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The Fullness of Midlife

In the course of our work here at MiddlesexMD, we have the pleasure of talking to lots of women (and men, too) about their experiences at and of midlife. Life is full for us, rich in diverse perspectives, experiences, and motivations. We’ve seen how powerful conversations can bein helping us explore our own feelings and perceptions as well as in giving us insight into lives that are different from our own. Rather than keeping these conversations to ourselves, we’ve decided to share a number of them through this podcast, “The Fullness of Midlife.” Our hope is to provide midlife women with knowledge and opportunities to speak, so we can all live fully the lives we choose.

"Can we regulate heart rate, anxiety, mood, depression, and circulation with breathwork?" Dr. Barb's yoga instructor, Michelle Shaw, joins the conversation to discuss a book she'd shared: Breath, by James Nestor. They talk about the surprising ways breathing affects our health and well-being, and close with a guided breathing exercise. Listen (or read) here. We've also made the breathing exercise Michelle offers available as a stand-alone recording, so you can use it every day. Listen here.

Mindfulness Methods: Cultivate Gratitude with Jessica Zambri: In this resource for mindfulness, Jessica Zambri, of StudioBE, offers a guided practice to focus on presence and thankfulness. Jessica brings together the influences of music, writing, and performance in her leadership. Listen (or read) here.

Mindfulness Methods: Open Your Heart with Barbara Biziou: Informed by decades of research and practice, Barbara Biziou offers this guided meditation on opening your heart to give and receive. Dr. Barb has long advised mindfulness to help us achieve intentionality, and this resource may inspire you in surprising ways. Listen (or read) here

Mindfulness Methods: Groundedness with Ann McKnightMindfulness has long been recommended by Dr. Barb. It helps women manage stress, pain, and depression in normal times, and when uncertainty and isolation are more likely, it's even more helpful. Therapist Ann McKnight offers the first of several resources for guided meditation. Listen (or read) here.

"If you change nothing, you're going to put on weight."  Dr. Barb and dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick talk about how what we eat affects how we feel physically and even our mental health, and the realities of diet and weight post-menopause, including why counting calories may not be the best way to monitor our food choices. Read more or listen here.

"Menopause is... unique to each individual, her experience, her lifestyle." Dr. Barb talks to dietitian and director of Gennev health coaching Stasi Kasianchuk about what support women can find to ease their transition through menopause. They focus on, especially, how women can increase their movement and activity, even in the current environment. Read more or listen here.

"Finding one's place is pretty much a lifelong journey." With writer Stephanie Raffelock, Dr. Barb discusses "relentless positivity," the power of grief, the opportunity to reclaim parts of ourselves we put on hold for various reasons as we navigated the rest of life, and what vision can do for us now. Read more or listen here.

"Pleasure can be found in very, very simple ways." Dr. Barb returns to Kira Hower to talk in more depth about coming home to our bodies, recognizing the value of pleasure, and being conscious of the cultural scripts that can shape our expectations and perceptions in ways we'd never choose. Read more or listen here.

"Instead of saying that we're resilient, what if we actually become stronger, even more capable?" Ann McKnight, a therapist in West Michigan, returns to talk with Dr. Barb about the implications of multi-generational trauma, building on their previous conversation about adverse childhood events. There's still much to learn about how our foremothers' experiences shape our own. Read more or listen here

"No one is perfect in their relationship to food." Starting with the topics of disordered eating and eating disorders (including some surprising statistics about incidence in midlife), Dr. Barb and Lisa Pearl range to the importance of listening to and responding to your own body and its signals, and to the unique opportunities for women now to define themselves. Read more or listen here.

"There's a high correlation between childhood experiences and risk factors later in life." How can things that happen before we're adults influence our ability to cope later in life? What determines whether a person is able to overcome early adversity? These are among the questions addressed in Dr. Barb's conversation with therapist Ann McKnight. Read more or listen here.

"Control is largely an illusion."  Retirement is on the horizon for most of us, either near or far, because we choose and plan for it or because we get an offer we can't refuse. Dr. Barb talks with psychotherapist Karen Wassink about what the transition entails and how we can navigate the transition more readily, both for ourselves and for our partners. Read more or listen here.

