5 Things Not To Stress About When You Turn 40

Here are their bits of wisdom from women over 40 who live in different parts of the world.

By Aimee Cebulski, Prevention

You're about to hit 40 and you've got a mile-long list of worries: Am I successful enough? Am I doing the right things for my family? Why don't I have kids? How can I take better care of myself?

Tell your monkey brain to shush, says a legion of women who've recently hit 40. You're just where you should be.
When I was facing this milestone a few years ago, I decided to turn away from my own failures and accomplishments and instead look to women around the world to see what 40 meant to them. I spent two years photographing and interviewing 35 women in 10 different countries, all at the same point in life that I was. I put their stories together in a book called The Finding 40 Project. Here are their bits of wisdom that have stuck with me during the first few years of my fourth decade.


You might be doing it wrong, but so is everyone else.

Each woman in the book was asked the same 25 questions. The one that always got the fastest, most at-the-ready response was "what is your biggest regret?" Almost everyone responded with something they wished they'd done differently for themselves—getting more education, taking time to travel, waiting to get married, following a dream, etc.

Even the few who said they didn't believe in regret or didn't have any almost always went on to note a few things they would do differently to make themselves or their families happier. In other words, no one has actually found perfection—so why should you be expected to?


Having to make a huge life decision is a luxury.

People approaching 40 often stress about deciding to have children—when it's right, how to afford it, how to parent, etc. What we fail to realize is that in a large part of the world, women don't have the freedom to even make that decision.

[post_ads]Many of the women I interviewed had children young, often with no say in the matter. Rosa Elena in Ecuador was 40 with six children and a grandchild; a local charity was trying to get women into clinics to get IUDs to give them some control. The volunteers escorting women to the clinics were attacked, the women harassed. Hitting 40, you might find yourself in knots over the child question. Remember the value of even being able to choose the right path for yourself, and try to enjoy whatever spot you are in, even if it's a moment of major indecision.


Getting older actually makes people happy.

One of the greatest surprises of my experience: the majority of the women I spoke to felt, for the most part, happiness and contentment at 40. I expected to hear a lot of dread about getting older or feeling pressure to remain young. While some of my subjects did gripe about the losing battle against gravity or the search for ways to minimize wrinkles, they were in the minority. In their own words:

"I think it's awesome. I loved turning 30, I felt like I was so much wiser and more though, I look back at 30 and realize I was such a young punk. 40 for me is about becoming a mother and really watching my children grow." –Casey, Fort Collins, Colorado

"When I was 30, I was still looking for me. Now I feel like I have found myself." –Gloria, Quito, Ecuador

"Here at 40, I am so happy, so balanced, with my girls and my husband." –Maria, Brussels, Belgium


That thing about lemons and lemonade is real.

I spent some time getting to know Dionne, a 40-year-old homeless woman living in a temporary shelter in downtown San Diego. She had had her ups and downs, including going to rehab for a meth addiction to avoid losing custody of her children. She had put on a large amount of weight along the way. Out of work for several years, she spoke honestly about the fear of not being able to find a new job or take care of herself.
However much she couldn't do on account of her economic and physical condition, at 40 she had found in herself the maturity and perspective to be proud of what she could do. Dionne had lost almost 100 pounds after she lost her car, since she had to walk pretty much everywhere. She was now hoping to lose another 100 more thanks to her new favorite activity: using her bike. Talk about finding the silver lining. I think of Dionne every time I'm about to grumble—about basically anything.


There's still plenty of time to find your passion.

At 40, you're supposed to be thriving in your career, right? Or at least super passionate about a hobby or something? Meh, don't sweat it. Nuria in Pakistan spent her formative years building up a successful law career, working in development for a non-profit, even leading a political uprising against the Taliban. But she still felt something was missing.

After she had her second child and 40 was on the horizon, she went in search of something more. She eventually launched Labour & Love, a cooperative program for local women that creates a range of beautiful hand embellished items. Women are trained and given materials and are paid a fair market rate for their work. She's slowly building the business and loves the creativity involved. "Most of all I love the positive feedback I get from the women themselves—they love it, and it allows them to contribute to their households," she says.
There are tons of second-act success stories like Nuria's. For many of the women I spoke to, their greatest happiness came later than they ever expected. Cristina in Torino, Italy, summed it up best: "It's never too late to be the person you might have been."

See more at: Prevention


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Health Magazine: 5 Things Not To Stress About When You Turn 40
5 Things Not To Stress About When You Turn 40
Here are their bits of wisdom from women over 40 who live in different parts of the world.
Health Magazine
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