Navigating Your 30s: The Silent Awkward Stage and How to Find Balance

Navigating Your 30s - The Silent Awkward Stage and How to Find Balance

“Everything I know I learned after I was thirty.” -Georges Clemenceau

When we think of growing up, and the many awkward moments that accompany us for years, adolescence often comes to mind.  The bad hair, breakouts, growth spurts….We’re told to hang in there.  It will pass.  But there’s one stage that no one warned me about.  One that for me, came out of nowhere and hit me like a ton of bricks; arguably harder than puberty—my 30s.

For some it occurs at 33; for others, 35 or so.  For women, this time brings about physical and emotional changes that for some reason, nobody really talks about.  We still may feel like we’re 25, but for most of us, our bodies tell a different story.  It’s one we’re proud of.  Perhaps we’ve had a few children or been busy building our careers rather than our physique.  We’re young enough where we still yearn to grow and move forward.  And at the same time, we long for our 20-something days where time and freedom, in retrospect, were of abundance. Our arms, so to speak are suddenly being pulled in two different directions. One reaching toward the future and the other desperately wants to hold on to our past.  I call this stage the Gumby Years.

My Gumby stage began about a year ago after I had my second child.  I was 33 and even though I felt as young as ever in my head, my body felt old and I had the dark circles and the grown-out highlights to convince myself that I was perhaps past my prime.  But how could this be?  I thought.  I’m only 33.  Why do I look so tired?  How come I didn’t know the fashion of the 80s was back with vengeance?  Are bangs still in?  I’d definitely look younger with bangs.  I can lose this baby weight in 3 weeks…okay 3 months.  All of these thoughts fogged my brain at a time when I was also the happiest I’d ever been.  I had accomplished so much. I had a great career.   My son was safe in my arms.  I could finally carry my daughter again.  I was a mother of two which, after over a year, still seems surreal to me.  Those are the big things; the ones that count.  So why the hang-up over superficial matters like my dress size and when my last pedicure was?

The more I talk to female friends of mine who are also navigating their way through their 30s; I have noticed one commonality between all of us.  The 30s are full of contradictions, both emotional and physical.  As much as we don’t want to relive the unpredictability of our 20s, for many of us, our 30s is when stuff starts to get real.  Big career decisions, marriage, kids, aging parents, divorce.  It really is the best of times, and sometimes, the worst of times. But those “Gumby years” are a crucial part of growing up. Once we think we’ve been stretched to our limits, and we are tempted to what’s familiar and comfortable, we bounce back because as 30-somethings, we have just enough life experience to know better.

The good news?  There are simple ways we can create balance during this awkward stage.  First, we can talk about it, because I guarantee someone you know is going though it right now and they probably feel like they’re the only one.  Here are some things that have worked for me so far.

Get to the Gym!

The other day I left the kids with my husband and went to work out.  It was the kind of day where I was thrilled to just get out of the house, even if it came at the price of (gulp) running.  I had no idea how stressed out I was until I realized I was taking it out on the poor treadmill.  But after only 20 minutes, wow, did I feel so much better!  Plus, I also had no idea I could still run like that, which was pretty cool.

Don’t Just Feed Your Body, Fuel It

I’ve tried it all to lose weight.  But now, it’s less about the dress size and more about not having to down 3 Diet Mountain Dews to get through my day.  I finally have the common sense to know that eating healthy and clean is more important that fitting into my jeans.  Now, let’s be real.  Body image is important to me, but so is feeling as good as I want to look.  Need help getting started?  Come to one of Elite’s Ask the Dietitian sessions, where Rita Larsen, RDN will be happy to help you get on the right track!

Check Your Health

Gone are the days where it’s okay to wait to see the doctor.  The key to getting healthy now and staying healthy in the future is knowing your numbers—such as blood pressure, glucose levels, and cholesterol.  If we just assume that we’re fine, we’re missing out on opportunities improve our health and our peace of mind.  I would also suggest making a visit to a personal trainer.  Why?  Because in our 30s little changes happen that can lead to bigger problems down the road if not addressed now.  Trainers at Elite can help identify unique opportunities for optimizing your physical fitness that we may not be aware of.  I always thought my balance was stellar until I was evaluated by a personal trainer, who showed me otherwise.  I had major imbalances between by right and left side, and she was able to design a strength routine to help me strengthen areas of weakness.

Don’t Forget Friends

I know life gets busy.  But trust me; you can’t afford to lose touch with those who were there for you along the way.  Whether it’s a phone call, a coffee date, or weekend getaway, it is important to stay connected.  Socializing is not only fun, but it’s a proven stress reliever.  Remember your 30s can be a crazy time, and we can’t do it all alone, nor should we have to.

Dress Up at Least Twice a Week

Curl your hair, do your makeup, wear the heels.  Even if it’s your day off or you have 4 kids at home.  You may feel silly, but I guarantee, you’ll feel better!

Reflect on How Far You’ve Come

We’ve still got a long way to go, but look how far we’ve come.  We aren’t 22 anymore, and for most of us, that’s a good thing.  We’re more confident and more comfortable in our own skin.  Even on the  days where we’ve been at work before the sun rises and leave after it sets, or the times where we wear our yoga pants for 3 days in a row because the thought of getting the baby’s spit-up on your good pants almost brings you to tears. These are the Gumby years, but they’re also the good years.  We live with more purpose, love with more passion, and once we survive this stage, we turn 40—and from what I’ve heard it’s fabulous, and where life really begins!

-Susan Madden; Member, Mom, and Guest Blogger

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