How to boost your confidence and feel fabulous
Note: Some of our expert tips will only apply after lockdown restrictions have eased in South Africa due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Buy the best haircut you can afford
Prioritise hair over clothes – you wear it every single day! There are no ‘rules’ anymore – it could be a bob, a pixie cut, long – but keep it in fantastic condition. When it comes to hair colour, don’t stray more than two shades from your natural colour. It won’t suit your skin tone and the upkeep is a nightmare. If you’re covering grey hair, don’t go darker – one shade lighter will disguise the grey, add dimension, and flatter your skin tone.
Get a makeover
Before you even think about fillers or Botox or any other cosmetic procedures, bear in mind that make-up applied well is miraculous. A professional who understands mature faces can tell you about the latest clever diffusing products and show you the tricks for dulling skin, thinning lips and drooping eyes. Go into a department-store beauty section and find someone behind the counter whose look you like.
Lavish hands with the same attention as your face
They’re equally visible. In midlife, our trusted ‘beauty regime’ stops doing what it once did, but we’re not sure what to tweak. With hands, shield them from sun damage every day with a sunscreen or hand cream with SPF; reapply after washing. Keep a tube in your handbag. Scrub your hands weekly, and use a rich cream nightly.
ALSO SEE: How to age-proof your hands
Get a primer
Focus on your brows
Having brows shaped and tinted – giving your face architecture – is the most impactful thing you can do. Try the Lash and Brow Bar in Johannesburg, with shaping and tinting from R100; the Brow Bar at K Beauty Spa in Cape Town or the Benefit Cosmetics Brow Bar Lounge In Durban.
The evidence is overwhelming – people who exercise regularly, live longer. The World Health Organization suggests a weekly target of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise. But you can start with modest targets.
Focus on small, healthy, achievable changes
Think of this as a pension policy – the more you pay in, the more you stand to gain. Many women bury their health needs at the bottom of the pile as they juggle running a home, building a career, and maybe looking after kids and elderly parents. Start small and build up.
Tackle bad habits
Smokers are four times more likely to quit if they do it with help – free with CANSA’s online eKick Butt programme. For drinking, have a couple of dry days a week, and try alternating alcohol and soft drinks.
Give your brain a workout
Mental exercise is for the brain what physical exercise is for the body. When you learn something new and difficult, you grow new neural connections and strengthen weak ones. Set small mental challenges – wean off the calculator, or memorise a poem – or launch big ones, such as learning a new language.
ALSO SEE: 28 days to a sharper brain
Get an annual health check
If you haven’t had one for a few years, contact your GP. Know as much as possible about your family history – and if it suggests inherited risk of cancers or heart disease, enquire about a health screening, blood pressure and cholesterol tests.
Find your motivation
Investing in a pedometer or fitness tracker such as a Fitbit helps to keep you going. Telling everyone your plans, committing to an online exercise class, or joining a fitness community all have the benefits of ‘group pressure’.
More “me time”
Promise yourself the gift of ‘me time’ from now on – whether that’s an extra hour in bed or a long walk with the dog. Committing to putting yourself high on the agenda is important for you and everyone else. When you’ve made that leap, you’re halfway there.
Put yourself first
Weight gain is common in middle age. Our oestrogen levels decline, thyroid levels fall, we might have more stress and poorer sleep, so higher cortisol levels also mean we metabolise slower. See this as an ideal time to tackle your diet. You’ve spent years nurturing others, eating what’s easiest for the family or what everyone else wanted. Now you may be cooking for fewer people, you can create a kitchen to nurture you.
Give up on one of five things
Forget expensive superfoods
There are thousands of great veg available at half the price. Most of your plate should be colourful; and eat as wide a range of veg as you can.
Curfew your carbohydrates
Legumes, wholegrains like brown rice, and alternative flours (such as quinoa or ground almonds) should replace starchy carbs like pasta and potato. If you can’t cut them out, then don’t eat them after 6pm. They’ll lie in your body like a sugar; you won’t be burning them off.