"Someone has to take up the cause for menopausal women, blow away the shame and silence." Ann Garnier talks about the personal experience that led to the founding of Lisa Health, and shares perspectives with Dr. Barb about the good that results when younger women learn about perimenopause, and when every woman equips herself with knowledge. Read more or listen here.

"More joy and less suffering." Christine Marie Mason joins Dr. Barb to describe the journey that led her to develop Rosebud Woman and products for women's intimate care. She describes the ways that our culture can challenge women's sense of self, and she and Dr. Barb compare notes on gender bias in the media and advertising. Read more or listen here.

“If menopause symptoms are affecting your quality of life, let’s talk about it.” Dr. Barb and Beth Battaglino talk about the findings of a recent survey conducted by HealthyWomen and WebMD. More conversations can lead to better health—and more happiness!—for us midlife women (and those who love us). Read more or listen here.

"We underestimate the effect of alcohol over time." Not what we wanted to hear, but empowering information from Dr. Barb's conversation with Dr. Connie Newman. Women have less tolerance than men for alcohol, and we're consuming more more quickly. Time to change the trend line! Read more or listen here.

"We need to shower ourselves with love." Listening to our bodies can help us to be healthier and more authentic versions of ourselves. Dr. Barb and Kira Hower, a women's empowerment coach, talk about the mind/body connection and how nurturing it can lead to emotional resilience. Read more or listen here.

"What things help me have a harmonious day?" Looking for a fresh start? One with less chaos and more calm, less busy-ness and more follow-through on good intentions for self-care? Dr. Barb talks with professional organizer Morgan Tyree about ways to calm the chaos and build ourselves harmonious days. Read more or listen here.

"When we improve our health, we're living a better quality of life." Entrepreneur and fem-tech innovator Colette Courtion joins Dr. Barb to describe her exploration of the intersection of women's intimate health and technology. She explains how her company's new product works, as well as the challenges of gender bias to open conversations about women's health. Read more or listen here.

"How can we be kinder and more compassionate to ourselves?" Having experienced the restorative power of yoga and meditation in her own life, Jennifer Ciarimboli has found a way to introduce the principles and practices to employees at corporations and other organizations, where many of us are overwhelmed. She explains the background and approach to Dr. Barb. Read more or listen here.

"We're coming into the Golden Age of women."  Futurist and advertising practitioner Jane Evans joins Dr. Barb to talk about how our culture sees—or doesn't see—women of a certain age, and how our numbers and twenty-first century realities can correct misperceptions. Jane even shares a tip for how she retains her optimism. Read more or listen here. 

Report on the 2019 Meeting of the North American Menopause Society.  In September, both Dr. Barb and our colleague, Marta Hill Gray, an advocate for women's health, attended the annual meeting of NAMS. In this conversation, they share notable developments presented at the meeting, as well as perspectives on the tenor of the times for research and treatments for symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Read more or listen here

"Different ability levels do not coincide with age numbers." Dr. Barb talks with Becky Zelent about how communities, big or small, can organize to be sure there are opportunities to be active at every age, and the importance of social connection as well as physical activity to our ability to age well. Get inspired to organize your own group, whether for hiking, travel, or knitting. Read more or listen here. 

"Your brand is a powerful filter for life choices." June M. Archer describes to Dr. Barb how knowing your brand--who you are, not what you do--can empower you for reinvention and decision-making. She offers resources and encouragement for developing a deep understanding of your core value and the experience you create for others. Read more or listen here.

"We don't talk about sex in the real world."  Dr. Barb's conversation with Cindy Gallop includes how we learn about sex when we can't talk about it, how men and women's pleasure is regarded differently in our culture, and the challenges to business start-ups that deal with sexuality. Read more or listen here.

"As clinicians, we have a deep sense of responsibility to get the information out there." How can technology help women find the information they need? What happens when it's women who are driving innovation? Dr. Barb talks with Dr. Lyndsey Harper about how these questions intersect with opportunities for women's sexual health. Read more or listen here.

"There's no better fashion accessory than confidence." Feeling invisible? Like your self-confidence needs a boost? Listen in as Dr. Barb and Debra Gunn Downing talk about how what we put on our bodies can make us feel about ourselves. You may be inspired to head to your closet and reinvent yourself. Read more and listen here.

