4 Tell-Tale Signs of a Mid-Life Crisis (and What to do about it)

Usually the term ‘mid-life crisis’ is full of negative connotations, but some experts believe that this state of mind can provide wonderful opportunities for growth and renewal. Typically it hits men and women between their early 40s to mid 50s (friends tell me that it tends to hit men a bit later than women). But it doesn’t always have to be a ‘crisis’; included below are some tips to help transform it from a ‘mental breakdown’ to a ‘mental breakthrough’ (the preferred word, according to social commentator Brene Brown!).

1. You’re questioning your life choices: Your life may not be what you expected it to be at this stage. In some cases, that’s okay, if you’re happy but, if not, then it’s time for some changes (slowly, go slowly). There can be a sudden desire to follow your own dreams, as you may realise that you were living your life according to someone else’s vision for you.

THE FIX 1: This is the time to come up with solutions and changes that will bring you closer to your own dreams – think big and don’t limit yourself! At the same time, go slowly and avoid rash decisions.

The FIX 2: Sometimes we need to reject the ideologies forced upon us, and to come up with our own ones, to be really happy. This could mean realising that what you’re doing IS important and valuable, regardless of what society tells you (for instance, staying at home to bring up children).

2. You’re feeling anxious or depressed: According to Brene, “The truth is that the midlife unraveling is a series of painful nudges strung together by low-grade anxiety and depression, quiet desperation, and an insidious loss of control. By low-grade, quiet, and insidious, I mean it’s enough to make you crazy, but seldom enough for people on the outside to validate the struggle or offer you help and respite. It’s the dangerous kind of suffering – the kind that allows you to pretend that everything is okay.”

The FIX: This is the time to talk – with friends, family and trusted confidantes – because a problem shared really is a problem halved. You are not a failure. You are honest…and human, like the rest of us.

3. You feel like you’re going around the bend: Sometimes it’s your anger that shock you, or the fact that you feel so bored or lonely a lot of the time, or possibly that you don’t remember the last time you had fun. Whatever it is, it’s making you feel crazy, and not like yourself. You may feel like you’ve nothing to look forward to, but that’s not helping your mood.

The FIX: Work out what you need in your life in order to feel better. Maybe you need some time away, alone. Perhaps you need more support? Or maybe you need to be with like-minded people more often? Maybe you need to plan some fun things in the diary? Perhaps it’s time (finally) to bite the bullet and start a new hobby? Or maybe you just need to slow down? Start trying to see the future in a more optimistic light. Maybe write down an ideal vision of how you’d like life to be in 5 or 10 years from now. It may look very good – and you may surprise yourself that you’ve more optimism than you gave yourself credit for.

4. You have that feeling that something has been lost: Unsurprisingly, we feel a sense of loss when we confront the reality of our life, and we realise it might not be as we imagined. You could be suffering from bereavement right now. Or maybe you feel like you’ve lost yourself somewhere along the way? If left alone, this can lead to depression. But it’s not to late – or too complicated – to sort out.

The FIX: It’s not all doom-and-gloom. At this point in your life, you know yourself more and you have wisdom on your side. It’s a great time to start writing down some new goals for the next few years. Flip things on their head: thinking that there must be more to life can actually be a good thing. It means you have a passion and thirst for life. Now it’s a matter of finding a focus for that passion.

The Good News

One recent study from the British Psychological Society in 2016 discovered that individuals who experience either a quarter or mid-life crisis by becoming very focused on their purpose in life were likely to find creative solutions for their challenges.

According to one of the lead researchers, Dr Robinson: “While mid-life crisis episodes bring distress and feelings of uncertainty, they also bring openness to new ideas and stimuli that can bring insight and creative solutions, which can move our development forward. This enhanced curiosity may be the ‘silver lining’ of crisis.”

Blog Post by Maebh Coyle