Think thyme, rosemary, mint, coriander. Don’t just sprinkle as a garnish. Herbs help with digestion and metabolism, heal skin and strengthen cells. Use them as you do vegetables and throw handfuls into casseroles before serving or drink them as tea.
Focus on health, not thinness
Always have breakfast
Breakfast is the one meal you can always control, and it gives your day the best possible start. Try porridge with almond milk, a pear and cinnamon – which is anti-inflammatory and reduces cholesterol. Or poached egg with tomatoes and avocado – avocado has 25 vital nutrients/ antioxidants, so it’s a great all-round age minimiser.
Lisa Talbot is an award-winning personal stylist.
Create your signature style
Look at celebs and friends whose looks you love. What words mean the most? Classic, edgy, feminine? Make a Pinterest mood board, then research stores and brands that fit – and rule out the rest.
Don’t obsess over your worst features
We all have a vulnerable area, and every outfit becomes about hiding that attribute. Make an effort to accentuate your best features instead.
ALSO SEE: How to layer for your body type
Find the perfect jeans
They’re the staple garment but, in midlife, it can be hard to find jeans that feel fantastic. Some brands do nothing for an apple shape, for instance. Instead of trudging from shop to shop, go into one good store, pick up pairs from every brand available, and try them all on.
Focus on footwear
Focus on footwear. The more comfortable your shoes, the more active you are and the more confident you feel. If heels are no longer for you, invest in fabulous flats for all occasions – floral-print trainers, pointed flats, bows, leopard print. Instant lift guaranteed – without the heel!
Take a personal inventory
Sexually, what do you enjoy? What makes you feel aroused? What no longer works? Middle age is a natural time to move away from the mass and better understand yourself.
Talk to your partner about it
Rather than hoping he’ll somehow get the message. Remember, he’ll probably be grappling with anxieties, too. Don’t assume any reluctance to engage in sex means he doesn’t find you attractive. Middle-age wobbles aren’t one-sided.
Instead of feeling you know each other inside out, reconnect through new adventures. Surprise each other with ‘expanding activities’ – like dancing lessons together. Stepping out of your comfort zone together helps you see one another through new eyes.
Don’t forget the small things
In middle age, many of the ‘small things’ disappear, too. Affection. A hello kiss. Saying thank you! You’ve both been busy, bad habits creep in. Don’t take each other for granted.
Schedule intimate time
Take back control and schedule a time for sex. There’s a feeling that it should happen naturally, so when it doesn’t, we lose confidence. The anticipation, build-up and playfulness can be an instant pick-me-up.
Friends and family
Move with the times
In midlife, we often say goodbye to life as we knew it. Our kids grow up and leave the family home. Your relationship with your folks may switch to them needing you instead of you needing them. Rediscover your sense of purpose to find out who you now are – and what your role is.
Rethink your relationship with your grown children
The transition from dependent child to fully fledged adult can be tricky and you want your relationship to be strong at the end of it! Remember they can no longer be expected to do what you tell them. Offer advice when asked, but don’t be hurt if they ignore it. Seeing them outside the domestic context – for a meal or shopping trip – can help nurture your new relationship. You’ll always be Mom – now build a solid friendship, too.
Learn from your kids
You’ve seen how important friends are to your children – but the demands of family, home and career mean we have often neglected ours. Reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Set up a regular slot with a colleague or neighbour – lunch every Friday?
Follow your passions
See this new space as a chance to put yourself centre stage and really explore. Are there new classes that inspire you, for example? Following your passions will open new doors and introduce like-minded people.
Nurture other family relationships
Research shows that as we get older and think more about our past, our relationships with siblings become more crucial to our happiness. Siblings knew you best before life got complicated. When parents can’t keep you all in touch anymore, actively nurture all those bonds. Create a family WhatsApp group and arrange get-togethers.
Words Anna Moore