"I've never stopped dreaming and I've never stopped creating." Dr. Scharmaine Lawson is a nurse practitioner and an entrepreneur and creative thinker in making health care accessible. She's even published books for children so they understand what NPs do and develop some cultural literacy--and interest in STEM--along the way. She talks about it all with Dr. Barb. Read more and listen here.

"We're not done! We're just getting started." Reinvention, risk-taking, and the community of women are among the topics discussed by Jeannie Ralston and Dr. Barb. Jeannie has had several careers, but after her own midlife reinvention  founded NextTribe, a digital magazine and offline events for "contemplation, inspiration, wit, and action." Read more and listen here.

"Learn to shrug your shoulders." Dr. Joan Vernikos, an early podcast guest on the topic of health and movement, rejoins Dr. Barb to talk about her newest book, which is about stress. How we can avoid or mitigate stress and what's different about stress for us in the midlife years and beyond are topics of the conversation. Read more and listen here.

"We are incredible creatures of possibilities." How can tea be so soothing? What's the relationship between fragrance, color, and tea? Those are among the questions answered in Dr. Barb's conversation with Miriam Novalle, an entrepreneur who has made tea (and social responsibility) central to her work. Read more and listen here.

"Everything in life that we do is a balance of risk versus benefit." Dr. Barb talks with the co-authors of a new book, Estrogen Matters: Why Taking Hormones in Menopause Can Improve Women's Well-Being and Lengthen Their Lives--Without Raisint the Risk of Breast Cancer. The title and subtitle say it all, but you'll hear much more substantive detail in this interview with Carol Tavris and Avrum Bluming. Read more and listen here.

"The lifeblood of a culture is how it pursues its art." Making space for creativity, in whatever form, is the topic of the conversation between Lorma Freestone and Dr. Barb. Lorma describes how her artistic career evolved, eventually including a stint in arts organization administration and leading back to the studio post-retirement. Read more more listen here.

"I decided to look outside the box." Lisa Chism joins Dr. Barb to talk about how looking for alternatives led her to a specialized practice in providing care through a menopause and sexual health clinic within a breast clinic. They discuss new developments in addressing the effects of hormone changes, whether resulting from menopause or cancer diagnosis or treatment. Read more or listen here.

"Get your mammogram!" Dr. Barb is joined by her colleague Alecia Jones, nurse navigator at Holland Hospital's High Risk Breast Clinic. They talk about how screenings save lives, how nurse navigators can help women and their families through the cancer treatment process, and how friends can best support women from diagnosis through treatment and into survivorship. Read more or listen here.

"If you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated." Hydration is fundamental to healthy diet, as well as promoting energy levels. Dr. Dana Cohen, author of Quench, explains the new science of water to Dr. Barb, including practical tips for making sure whatever health plans you're making are on solid, well-hydrated ground. Read more or listen here

"Open your mind to new ideas about what it might look like to grow older." Susan Donley, CEO of Stria, a new media platform for the "longevity market," talks with Dr. Barb about how our perceptions of aging affect our experience of it—and how we can change our experience for the better. Read more or listen here.

"What is it that I want to give to myself?" Health coach Jill Tanis returns to continue her discussion with Dr. Barb about how women can find their way to making self-care a priority, beginning with healthy eating. Jill shares practical, do-able tactics that empower us to "manage what we can manage." Read more or listen here. 

"Women need to feel entitled to care for themselves." Dr. Barb explores with cardiologist Dr. Stacey Rosen the realities of heart disease in women's lives, including why women are often the last to care for themselves, how medicine occasionally falls short for women on this topic, and what can be done to change the picture. Read more or listen here. 

"Healthy hearing is healthy aging." Dr. Karen Van Doorne joins Dr. Barb to talk about how the loss of hearing can lead to isolation and depression, and how heart health contributes to hearing health. You'll also hear a phrase familiar to frequent MiddlesexMD readers: "If you don't use it, you lose it." Read more or listen here.

"The pelvis is the center of our center." Missy Lavender is an organizer, innovator, and educator whose focus on pelvic health for women grew out of her own experience. She and Dr. Barb talk about the impetus for her work, the many ways in which pelvic health affects overall quality of life for women, and cultural barriers to understanding. Read more or listen here.

