For many people, entering middle-age or midlife signifies a new chapter for taking it slow and to reflect. However, the realization may bring on feelings of anxiety when they do not realise where they are heading to, dealing with something they no longer recognize or dealing with the loss of their loved ones.
This is what happens when midlife crisis sets in.
What is midlife crisis?
Coined by Canadian psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques in 1965, the definition of midlife crisis is a loss of self-confidence and feeling of anxiety, often due to the transition of identity and self-confidence that often occur during midlife.
As you face these existential concerns and come to terms with the realization that your life has taken into a different form that you have envisioned, the various changes that come with this new stage in life do bring up some complex emotions. While these feelings may not necessarily spark a crisis, they are worth exploring and discussing.
What are the Common Signs and Symptoms of Midlife Crisis
Also known as the middle age crisis, Midlife crisis signs can vary widely from person to person. The most common midlife crisis age is between 35 and 55. While midlife crisis can take on many forms, there are a few commons signs of midlife crisis creeping, and often include the following:
1. Losing purpose in life
One common telltale sign of midlife crisis is the sense of losing purpose in life, or a setting in of a realisation of a bigger purpose than what your day-to-day life currently offers, and then going down on a downward spiral thereafter.
2. Confusion or unclear direction
Feeling confused or having a loss in the sense of direction can mean that you may no longer be satisfied with what you are doing now or where you are. While you may be good at doing what you are doing now, there is a loss of connection to how this is helping where you would like to head to.
3. Successful but not satisfied
Often, many people facing midlife crisis may harbour this feeling of “Is this all there is to my work?” You may also feel unmotivated (what can you do about it) because what you do at work no longer satisfy your emotional or mental needs.
4. Overwhelmed by the time left
As years roll by, some of us may feel overwhelmed by the ticking clock – the time we have left to pursue our dreams or other interest in our lives.
5. Everything else feels like a chore
Many successful people have reached the pinnacle of their career where they will be known for what they have done and their strengths. This would mean being relied on to accomplish tasks and getting rewarded for a job well done. But some may begin to set in an intersection where they have the strength but lacking passion in executing the tasks.
In addition to the above, midlife crisis in men include experiencing the loss of sex drive, decreased levels of testosterone and feelings of sadness. Midlife crisis in women is a significant concern and tends to be complex due to menopause, which has a major impact on their midlife experiences.
Coping with Midlife Crisis
Everyone may experience challenges in midlife, which is like any other phase of life. And not all these challenges may turn out to be an actual crisis after all.
While some of these challenges may be difficult to manage as it will naturally involve anger and sadness, midlife crisis can be often taken as a wake-up call to the fact that we will need to take care of ourselves better.
Below are some ways to cope with a midlife crisis:
1. Identify and spot what is happening
While this may sound simple, trying to spot and identify what is happening in your life is a profound act which is an important step. By acknowledging that you are struggling and accepting any changes associated with life, you allow yourself the space to reflect on what you need to do next.
2. Making subtle changes in life
Midlife is a good opportunity to make some meaningful changes. If a person is no longer feeling satisfied by their lives, they can start making choices based on needs instead of basing off the needs of others. For instance, this could mean starting a side project, to taking up an exercise to keep in shape, or making a lateral move to a new career.
While this may be hard for many as the guilt of selfishness may kick in, it is also important to take the opportunity to reflect and re-evaluate on the boundaries you should set upon yourself.
3. Talk to someone
What is worse than facing a midlife crisis? Bottling your own feelings. When you are faced with uncertainty or doubts, it is best to confide in someone you trust. They could be your friend, partner or even a doctor or a trained therapist. Having a support is important, as isolation can fuel disappointment and discontent even further.
Alternatively, keeping a journal can help you make sense of your thoughts and feelings, and allowing you to track any subtle changes and gain understanding to any stressors you are handling in your life or career.
4. Control your inner critic
We are wired to achieve something and be optimistic about our future. However, many adults in their midlife may experience disappointment when they find themselves comparing achievements of others and using that to determined that they have fallen short.
However, it is important you recognise that you run your own race. One way to overcome this inner critic of yours is to reframe your thoughts to stop the incessant rumination. A constant reminder such as “Stop comparing” or “I run my own race” may help you catch yourself from spinning out of control.
5. Taking it slowly
As you enter midlife, there is an opportunity where you will want to act impulsively and assuming everything is urgent due to the feeling of running out of time. However, this is also what drives people to make poor, and even disastrous decisions.
Hence, it is important to slow down and think through things. Making a change for the sake of it is not a good plan. If the decision is big, more thought should be given to it.
A midlife crisis does not necessarily need to be a crisis. Instead, you should take it as an opportunity for you to take control and make different choices in a new juncture of your life. If you have tried the above tips things and still find yourself at a crossroads, you can reach out to a trusted therapist you like to help you carve out a path to the next chapter of your life.
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