You went to college, you got that dream job, you’ve settled down into a home, you’ve created a community around you. You’ve been an adult for decades — twenty, maybe thirty years. Now what?
A midlife crisis is a time of personal introspection and reevaluation that can occur in your forties or fifties. Far from the cliched divorced dad with a new sports car, midlife crises can happen to anyone and look all sorts of different ways. You might find yourself questioning why you dedicated so much time into a career you’re not sure is fulfilling. You might be increasingly troubled by “what ifs” about parts of your gender or sexuality you’ve never explored. You might think you simply have depression, particularly if you’re experiencing symptoms like feeling apathetic about milestones and accomplishments, and having trouble making decisions or connecting with people you care about. But telltale signs such as frequently reminiscing about the past or suddenly making big plans for the future are clues that point to something more.
Midlife crises are a normal part of life, but navigating them can be difficult. Here are some tips for how to cope.
Talk to someone you trust
This could be a friend, family member, mentor, or clergyperson. Talking about your feelings can help you to make sense of them and to feel less alone. Conversely, isolating yourself may cause your thoughts to spiral to extreme places and give you the false impression that getting through this difficult time is insurmountable.
Reflect honestly on your life
While in a midlife crisis, people tend to over-romanticize certain periods of life while seeing only the negative aspects of others. Make a point of reflecting in more nuanced terms, identifying both what you are grateful for and what you regret, what you have accomplished and what you still want to achieve. Appreciating the positive aspects of your life with gratitude gives you the foundation to act to make any changes to your life that you may desire, as opposed to reacting from a place of despair or panic.
Confront painful feelings
The pace of life slows down for many people in their forties and fifties, leaving space for difficult feelings to bubble to the surface. You might have to finally face unresolved grief over losses that have occurred in your life, and acknowledge the reality that you are now likely closer to the end of your life than the beginning. You may feel unmoored about changing generational family dynamics — parents and parental figures are aging and passing away, and if you have children they are likely growing up to be more independent and less reliant on you. If you are married or partnered, that person might be quite different from who they were when you met all those years ago (as are you). As tempting as it may be, don’t push away these realities — understanding and accepting them are key to determining how to move forward.
Make slow changes
If you are feeling dissatisfied with your life it’s positive to make some changes that will improve your situation. This could mean starting a new hobby or spending more time with your loved ones, or more significant shifts like changing your job or re-evaluating your relationships. Whatever changes are in store, take slow, intentional steps to implement them. This will help you assess whether or not you are investing in your long-term happiness and course correct where needed.
Take care of yourself
Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Ensuring that you are not neglecting your basic needs and are taking care of your physical and mental health will help you to cope with the stress of a midlife crisis.
Seek professional help, if needed
If you find yourself needing additional support to cope with a midlife crisis, it might be time to talk to a therapist. Therapy can help you to understand your specific circumstances and find answers.
At Salt River Therapy, we view midlife crises as not only a time of change and transition, but also a time of opportunity. We’re ready to support you — click the button below to set up a free phone consultation, and we can discuss how you can use this time to reflect on your life, make positive changes, and to find your new purpose.