"Relationships need cultivation; they need work." Dr. Barb reconnects with long-time MiddlesexMD friend Dr. Michael Krychman to talk about what keeps relationships vital, survivorship, and the importance of balance in our lives. He includes recommendations for further support, reminding us that we're not alone. Read more or listen here.

"All kinds of good things happen when our hormones are working in harmony." Dr. Barb continues her conversation about how self-care can lead to our flourishing, this time with Angelle Batten, who describes how our hormones are affected by and then affect our diet, how that harmony or havoc plays out, and why experiencing pleasure supports healthy eating habits. Read more or listen here. 

"Does this thought nourish me? Does this relationship nourish me?" Holistic health coach Jill Tanis joins Dr. Barb to talk about self-acceptance, self-care, and the relationship between our emotions and nourishment that takes many forms, ending with an encouragement to slow down and breathe. Read more or listen here.

"How we think about money will form our behavior." How do our feelings about money affect our financial security? Why do we disregard what we know is smart advice, ignoring or making impulsive decisions about our money? Dr. Barb talks about these questions and more with Andrea Kennedy, a financial wellness coach. Read more or listen here.

"You cannot tell people you love them too many times." For this special Mother's Day episode, Dr. Barb is joined by past podcast guests and readers and friends of MiddlesexMD to muse about what we've learned from and about mothering. Mark the occasion by listening and sharing this episode with your friends and family! Read more or listen here.

"You just need to know. Information is power." Michelle King Robson shares the motivation that led to EmpowHer and SkinSAFE, both platforms that make information available to women so they can manage their own health. She and Dr. Barb talk about how Michelle's own health challenges led her to advocate for others. Read more or listen here.

"Listen to the language of the heart." In this continuation of their discussion, Charla Miller and Dr. Barb turn to the events that led Charla to write her book, Wonder and Beauty: My Journey from Heartbreak to Healing through the Wonder of Horses. Equine therapy was part of Charla's path to healing and wholeness. Read more or listen here.

"Number one, there are no rules." Esthetician Charla Miller and Dr. Barb talk about beauty in our culture at "a certain age," including how we free ourselves to find peace and confidence. Along with specific discussion about midlife skin and hair, you'll hear wisdom like "let yourself be okay right here, right now." Read more or listen here.

"Our best hope is to understand both our strengths and our limitations." Organizational consultant and coach and Enneagram teacher Valerie Atkin joins Dr. Barb to talk about the Enneagram system. Val says the system lays out world views, which helps us understand motivation. And, she says, the system, above all, engenders compassion for ourselves and others. Read more or listen here.

"We are intended for wholeness and redemption and healing." Our brains are like the control centers for our whole lives, right? Well, kind of, according to therapist Ann McKnight, who describes to Dr. Barb her recent work with a therapy approach called Brainspotting. They talk about why "rational thought" doesn't always convince us to change behavior. Read more or listen here.

"Wow! So there's hope!" Dr. Pamela Peeke joins Dr. Barb (a "paradox"! get it?) to talk about the gamut of wellness issues that affect women's quality of life, especially at midlife: physical activity, the importance of sleep, stress management, and much more. For a healthy dose of "we're all human here," Read more or listen here. 

"Through yoga you can really come into a different place of calm." Yoga instructor Michelle Shaw describes how she was drawn to teaching yoga as a midlife career change. She also talks about how yoga practice can lead to calm--as well as stress reduction, self-awareness, and self-regulation. Read more or listen here.

"Walking the spiritual path with practical feet." Author and life-strategy coach Barbara Biziou talks with Dr. Barb about the part that rituals play in our lives. She describes how creating rituals can help us make transitions, clarify our intentions, find new energy or focus, and honor relationships. Read more or listen here.

"The world is not a scary place." Writer and traveler Kate Convissor shares with Dr. Barb what she's learned in balancing "roots and wings" in creating her own path, a series of figurative and literal journeys. Kate describes her motivations, as well as how being an older woman shapes her experiences on the road. Read more or listen here.

