Midlife crisis sounds so dramatic, doesn’t it? The dictionary definition of crisis has two interpretations. It can mean a time of extreme trouble or danger, as well as a crucial stage or turning point in the course of anything. So, perhaps the phrase midlife crisis is not so off track.
Read on to find out how I survived my midlife crisis and how you can too.
In fact, the term didn’t even exist when I born in 1962. It was invented by psychoanalyst, Elliot Jaques. He released a paper entitled Death and The Midlife Crisis in 1965 following a study of creative geniuses. The term passed into popular culture and remains to this day.
Midlife is typically anywhere between the ages of forty and fifty-five. A midlife crisis used to belong exclusively to the male domain but it’s all changed now.
Who knew women would start having their own midlife crises, as well. One school of thought puts it down to the fact that our working lives have changed so much. Women’s careers now mirror the traditional male pattern of working in many ways. So, it’s not unrealistic for us to have the same uneasy feelings at midlife, too.
My Midlife Crises
My midlife crisis started in my early forties, but I didn’t recognise it as that, at the time. Looking back now and recalling the feelings I had, I can certainly see the signs were there.
I was married at the time, with two children, a nice house and a good job. Nevertheless, feelings of ‘is this it?’ still started to creep in. If my life so far had been a journey, was this the pinnacle? Had I reached the goal but just hadn’t realised it? If I had, surely it meant everything would now level out. Then, in time, begin to dip.
Questioning everything was a big part of my midlife crisis. My marriage, my job and my appearance were all analysed. I became increasingly dissatisfied.
Within the space of a year, I changed my appearance dramatically, got divorced, moved out of the house and bought myself an apartment. Then I changed my job. I also started a part-time business.
Heading For Disaster
While it seemed as though I was on a roll, I was in fact heading for disaster. I started getting bouts of illness that eventually led to pneumonia.
After the illness, it took a good while to get back to full strength. The experience did teach me some very good lessons. Firstly, looking after yourself and your health has to come first. After all, if you don’t have good health, you’ll struggle with so many things. Especially pursuing your dreams or goals.
Secondly, common-sense probably should have told me going through the top three stress-related life changes; divorce, moving house and changing jobs, in a short space of time, would have an impact.
In retrospect, I did have moments where I questioned the speed at which everything was happening. Intuition is a powerful sense and definitely worth paying attention to.
So, if you think you may be heading for a midlife crisis here are some of the signs and advice on how to deal with them.
Hopefully, you won’t do as I did, but instead take your time and not rush into things. There is light at the end of the tunnel and you will get through it. Honest!
Midlife Crisis Warning Signs
Your life suddenly feels empty, even if it’s not. In other words, you may be in a great job with a good salary. You may be in a long-term relationship and live in a lovely house.
But, suddenly it doesn’t feel enough anymore. You want more. You despair about what the future holds. Many aspects of your once satisfying life now seem bleak and boring.
Try to look for challenges within your existing lifestyle. Perhaps you could develop an existing job role. You could make some adjustments to your house or work on a certain aspect of your relationship.
Don’t underestimate the power of hobbies. It may sound old-fashioned as people tend to think of knitting, needlework or stamp collecting; they have their place, too.
Today’s ‘hobbies’ can be anything from scuba diving to marathon running to quilting or vintage clothing.
Making impulsive decisions
It’s so easy to make impulsive decisions when you’re confused about your future. It may be as simple as a change of hairstyle or a colour that’s bold and daring. Or, it could be more damaging like a one-night stand or an affair.
The temptation to just ‘go with it’ when an idea pops into your head, can be very strong. When you’re in the moment, it feels that doing something is better than doing nothing.
But, try to think of possible consequences before you do anything major that could be difficult to reverse. A crazy hairstyle can easily be reversed but an affair is difficult to come back from.
Try to resist getting into situations where you could get caught up in the moment.
Lack of sleep
Peri-menopause and menopause often leads to lack of sleep due to decreasing levels of estrogen. So, you may already be struggling with your sleeping pattern when a midlife crisis hits. The extra stress can add to the night-time disruption.
This is a very difficult problem and one that many midlife women suffer from.
Certainly, the first things to do are to make sure the bed is comfortable, the room is aired and there are no distractions like noise and light. Spoil yourself with a feather pillow for that extra bit of comfort.
Avoid tea, coffee and alcohol before bedtime. Try a ‘winding down’ routine, perhaps a warm bath and a chapter of your book. A hot milky drink can sometimes work but try to avoid anything with caffeine in it. Some people swear by Chamomile tea.
Natural sounds like bird song or waves lapping onto the seashore are very calming.
If you’ve tried all these things and are still having problems, the doctor would be the next port of call. They may prescribe short-term medication so you can break the cycle of poor sleep and hopefully, get back on track.
Feelings of failure
Women in particular are quite good at talking themselves down so inevitably in a midlife crisis, it comes easily. You may feel inadequate and feel you’ve achieved nothing worthwhile in your life.
