It’s common for a middle-aged American to experience a midlife crisis, but this chapter in their lives doesn’t have to be a breaking point. With Mindful direction, a midlife “crisis” could be an opportunity for growth.
The term “midlife crisis” was first coined in 1965 by psychoanalyst, Elliot Jacques. It’s defined as a time in the midpoint of a person’s life where they feel distressed and hope to change their future course. Ten to 26 percent of adults ranging between the ages of 37 years old and 75 years old experience midlife crises. It’s often triggered by significant life events like the death of a parent, divorce, an “empty nest,” or even a birthday.
While men are more commonly associated with midlife crises, it’s found in both genders. People generally feel a loss of individual identity, fear growing older and are afraid of not being able to accomplish their goals. A person may try to solve this problem by proving their self worth through their career and purchasing expensive “status symbols” (typically found among men). Or they may try to further their personal relationships or search for their own identities outside of these relationships (typically found in women).
This midlife episode doesn’t have to be a crisis. It can be a time for reflection on goals and the future as well as a time for meditation on spiritual matters. This process becomes destructive when a person makes unhealthy and ill-advised choices or becomes depressed. Depression during a midlife crisis is far too common and extremely unhealthy. It can lead to anxiety, change in sleeping or eating habits, physical aches, and feelings of helplessness. To avoid these pitfalls, it’s best to approach this midlife episode as a time of growth not self-destruction.
Here are some Mindful You tips for a healthy “midlife transition”
- Write down your feelings. Take the time to write down your thoughts and desires. This will help you further connect to your feelings. Consider listing the things that you’re grateful for, the things you have accomplished in your life, and future plans.
- Stay positive. It’s easy to focus on the things you didn’t accomplish or your failures. Instead, try to stay positive. Surround yourself with positive people. And remember that you have greater control and freedom in your life now than you’ve ever had in past. So be encouraged, not dismayed.
- Make some changes. Use this midlife evaluation period as a time to explore new opportunities. Consider traveling, taking up a new hobby, making new friends, or furthering your education. If you realize that something in your life isn’t working, like a job or relationship, have the courage and wise judgment to do something about it.
- Seek help. There’s no shame in asking for help. Talk to a professional if your midlife “transition” is becoming more of a “crisis.”