet sitting, you know, so it's like something she loves to do and she's making, you know, she's, she's making ends meet that way. And I see women leaving stale marriages and embracing single life, or finding new love.

I mean, I have a girlfriend who's getting remarried and it's so exciting to see, you know, she's, she's what 60? I mean, it's like, there's, it's not, it's not too late for that. And then of course, I see women putting their voices out in the world through memoirs and novels, blogs and podcasts like yours.

You know, so that's, that's I think the exciting part of midlife is for women is just all the possibilities that are open to us. And it doesn't have to be anything big. It just is kind of a, just renewed sense of you know what, I can do this and I'm gonna, I'm, it's not too late for me to put my dreams front and center, living life to live life.

Exactly. I love it. I love it. Living your best life. So here's my next question. How do you help people get from, okay, I'm overwhelmed. I'm frustrated. Life is not exactly how I wanted it to be. I'm a little bit disappointed in how it turned out to, you know what, I'm living my best life. How do you walk people through that process?

So it's interesting in my what, what, and I started out doing a lot of one-on-one coaching and then I realized, boy, I, we keep having the same conversations. And so then I was doing group coaching, and when you start to find that you repeat yourself a lot is with women. Then. I decided it was time for me to put sort of classes together.

So I do it in my Thrive membership with classes focused on the things I've been teaching and working with women on now for years individually and in groups. And I just, I turn them into video classes with assignments and then I bring us together to sort. Go through, you know, what, what are your blocks, what are you finding out?

How can I help you? You know, so it, it's just a it, it also allows me to do it at a very, very low cost for people to join the membership so that I feel like I can serve more women. So it's really helping women through, like for instance, one of my classes is Discover your Purpose. That is something.

That time and again, I have found women in midlife are looking for a renewed sense of purpose. How am I gonna, how can I make my life more fulfilling? And I have a class that's, you know, six week or six module class that takes you through that. There's a class on happiness. And it's also.

Science-based. So I take you through the building blocks of happiness and then, you know, there's assignments as to, okay, which areas do you wanna focus on in your life to increase your happiness? There's a class on regret that I just finished and put it into the membership. And because we are dealing with a lot of regret at this time of life, you know, trying to figure out like, okay, how can I make peace with some of the.

That I did or others did to me. And we're not talking trauma, I'm not, you know, equipped to, to handle really heavy stuff that you would really need a psychotherapist for, but there are some just life regrets that there are ways to sort of rethink and redeem those regrets in your life moving forward.

How can you make use of those regrets in order to inform your life and, and create the different scenario? You know, there's a class on. Choosing your one big goal. I believe in working on one, you know, major goal at a time. Not trying to attack every aspect of your life at once, but it's like, which.

Just discovering which, what is the one thing that's going to make the biggest difference in your life? So, you know, I'm working on a class on perfectionism right now. I'm love to work on to, to really delve into the research. This is my own superpower. And I have a class on superpowers, by the way.

Cause I believe everybody's got one at least and many more. Many have more than one. But my superpower is taking a topic that seems kind of foreboding, like purpose or happiness. And. Doing the research and then really sort of distilling it down to here's the basics of what you need to know, and here's a step-by-step process to help you through it.

So that's really what my Thrive membership is aimed to do. And then we come together once a month. I mean, I also have a private Facebook group where I, I mean, every day answering questions, but we come together once a month live on Zoom to as with the members to say, okay, what, what class are you working on?

Where do you need help? What, oh, and. You know, what are we celebrating? What have you you know, succeeded at? So it's really because everybody's on their journey and everybody's focus might need to be slightly different, but that camaraderie and that community is there. And that's that's really exciting to see some of the movement with, with women as they work through what they need to work through to really thrive in midlife.

Connect with Helene

5 Must to Thrive gift: 

Perfect. Fabulous. And where can people find, find you and your service? Yeah, so I encourage you to go to my website, and you can learn more about the membership. You can get a free gift of a video series called Five Must to Thrive in your next chapter. I've got a, a free Facebook group called Empowering Women in Midlife and a YouTube channel of the same name.

I have also a free gift for your viewers that I think you'll put the link in and it's a free ebook called Thrive in Midlife. And it features 10 tips to create a no regret second half of life, and it's packed full of information, advice, resources. So I, all these different ways to, to find me and on my website with the gift on my YouTube and Facebook, I hope to connect with many of your listen.

Fabulous. Well, thank you so much for spending some time with us. It's been absolutely fabulous talking to you. Oh, thank you so much for having me. It was super fun.


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