“Midlife crisis” or “midlife transition” is a term often used to describe the changes that many adults experience at some point in their life. Similar to the physical, emotional, and hormonal changes that adolescents experience during puberty, the midlife crisis describes a similar phenomenon. In both cases, the individual is struggling with some kind of identity crisis. For adolescents, it is the search for individualism, the desire for social acceptance, and the confusion of their life purpose and career goals.
Adults who find themselves experiencing a midlife crisis typically struggle with the reflection of their life’s successes and failures, goals, and decisions they’ve made throughout life, and the quality of their relationships, to name a few. They also may feel a sudden discontent or boredom for their lifestyle, feel restless and/or want to do something different, and confusion about which direction their life is heading. Other signs may include excessive daydreaming; increased irritability, anger, frustration, or resentment towards self or others; impulsive use of alcohol, drugs, or gambling; increase or decrease in sexual drive; sexual affairs (more commonly with someone younger) and increase or decrease in ambition.
When adults, both men and women, reach their middle age (approximately between age 45 and 64), they sometimes have a tendency to reassess their life and make changes “while they still have time”. Psychologist Elliot Jacques researched this phenomenon and in his article, “Death and the Midlife Crisis”, affirmed that when individuals reach the middle of their life, they begin to think about their mortality and desire “more” before their life ends. Presumably, such thoughts have the potential to lead people to panic about their life which can lead to what we consider to be midlife crisis. While this can be a potentially difficult and traumatic time in one’s life (and those around them), here are some tips to help you overcome such obstacles.
1. Accept feelings
Midlife crisis/transition tends to bring about thoughts and feelings that can be uncomfortable or unsettling. Especially when these thoughts include the desire for more out of life or questioning past decisions, individuals may feel guilty or deny this new perception of life. Denying that these feelings exist can ultimately result in more impulsivity or decisions to participate in activities that can be regretted later. Instead, try spending more time reflecting on your life and what aspects are causing you sudden unhappiness. It is very possible to make changes that can increase your happiness, but those that you won’t regret at a later time. You may wish to reassess your relationship with a spouse or significant other, time spent with your children or the relationship you have developed with them, your career, and/or your general way of life. By putting thought into these areas, you may discover ways you can make changes so that your life continues to move in a positive direction. Midlife crisis has taken on a negative connotation through the years, but it doesn’t have to be a bad time in your life, rather, a new and positive way of living.
2. Spend more time with loved ones
As you take the time to reflect on your life and your relationships with those around you, you may conclude that your life has become “too comfortable”, meaning that you have fallen into a routine that is less exciting and potentially boring. Rather than looking elsewhere to find excitement and new experiences, try spending more time with those loved ones that brought you happiness up until this point. In regards to a significant other or spouse, try finding ways to rekindle the relationship that brought you together in the first place. Most importantly, talk to your partner about these issues, and together, find ways to improve and enhance the relationship. You may decide to have more “dates” together, go away on vacation as a couple, and spend more time talking about your memories, positive moments in your relationship, and doing new exciting things together. In addition, you may find increased contentment in spending more quality time with your children. When you go through this phase of reassessing your life, you may have an “eye-opening experience”, in which you desire to have a closer relationship with those around you, and children are very much a part of that. Much of what you may be experiencing includes trying to find greater fulfillment in different areas of your life. Spending more time with those around you can help you accomplish this.
3. Set new goals
During this reflection of your life, where you think about your family, relationships with others, and your career accomplishments, it may be wise to try and set some new goals. This can give you a renewed sense of excitement and motivation. Over time, your sense of achievement and success may have changed, and it may therefore be a good time to re-evaluate this and change it as needed. For example, you may find that your priorities in life have changed, and rather than working an excessive amount of hours each week, you may decide to cut back and do some traveling or vacationing with your family. It’s important to look at what is significant to you, and make changes in those areas that you feel might be lacking.
4. Change your habits
It can be wise to take a look at your life and your habits and determine which may be detrimental to your health. Factors including excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking, and drugs can all be more toxic to your body and be doing more harm than you may realize. If you haven’t done so already, it may be a good idea to take on a new, healthier perspective of your life. This means quitting smoking and/or the use of drugs, limiting your alcohol consumption, controlling your weight, increasing exercise, and doing more to promote healthy well-being. This midlife “crisis” can turn into a blessing if it helps you turn your life around. Use this as your chance to make all the changes you’ve wanted to make!
5. Take care of yourself
One of the most common fears about getting older is developing health problems and not being around to enjoy the golden years. There is a great deal you can do now to maintain good health. One way to do this is to keep a balanced diet and restrict some of the higher-calorie food you may be consuming. This can keep your body in better shape and can prevent some heart conditions (that depend on diet and lifestyle). You may want to increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish, and decrease your intake of deep-fried foods, foods with high sodium, and sugary foods. Another way to properly take care of yourself is to get enough sleep each night. Sleep can be a great way to rejuvenate yourself! By getting enough sleep each night, you may find that you have more energy and are able to do more. By doing more, you may feel more satisfied with your life!
Engaging yourself in more physical exercise can have wonderful benefits. The activity in itself releases endorphins, which helps to decrease any feelings of depression and gives you a good overall sense of health and well-being. It can help you stay physically fit, which can prevent (or prolong) certain medical problems that seem to be prevalent as people age, including coronary heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, and certain cancers. Exercise is also a great way to relieve stress and feel good about yourself!
7. Discover new hobbies
This is an excellent time to engage in new activities that you always said you would try! Take up boating, fishing, crafting, or collecting items that you appreciate. People often say they’ve “always wanted” to partake in certain activities but never found the time to do it, so your time may be now! Seize the day and seek out activities or hobbies that would be fun to try out!
One of the great things about getting older is having the ability and opportunity to try new things that were impossible when you were younger. For some, traveling is something that is often desired but may be rarely accomplished. If you are someone who has wanted to travel but has not found the time to do so (with a career, family, etc), perhaps now is the time to plan such trips. Use your imagination, and let your dreams take over! You can make this experience a positive one!
For some, part of a midlife crisis involves the desire to do more in life. For some, they feel bored with their regular routine and wish they could find other ways to spend their time. For others, they simply wish to get more involved within the community and have few resources to do so. In either scenario, volunteering for your favorite cause might be a feasible option. Donating your time can be a fulfilling pastime, and just may be the change you are looking for!
10. Join a group/mental health
One of the most important things to remember is that you are NOT alone in this! Many men and women experience the same feelings and vulnerabilities you are feeling now. It may be beneficial for you to be around people who understand what you’re going through. A support group or private counseling can be an excellent way for you to cope with these new changes. With a support group, you may be able to seek comfort in the commonalities of those experiencing the same things you are. With individual counseling, you’ll have the chance to express all your fears, anxieties, insecurities, and feelings related to the changes you are going through. Either way, seeking some help to get you through this time can be exceptionally more beneficial than trying to work it out alone.
A final note:
During the course of your life, you are going to experience many different phases and changes. Some will be wonderful and some will be challenging. Life is just one big cycle after another. So instead of fighting it, try to embrace it, feel it, experience it, and work to understand that it is all a natural part of life.
There is certainly enough information out there to help you to know and understand that what you are experiencing now and what you may be experiencing in the future is normal and expected for almost everyone. Most importantly, if you are experiencing any difficulties, don’t be afraid to get help to improve your passage through this period of time.
The bottom line? Anticipate, prepare, and just enjoy the ride. Be glad you are here to be part of the experience!