I’m 45 (aka 18 with 27 years experience). Prime mid-life crisis age. Or is it? Is there actually such a thing as a midlife crisis?
Developmental psychologists study people through the lifespan and while most of the focus has been on the earliest and later stages of life, the experts will tell you that those of us in the middle are still growing and developing and changing.
Benefits of midlife
That’s mostly a good thing. In fact at middle age (generally considered to be sometime around 40+) our thinking skills may be better than they were when we were younger. At this age life while life can be at its most stressful – thanks to a combination of work, children and finances – we’re better equipped to cope with it than at any point previously.
Other benefits of reaching midlife include less emotional volatility (it turns out that we take a long while to master our feelings and we get increasingly better at it with age), and we become less and less fussed about others’ expectations of us. We are basically better able to find contentment with who we are.
But what is it about this age that it also brings confusion, frustration and existential angst? More than once in recent months I’ve heard a cry from similarly aged friends and colleagues, ‘I think I’m having a midlife crisis!’
A period of transition
The 40-something (or even late 30s) transition period is a very real thing – and not just for the blokes. Women at this age can and do experience a midlife ‘quest for identity,’ aka a midlife crisis. This is especially true when so much of ‘us’ – and our hopes and dreams for the future – are put on hold to pour our energy into raising children. As the kids get older, the new routines and challenges and changes can especially strain us at this age.
It’s at this point, when the kids become a little less dependent on us and we begin to have the mental time and space to consider ourselves again, we start to wonder, ‘What next?’
Is there now a chance to rekindle those dreams? Can I be the person I was before children or is it time for reinvention? Do I want to return to my old career or start something new? Can I begin again? What do I do? Who am I?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research on this topic, and these are my tips for coping with the midlife transition.
How to push through a midlife crisis
1. Look to the future
Dreaming about the future and the possibilities it could hold is a motivating force. If we move our minds away from the problems of today, we can begin to shift, psychologically, towards a better place to get unstuck.
2. Pick a goal
Start small. Think of something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t – yet. Write it down. What’s the first tiny step you need to take to achieve your goal? Think baby steps here. Write that down. Next, do it and celebrate your small but important win.
3. Celebrate successes of the recent past
We often get stuck in the challenges and problems of today and focus on the things that we have not yet achieved. Put that aside for a moment and focus on what you have achieved, no matter how small it may seem. Give yourself a pat on the back for what you have achieved and keep focusing on the wins rather than the losses.
4. Get out and about
Try to make time to explore new things – even if it’s just a new place for a cheeky Friday night wine with the mister. New places and people will help open your mind to the possibilities and spark long dormant creative and adventurous leanings. You’ll feel more capable of taking any necessary bigger leaps after you’ve mastered some small steps.
How do you feel as you get older?
Image by Camille Orgel