As popular as the term ‘midlife crisis’ is, it is not widely accepted. The term ‘crisis’ depicts a time of intense difficulty or danger, and many people wouldn’t necessarily classify their midlife feelings as a crisis. But does that mean it isn’t?
Technically, the midlife crisis behaviour doesn’t mean something terrible has to happen. It only means that there’s a shift or a change in the way things are done (or felt), and this change is not particularly fun.
The term ‘midlife crisis’ was coined in 1960 by a psychoanalyst named Elliot Jacques, and she explained in her study that the concept of midlife crisis behaviour is much more than most people think it is. This article dives deep into signs and symptoms that can help you identify them and tips to help you overcome them. If you’re set for this, let’s get on with it.
What is a Midlife Crisis?
We already know that a midlife crisis meaning doesn’t mean that something terrible has to happen. It is the period of a person’s life where a person starts to ask life questions about their choices, position, accomplishments, and regrets. It is the stage where a person begins questioning the unexplored parts of their lives.
Midlife crisis usually happens when the person is between 40 and 60 years of age, and a desire for change generally accompanies it.
Midlife crisis doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It doesn’t have to lead to a man divorcing his wife to feel single again or a woman buying herself a sack of adult toys just to replace her man. Indeed, the common ways people try to cope with this season are unhealthy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why we are here — to help you understand the midlife crisis and how to deal with it.
What causes a Midlife Crisis?
Midlife crisis is triggered, which means that not everyone experiences this life transition. Some things that can trigger the feeling include sudden divorce, loss of a close one, or even boredom. Nonetheless, the triggers for a midlife crisis are split into five:
For instance, the male midlife crisis could be triggered when he finds out he has a low testosterone level. For a woman, it could be her body shape or menopause. Other physical changes that can trigger midlife crises include the development of age-related diseases like high blood pressure, medication side effects, and so on.
Changing family dynamics
Another trigger is a sudden change in how your family has been. This could include your children moving out, a child getting married, a divorce or even the loss of a person permanently. This sudden change can bring about a feeling of loneliness, triggering the questions we mentioned earlier. You can start to feel bored and crave a new form of excitement.
Though this can result from a midlife crisis, it can also be a trigger (especially if it wasn’t planned). For instance, if a person was laid off from work at age 39, the person could begin wondering where to begin and hence start the questions of ‘what if?’ In other cases, it could be a new job causing the triggers. People usually start caring for aged parents at midlife, and this new ‘caretaker’ role could take a toll on the person. The person could wonder if that’s how their life would end.
Changes in financial situation
Money has always had the power to change a person’s mood. But it hits differently when you are 40, 50, or 60. At that age, you can’t work as much as you used to, you spend more, and you may not be able to earn more. It is the age where it becomes easy to get poor, which can be scary. Some people start to take different routes, like changing careers, seeking retirement plans, and other options to prepare for the dry days. But this thought is already spiking up a midlife crisis.
Childhood adversity as a risk factor
Many people don’t consider this as a risk factor, but traumatic events in the past can resurface during this time and become a cause of depression. For instance, if you lose your parents in midlife, you can also develop anxiety and worry about your health. The same goes if you experience poverty as a child or face certain uncomfortable situations.
But as we said earlier, not everyone has a midlife crisis. How can you tell if you are facing it?
Signs of Midlife Crisis
The following are the signs of a midlife crisis:
- You meditate over past experiences but mostly missed opportunities, and you feel regret or deep sadness after.
- You feel bored over your life and your daily routine, which causes you to sometimes daydream about how your life would have been if you…
- You feel trapped with your life choices, and like you’re drowning, you desperately want an escape.
- You tend to get angry at the people around you for no reason or just because you feel like they are the ones you are ‘stuck’ with.
- You start to miss who you used to be as a youth so much that it hurts.
- You must ‘cope’ with your feelings with medications, drugs, sex, or even alcohol.
- You feel the need to ‘correct’ the mistakes you made, which causes you to make new changes to your life that others will call impulsive.
Midlife Crisis Symptoms
We already mentioned the signs of midlife crises; what could this be about again? To answer your question, see it this way. The ‘signs’ are the feelings that can help you identify whether or not you have a midlife crisis, while the symptoms are the physical feelings accompanying the signs. That said, here are the common midlife crisis symptoms people experience:
- Depression or mood swings
- The sudden need for self-care,
- Feeling of emptiness
- Exaggerated health concerns.
- Sudden transitions (into investments, religion, or travelling).
- Sleep disorder
- Withdrawal from everyday routines.
- Sudden decrease or an increase in weight
Though these are the usual things you can look out for, the symptoms differ with gender. Let’s look into the male and female differences.
Midlife Crisis Men
The signs of a midlife crisis in a man always circle the feeling of entrapment and disappointment. Most men feel like their choices have confined their options. That’s why you see most men in midlife crisis aiming to ‘free’ themselves in different ways—either by getting a divorce, resigning from their place of work, or buying fast cars.
Midlife Crisis Women
The signs of a midlife crisis in a woman is quite different. For a woman who starts to feel like she hasn’t been giving herself enough attention she needs. Hence, most women tend to shift towards self-love during a midlife crisis. While men might get a divorce to be free, women get a divorce to focus on themselves. Women might also start to travel more, explore different sexual fantasies, change careers, invest in self-care, and more.
How long does a Midlife Crisis last?
There is no definite period for when the midlife crisis lasts. But it could last forever if not taken care of on time. That means all the sleep disorders, anxiety, and regret could last forever if not dealt with on time. So the next question comes: How can one deal with a midlife crisis so it disappears on time? Let’s look at that.
How to deal with a Midlife Crisis?
People cope differently; sometimes, you must find what works for you. Nonetheless, if you want to know how to deal with a midlife crisis, follow these steps:
Acknowledge where you are and accept that you might have made mistakes. Remember that everyone makes mistakes; allow yourself to learn from them while looking forward. Don’t slide into the regret maze. Once you begin to look back, you might not be able to get out.
Ease yourself in
It’s true that you already feel a certain way, and you need a way out. Please don’t rush into it, and don’t do things impulsively. When you have a thought,
- Exercise (dance, jog, or do some yoga).
- Ask yourself if this thought aligns with your purpose (you need a sense of purpose to start with).
- Go for it.
Carry the old ‘you’ with the new ‘you.’
Feeling nostalgic is a common symptom of a midlife crisis, so take advantage of doing something you used to love while trying new things along the way. Visit old friends that don’t trigger you, and make new friends. Also, stay away from alcohol and other depressants if you can.
Start taking care of yourself again, from the physical down to well-being. Eat healthy, exercise, and don’t forget to go shopping every once in a while. Ensure you are getting enough sleep, and if you need to change your location, get up and travel.
Though all these tips will help, they cannot replace talking to healthcare personnel. They can check for the triggers and advise you accordingly. You’d also be able to track your health and vitals to ensure you remain healthy. Do not hesitate to speak to a counsellor about a midlife crisis. That is step number one.