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Why Do We Experience Midlife Crisis?

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The term “midlife crisis” was originally coined by the psychoanalyst Elliott Jacques in the 1960s. Jacques used the term to describe depressive periods marked by abrupt and often radical life changes that he observed among patients in their mid- to late-30s. As the idea spread through the psychological field and eventually entered popular thought, the assumption that midlife crises were inevitable for people entering middle age became increasingly common.

“Midlife” is generally identified as the interval between the ages of 40 and 60, though this range can vary. Some psychological studies have noted downturns in happiness and life satisfaction as participants approached middle age, but these changes are not always drastic. Other studies have found that, on the contrary, participants’ feelings of satisfaction and happiness rose entering midlife and declined as they approached old age. One particular study claimed that only around 10 to 20 per cent of adults definitively claim to have undergone midlife crises.

So, on the one hand, it’s not necessarily true that midlife crises are an unavoidable reality for anyone aged 40 and above. It is true, however, that many of us will face additional stressors and major life changes as we enter middle age. Shifting responsibilities, career changes, physical ageing, and other circumstances can make midlife a rocky, distressing time. This feature will help you understand common sources of stress in midlife and offer some tips for developing a more age-positive approach to life.

 

What Causes Midlife Crises?

Approaching middle age comes with many very concrete challenges and stressors that can set off or intensify feelings of self-doubt, despair, or nostalgia for the past. These emotions, and many others that you might associate with a midlife crisis, can arise from major life changes in the following areas:

 

1 Physical Condition

It’s just a fact of life that as you age, your body changes and even weakens in many ways. As you enter midlife, you might find that you’re no longer as strong, flexible, or energetic as you were when you were younger. You could even find yourself more susceptible to illness, injury, or chronic health conditions like arthritis or high blood pressure. These bodily changes are stressful for anyone to experience and may give rise to feelings of depression or anxiety about the future.

 

2 Family Dynamics

If you have children, chances are that they’ll be entering adulthood, getting jobs, and maybe even moving out at around the same time that you hit midlife. Many middle-aged parents feel grief about these experiences, a condition popularly known as empty nest syndrome. Having to assume more involved caregiving responsibilities for your own elderly parents may also make midlife more stressful for you.

 

3 Career

Many people are also likely to change careers around the age of 40, which means they’re learning their way around new work responsibilities as they enter midlife. Others may be assuming higher positions at their workplaces, while still others might feel that their careers have become stagnant. Work-related stress, low job satisfaction, and exhaustion from overwork are all common problems for middle-aged adults.

Just reading that could make you stressed! However, its about being armed with the knowledge of natural changes and that it’s how we approach those changes that counts.

 

So How Do You Successfully Navigate a Midlife Crisis?

While midlife can be tumultuous for many, this time also presents fruitful opportunities to rediscover yourself, grow, and find new sources of joy. The following strategies can help you develop a more positive outlook on your life and circumstances and make the most of these critical years:

 

1 Make Peace with Change

Change happens to everyone as they go through life, whether they like it or not. Finding ways to accept this fact will help you find peace and satisfaction in middle age. Repressing your conflicted or upset feelings will only lead you to unhealthy coping mechanisms and further stress, so find ways to express and process them healthily instead. Journalling, talking to a trusted friend or family member, or even counselling with a qualified mental health professional may all be helpful outlets for your emotions.

 

2 Look for a Sense of Purpose

Once you accept the inevitability of change and the reality of your personal limitations, you can then focus on building your emotional resilience and adapting to your new circumstances. Instead of giving in to the notion that the best years of your life are now gone, think about what activities can help you find a renewed sense of purpose. Pick up a new hobby, learn a new skill, or rediscover interests from the past now that you finally have time for them. In addition to skill-building experiences, travelling and volunteering in your community are other potentially fulfilling ways to use your time.

 

3 Focus on Self-Care

Developing healthy habits can help you manage the inevitable physical changes that accompany ageing. Midlife is the perfect time to reevaluate your diet, exercise routines, and sleeping habits. Making the extra effort to eat healthier and incorporate regular exercise into your everyday schedule will keep you in good health for much longer. It’s also best for adults to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night, so do experiment with bedtime rituals to improve your sleep hygiene.

If you find yourself struggling to find joy, purpose, or emotional satisfaction in midlife, you’re not alone. Strive to understand your particular stressors, develop positive coping mechanisms, and seek out emotional support when you need it. With these efforts, you’ll not only be able to navigate your midlife crisis, but also keep yourself satisfied and happy for years to come.

Get in touch with Scarlett Vespa today

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