We’re all familiar with the clichés: Joe from next door shows up in a convertible with higher payments than his mortgage; Carol quits a successful law career to become a yoga instructor in Bali. We look at each other and nod, mouthing the words: midlife crisis.
But all jokes aside, midlife crises are very real, and can have serious consequences for your mental health. But in order to cope, we first have to cut through the jokes and determine what we’re really talking about.
What Is a Midlife Crisis?
Midlife crises typically take place in a person’s mid- to late-30s through their mid-40s. For many people, this can stem from realizing (possibly for the first time) that the time they have left is finite.
Suddenly we begin to question all the decisions that led us to this point: Did I pick the right career? The right spouse? Have I made a difference, or am I just taking up space?
At the same time, many major life changes can happen during the mid-point of our lives. Aging parents or family members may need a new living situation or more significant care, children are becoming more independent and may leave the house soon, and career changes often take place (either by choice or otherwise). Midlife can be a period of upheaval, and that can take a toll on us emotionally.
How Midlife Crises Affect Us
While Hollywood would have us believe that midlife crises mainly result in a string of bad decisions maximized for comic relief, their fallout can be anything but funny. This period of questioning and self-doubt can be accompanied by all or some of the following:
- Increased rates of depression, suicide, poverty, smoking and alcoholism or drug abuse
- Higher chances of divorce or infidelity
- Declining energy levels
- Aversion to taking risks, or increased risk-taking behavior
- Increased social anxiety, or a loss of joy from the things that previously made us happy
Coping with a Midlife Crisis
If you feel you’ve hit the midlife doldrums, identifying and accepting the fact is the first step toward resolution. Your family and friends may have pointed this out to you, so listen to them. And rather than trying to escape your midlife, embrace it:
- Spend more time with your children and the people who make you happy.
- Make time for introspection and consider where you want your life to go.
- Set new goals that are both realistic and exciting.
- Accept and share your feelings.
- Adopt a renewed focus on your physical health, including your nutrition and exercise regimen.
- Rediscover your spouse, and actively work on your relationship daily.
- Try new things, like hobbies, learning opportunities or vocation.
- Volunteer or help others in need.
Midlife can be a period of anxiety and uncertainty, but it can also be a time of great creative change and satisfaction. Accepting that we are aging and that change is inevitable can help us make sure the second go ‘round is twice the adventure.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a Psychologist and the Clinical Director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street Columbus, OH 43206 or by phone at 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.