How to Deal with Midlife Crisis

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You got your education. You launched your career. You decided to get married and have a family. Your kids are out of the house and on their own.To anyone who knows you, your life looks quite perfect. So why are you feeling so unhappy and down at midlife?

While your journey in life may be very different from what I described above, the reality is if you’re over 45, you may have experienced what many say feels like a midlife crisis. A midlife crisis can be a time of less joy and contentment, despite achieving much success in your personal and professional life.

Based on economic studies, some experts believe that there is a natural dip in our wellbeing at midlife - a U-shaped curve in life satisfaction and happiness over our life cycle.

Daniel Pink, author of 10 best-selling books, was quoted in a NextAvenue.org blog about the U-shape curve, saying,

“we don’t have the research to support what is often called a midlife crisis, but that there are similar experiences akin to a slight dip or slump in our individual happiness at midlife that happens across the world when people experience certain things like empty nesting or realize their level of professional success (or lack thereof) in their 50’s.”

While the severity of the dip in our feelings at midlife is not life-threatening, it can be a period of sadness and personal adjustments that affect our health, our ability to get a great night’s sleep or to be productive in our jobs.It can negatively impact our relationships and our ability to think clearly about “what’s next” in our life.

Pink suggests that we can lift ourselves out of a slump and deal with a midlife crisis by:
  • Focusing on Our Top 5 Goals in Life - don’t let too many goals, or confusion or a lack of being able to focus become a barrier that keeps you from figuring them out. It’s just as important to know what you don’t want, as to what you do want at midlife and beyond.
  • Stopping the Comparison Game - ignore what others are doing. The expression, “comparison is the thief of joy,” is true. Everyone’s situation is different, and you’ll do yourself a huge disservice if you compare your life to anyone else’s.
  • Getting a Mentor – find someone more experienced and older who has already navigated phases of life you have yet to experience. We’re never too old to have a mentor we trust who can guide us because they’ve “gone before us.”
You might also consider working with a midlife transitions coach like myself who specializes in helping people navigate challenges at midlife and beyond.

Jonathan Rauch, author of The Happiness Curve, believes if we figure out ways to deal with the dip in happiness at midlife, and accept it as a normal part of the human experience, we might end up happier than ever in the future.

If you think you’re dealing with a midlife crisis, consider the following:
  • Don’t Berate Yourself. If you’re going through midlife difficulties, realize that it’s almost a universal experience. Most people have a midlife slump to some degree. Don’t treat yourself like some kind of failure for feeling the way you, as that negative mindset will only make things worse.
  • Understand What You Can Change and What You Can’t. At midlife, there are things you can radically modify and other things that you cannot. Focus on the things you can change that you may want to renegotiate or refine in some way. With any change, start with small steps that will transform aspects of your life over time, so you can feel happier and more aligned with your values and purpose.
  • Focus on Being Present. When we focus on the past, we get depressed. When we focus on the future, we get anxious. When we focus on the present moment, we tune into our awareness about what we’re feeling and thinking. We can observe what’s really happening vs responding from a highly agitated emotional state. Choosing to be fully present can shift us to a neutral emotional state where we can better discern decisions about our future.

While midlife doesn’t necessarily mark the beginning of some kind of decline, don’t ignore mental or physical symptoms that you may be experiencing. If you’re feeling depressed for several weeks, talk to a mental health counselor. If you’re experiencing physical symptoms, contact your doctor to rule out anything that may require immediate attention.

Dealing with a midlife crisis can be an opportunity to reflect and evaluate the kind of life you’re living now, so you can close the gap on where you are and where you want to be in your future.

My own midlife experience was a catalyst for positive change and transformation years ago. I now work with executives to help them navigate midlife transitions successfully. Schedule a complimentary call with me by clicking here. Together, we can figure out if I can help you. At a minimum, I’ll be able to recommend some good next steps for you.

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