Seems like when you’re raising kids or climbing the career ladder, it’s all about checking off ‘to do’ lists. Constant activity, travel, ballgames and baby-sitters can make your head spin. Suddenly, you’re done. The kids leave the nest; your career is winding down, leaving you to wonder, what’s next? You are not alone. It’s estimated that there are nearly 40 million women focused on what I like to call their encore career. After leading a full life, you probably still have 20-40 years ahead of you. It’s time to pursue your passion, using your hard-earned wisdom as the foundation that writes your next story. Menopause is a powerful catalyst to look at your own life, especially after taking care of everybody else’s! Your might still be care taking—we are the sandwich generation—but even with hot flashes, the days offer time to take pause and reflect on what’s next for the central character—you! It starts with taking all the time you need to examine what you’ve done. Summing up your best character traits and abilities is the first step to uncovering your real purpose and joy. After years of running the kids to all of their practices, ferrying snacks to games and holding down a full-time job, it is finally time to let go and follow your own path and passion. Give Yourself a Break! Research shows that self-compassion goes a long way toward lessening the physical symptoms of menopause. When you feel better you think better. Find your perfect space, whether it’s some nice shade outside, a meditation room—or even the front seat of your car to think about what’s next. That can be daunting—after all you’re wiser, but do you still have what it takes? Some studies flat out show that motherhood affects wage earning, and that’s okay, because what’s different at this time of life, is that an encore career is not all about the bucks. A television broadcast friend of mine used to call this, ‘One for the meal and one for the reel,’ meaning she did some news stories for the paycheck and others because she was insanely interested in the subject matter. Funny thing happened along the way—doing something because you love it somehow ensures life’s bits and pieces fall into place—and the money soon follows. Life Experience Rocks! Everything you’ve done in your life can be a brick in building your encore career. Try to get your mind off hot flashes and insomnia. Difficult, because the focus in menopause research is almost always on the physical and learning how to ‘deal with menopause,’ and life experience is sometimes not even considered by many doctors when treating menopausal women. Time to flip menopause on its ear and start embracing this ‘time of your life.’ Know when it’s time to retreat into your own sanctuary and rethink how you’ll approach life’s adventures. In addition to ‘alone time,’ call upon the sisterhood for advice because it’s proven that friendship is a powerful bond which strengthens your immune system and helps you live longer. Sharing plans for your next chapter will clarify things! It really helps to know how others approach their own third act. Jeri enjoyed a long career as teacher and principal, but she feared retirement because of the associated boredom and lack of a firm schedule. She stayed in the same career field and let colleagues know she was ‘back on the market.’ Then, the offers came in and she says it was the greatest feeling to still be wanted! Now, as a university mentor, she serves as an encourager for others and says that is what brings her renewed purpose and joy. “I look forward to this next chapter because finally it will be about ME and what I want. My children are raised, my husband is happy. Time to relax!” Time has a way of creeping up on you and it’s better to choose your next chapter, rather than falling into it or having it thrust upon you. Look at it this way—from now on, your ‘to do’ lists will be all about things you want to do, not have to do! Suffering in Silence is Out! Reaching Out is In!