You tell yourself, who am I kidding, how can I ever achieve any of my dreams? If only you could turn the voice of doubt on its head, how much better you would feel.
Actually, you can train yourself to push away the negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. If you think about it, it’s only the reverse of talking yourself down. If you can make yourself think you’re a failure, then surely you can talk yourself into feeling a success, too!
Affirmations are one way to do this. You can retrain your thought process from failure to success so you can start believing in yourself.
Obsession with appearance
Have you started looking in the mirror at every opportunity to see if there’s another wrinkle forming, or another grey hair? This kind of obsession is typical behaviour in a midlife crisis.
Social expectations of perfection don’t help and can lead to extreme reactions such as surgery, to try and roll back the years.
Try seeing your whole self rather than focusing on things like grey hairs and wrinkles. We’re all aging a little bit more every day but it doesn’t have to be a negative thing.
How you present yourself as a whole, is what counts. Your personality is what people connect with, not your outfit or hair style.
Appearance can make you feel better about yourself, though. So, concentrate on things like clothes that suit you, fit properly and make you feel good when you wear them. Get a hairstyle and colour that flatters your face and is easy to maintain.
The most important, thing though, about your appearance is whether or not you’re happy. When you’re happy on the inside it shows on the outside.
Questioning everything about your past
Many of your thoughts can become centred on self-evaluation. You feel the need to question every decision that brought you to this point in your life. You find yourself analysing past choices in relationships, career and general life-style.
One thing is certain, we cannot go back and change the past. So, constantly asking yourself why you chose a particular route, can be a waste of energy. Unless you can learn a lesson from it. But, you still need to move on.
Instead, try to concentrate your mental energy on any changes you intend to make from this point on.
Change of mindset
Thinking you’re over the hill, past your prime and that your best years have gone, is very common in midlife. Do you wonder if it’s worth the effort to keep striving in life? Perhaps it’s just easier to give in and become the ‘old’ person you see yourself as, in a few years anyway.
We’re all getting older every day. It’s a fact of life and nothing can stop it. But, you don’t have to fall into the stereotypical image of an ‘old’ person, if you don’t want to.
An elderly lady I knew many years ago, was a ‘giggler’ just like me. She was in her eighties, while I was still in my thirties. We belonged to the same writing group and often had the most immense giggling fits, like a couple of teenagers.
It was wonderful and taught me that you can still have a young, fun, outlook even into old age.
Comparisonitis: Comparing your life to others
Comparisonitis is the modern word for ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ Years ago, the neighbours would look out of their window to see a new sofa being delivered next door, so they would have to have a new one, too.
These days, we can all see what each other is doing through social media. But, very often, these ‘so-called’ glossy lifestyles are misleading. They’re just a well thought out, choreographed snap shot of a person’s life.
That person still has to do the shopping, cleaning and go to work, just the same as we all do.
Try to bear that in mind as these feelings can really get to you and eat away at your confidence. Everyone is trying to get by in life as best they can and usually success comes after many years of trying, even though it may seem as though it’s an overnight success.
Feelings of panic – running out of time
Panicking because you fear you’re running out of time can actually make the days and weeks disappear even quicker.
Nobody can stop time, or even slow it down, but you can stop that feeling of panic. The funny thing is that if you slow down, you’ll feel as though time is slowing down, too.
Meditation or yoga are good ways of making yourself stop. As well as traditional practice, a type of meditation could be in the form of a hobby such as needlework, art or a craft. As you become absorbed in being creative, so your mind becomes very focussed and clear.
Feeling as though you’re going crazy
Midlife for women can be emotional at the best of times, with peri-menopause and regular menopausal symptoms bubbling away just under the surface. Add to that, a midlife crisis and you’ve got all the ingredients for a double dose of crazy.
Lots of things spinning round in your head can make you forget things, get angry and become disorganised.
Having someone to talk to can be a life saver at times like this. Quite often, when you start opening up, you find your friends are going through the same thing, too.
Desire to get away from everything
Sometimes a strong desire to run away comes over you. On the way to work you may feel as though you could just carry on past your workplace and keep on driving.
You may fantasise about packing a bag, getting in the car or on the train and going as far away as you possibly can.
It’s just a fantasy that you’d probably never act on. Unless, of course, you do a Shirley Valentine and don’t come back from your holiday. Seriously though, the desire to run away can be strong.
Try talking to your partner, a trusted friend, member of your family or your counsellor. The old saying of a problem shared is a problem halved is very true. As soon as you speak about your struggles, they’ll feel less of a weight on your shoulders.
You Will Come Out The Other Side
If all this sounds like I’ve got a hotline straight to the workings of your mind, it’s because I’ve been through it. I truly sympathise, but can say I’ve come out the other side.
If I was facing it all again, I would have done things differently. For instance, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself.
Also, I would have taken my time to think things through before leaping into action.
That said, I am in a place now where I’m very happy. So, if you’re facing a midlife crisis, take some deep breaths, don’t rush into things and remember you will get through it.