**This post was originally published on The Blind Cook and has been slightly edited for this blog.
I turned 36 recently. I still consider 36 mid-thirties, but my husband, John, likes to annoy me and say I’m in my upper thirties now. When I was young, 36 sounded so grown-up. Now that I’m actually a grown-up, I don’t feel much like an adult at all. Example: I still shudder when someone refers to me or my girlfriends as women.
“You mean us girls?” I’d say.
At family weddings, I’ll ask, “Where’s the kids table?” because I still classify myself separately from the adults/parents.
Age is often a state of mind. I’m happier now than I was in my twenties because I am more grounded and self aware. Even so, aging does concern me. I actually think I might be better off blind since I’ll never know how many wrinkles have formed. The downside is if I miraculously regain vision one day, I’m in for a total shocker.
Having Neuromyelitis Optica or NMO makes growing older even more bittersweet: a part of you is just happy to make it another day, but the idea of the unknown future of your health can be scary. Because I want to be youthful and healthy as long as possible, there are a few rules to life I follow. In order to refrain from cliche and repetition of my tips for a healthier, happier life, I’m instead going to give you a list of perhaps trivial and inconsequential advice based on my own personal experiences. Heed some, heed none—just let these spark ideas and guide you to your own rules.
3 Things I Do to Stay, Feel, Be Young in Spite of NMO
1. Love my skin.
When I was a teenager, as many southern Californians do, I worshiped the sun. I spent two years of high school in L.A., and I would occasionally skip school for the beach. During the summer, our family drove down to Mexico and camped on the beach. This meant days of being in the scorching Mexican sun from sunrise to sunset with only a tent to shield us from the harsh rays. I was an idiot on one of these trips and only donned tanning oil of SPF 2 the entire time. When I returned home, I was so burnt, I could barely pull my shorts down to use the restroom. Such a dummy.
I’m told I have freckles on my cheeks now, and I’m pretty sure they’re a direct result of all the tanning I used to do. I still love the sun, laying out at the pool, and beach vacations, but now I’m ultra paranoid about my face.
We’ve all heard the sun causes premature aging, so now I wear at least SPF 30 on my face daily, and if I’m going to be outside for an extended period of time, such as when I’m at the beach or a music festival, I slather on the sunblock multiple times and don a hat and shades. (Yes, even though I can’t see, my eyes are still very sensitive to light—even more so now than before when I had vision.) One time, I was even told I looked like a geisha because my face was so white from the sunblock, but I didn’t care. Better a geisha than an old piece of leather.
My mama taught me the importance of skin care when I was young, and I’m sure if she’d still been alive when I was a sun-loving teenager, she would’ve flipped, so I’ve been cleansing, toning, and moisturizing my face since I was 12. Many say I have pretty good skin for my age, and while a majority of it is likely due to genetics, I’m sure a substantial part of it is because I’ve taken care of my skin with a daily regimen for decades.
Now that I’m in my thirties, I’ve added serums and eye creams to my routine. Your skin will be more prone to redness in your thirties, and then wrinkles in your forties—yikes!—which means I’ll be adding some anti-wrinkle solutions to my regimen soon, too.
Some of the products I use are expensive, others are affordable drugstore brands. I would say don’t worry so much about brands, but rather, make sure you’re consistent. Personally, I use a mild cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF in the AM, and remove all makeup, cleanse, tone, apply serum, eye cream, and moisturizer before bed. I exfoliate at least once a week and apply moisturizing masks after stints of travel. And don’t forget the neck and décolletage! Many don’t realize the skin on their neck and upper chest is the same kind of skin on the face, so these areas need to be treated with the same respect.
I understand not everyone can be bothered by such a skin regimen, so for those minimalists, I say, at the very least, use SPF and cleanse.
2. Laugh a lot.
Even if after reading #1 has made you deathly afraid of wrinkles, smile lines are still a thousand times better than frown lines.
I believe humor is vital to life’s survival. Lots of situations and circumstances suck. And while laughing at hardships won’t make them go away, it will eventually make them better, or at least your perspective of them will improve.
One of my professors in grad school said something that I will always remember: “Marry someone with whom you can carry a conversation.” I’d also follow that up with, “Marry someone who makes you laugh.” Because, in spite of heeding advice #1, we’ll still get old and wrinkly, and physical attraction is fleeting. Emotions are ephemeral, too, so life partnerships and marriages shouldn’t be based on passion alone.
It feels so good to share in laughter. Laughter and humor will always keep you feeling young at heart.
3. De-stress frequently and without guilt.
The root cause of many autoimmune diseases is stress and one’s inability to deal with it in a healthy way. I learned after the long phase of getting diagnosed with NMO that sometimes, we need to take a break from life and concentrate on ourselves. If you’re not happy and healthy, your family, friends, and coworkers won’t be either.
De-stressing could mean many things to many people. For me, de-stressing includes yoga, reading, watching TV, massages, spa treatments, walks, naps, a beer, or rocking out to music. Sometimes these involve other people, sometimes not. I’m naturally an introvert, so I need alone time to recharge.
Do something small every day to de-stress: shower or bathe, read, take a walk. Each week, do something a little more for yourself to de-stress: have some wine, watch a movie, hang out with a friend. Do something bigger every month: get a massage, work on a painting or poem, go on a kids-free date with your partner. Then splurge to de-stress at least once a year: go on vacation!
Everyone’s different. Find what works for you, so long as it reenergizes you so you can be at your best in life. You deserve it.