"The table is where I find meaning." Just in time for the holidays, Dr. Barb catches up with Kate Bolt, who's developed a year's worth of celebratory cocktails she makes in gallon batches to assure that the host and hostess have time and attention to spare for their guests. Read more or listen here. 

"I wasn't all alone in this newly menopausal world." Dr. Barb learns about the background and plans for Red Hot Mamas from its founder, Karen Giblin. Karen's own experience showed her how much information and a community of other women can help us as we navigate "The Change." Read more or listen here. 

"Am I driving this bus? Or just along for the ride?" Cultural mythologist Druscilla French describes how the stories we've adopted along the way can limit and shape our perceptions and what we think is possible for ourselves. Fortunately, she also outlines what we can do to rewrite our scripts. Read more or listen here.

“Everything begins with communication.” Dr. Barb talks with therapist and communicator Mary Jo Rapini about her most recent book, which encourages couples to reconnect and nurture intimacy. A favorite excerpt: "Sex is meant to be silly and fun and heartwarming and engaging and intimate." Read more or listen here.

“This is a detour... but I still have a life.” Therapist and champion for healthy intimacy Mary Jo Rapini talks with Dr. Barb about how cancer—and breast cancer specifically—can challenge couples, and the importance of women knowing they’re not alone as they navigate the experience. Read more or listen here.

“Finding out you have an increased risk empowers you.” Dr. Jane Pettinga, a breast surgeon who has worked with Dr. Barb at Holland Hospitals’ High Risk Breast Clinic, outlines her thinking about screening for breast cancer for all women and for women with higher risks and how women can improve their overall health. Read more or listen here.

"Know that you are capable. You can move forward." Dr. Barb's conversation with fitness professional Deborah Robinson reassures us that we can all find a way to move more—for our health, for our bones, for our self-esteem, for our appreciation of our own bodies. All we need to do is start! Read more or listen here.

"On my tombstone it will say, 'There must be a way." In part two of a discussion with health (and space) researcher Dr. Joan Vernikos, Dr. Barb asks about how movement can be designed into our days, and about Dr. Joan's professional life through a time that was not always welcoming to women in sciences. Read more or listen here.

"The body is designed to move all day long." Health (and space) researcher Dr. Joan Vernikos shares what she learned—and was surprised by—about the human body, movement (which is not the same as exercise!), and the effects of gravity. Read more or listen here. 

"It's powerful to capture those stories before they're lost." Journalist Jay Newton-Small describes her new project, MemoryWell, and she and Dr. Barb discuss the challenges Alzheimer's and dementia pose for families, caregivers, patients themselves, and our health care system. Read more or listen here.

"We're solving for dislocation and disconnection." Dr. Barb continues her conversation with Lesley Jane Seymour to learn more about Covey Club, her new venture to build community among women. Lesley explains why her hashtag is #learngetconnect and more. Read more or listen here.

"Women are great reinventors." Journalist, author, editor and more (no pun intended) Lesley Jane Seymour joins Dr. Barb to talk about the joys and challenges of reinvention, especially at midlife, and the importance of community or a second family as as we rise to the challenge. Read more or listen here.

“The word I come to is mutuality.” Dr. Barb talks with Kathy Davelaar, a recently retired Christian clergywoman, about gender, leadership, and the cultural messages we receive on our journeys through life. Kathy also reflects on how her understanding of sexuality evolved along with her faith. Read more or listen here.

“Confidence is the basis for everything.” Can design make the world a better place? Amy Eller, environmental designer, lifestyle consultant, and creative director, talks with Dr. Barb about the design of experiences and how each of us can use that approach for our health, self-care, and happiness. Read more or listen here.

“Get on your mat every day.” Deborah Cioffi, Dr. Barb's own yoga instructor, talks with Dr. Barb about the health benefits of breathing, flexibility, and staying in motion. She describes how yoga helped her through a stressful time, as well as how to engage or re-engage with yoga to make it a regular routine. Read more or listen here.

“Be an advocate for yourself and others.” Women’s health advocate Marta Hill Gray, of Gray Matter Group, joins Dr. Barb to talk about what led her to focus on women’s health, how women’s health differs from men’s, and what’s top-of-mind for her right now. She calls for women to become their own health champions. Read more or listen here.