We’ve all heard the stereotype – someone goes through a midlife crisis and buys a motorcycle or starts trying all the new fad diets and botox treatments plastic surgery can offer. But what really is a midlife crisis? Are the stereotypes true or just a projection of culture? Do men and women experience midlife crises in the same way?
And, most importantly, do the symptoms last forever?
Definition of a midlife crisis
A midlife crisis has received much of its definition via social media and cultural influences. While it’s true that some individuals seek relief through the stereotypical means of new cars and such, it’s not quite as common a trope as you might expect.
While some individuals do certainly experience a crisis of sorts, others are able to use this time in life as one of growth, discovery and newfound motivation towards taking on the remaining years of life with acceptance and peace.
One psychologist said it well: “The words ‘midlife crisis’ can put a negative spin on this period. But it doesn’t have to be bad. It can be an opportunity to reevaluate your life. It’s the chance to pause and spend time and energy figuring out what’s meaningful to you.”
This time in life can occur at different times for different people, but many experience it within the ages of 40 – 60. Certain signs may present themselves, clueing you into the reality of this stage in life. While some of these signs do present challenges, almost all of them can be handled with simple lifestyle changes, including meeting with a counselor to help learn coping mechanisms and fresh perspectives.
Signs of a midlife crisis
Because of each individual’s personal experiences, it can be hard to state exactly what signs may present themselves. However, some general signs, feelings or emotions are more commonly associated with a midlife crisis, especially when they arise during the ages of 40 – 60.
You have a sense of your time being limited
While there is truth here in the matter of reaching midlife, this doesn’t need to be cause for alarm. Instead of feeling a sense of “impending doom,” or regret for what may or may not have happened in your past, take the time to re-devote yourself to living life fully, like visiting your grandchildren, investing in an international trip or even learning a new hobby.
You feel a little lost
Everyone feels directionless at some point in their life, and midlife is no different. You might have been working the same job for many years, living in the same town since your children were born or have simply fallen into a rut of doing the same thing day after day. When your life begins to feel too routine or unexciting, you may be tempted to go to extremes when spicing things up.
You have little interest in things
Maybe it’s hobbies you spent time perfecting, routines you looked forward to or company you enjoyed—but you’ve recently noticed they’ve felt more like chores. Instead of planning times to see others, you’ve withdrawn from events. You find little interest in things that previously brought you joy. To help combat that, focusing on the small things that bring you joy can help you return to a sense of gratitude.
You no longer feel satisfied
Life isn’t all about being satisfied, but certain things that used to be satisfying, such as your job, no longer feel important or lifegiving. This doesn’t mean you should just quit your job and start searching for the next best thing, but it may mean it’s time to begin trying new things. Within reason, you might start looking for other options that bring you joy and satisfy that desire for a life worth living.
Is there a difference between men and women?
Because men and women process the world around them differently, it follows, then, that they also can process midlife differently. Plus, the physical changes a women goes through during this time (i.e. menopause), are contributing factors to symptoms of a midlife crisis which men do not experience.
However, both men and women are equally subject to signs like depression, dissatisfaction, questioning life choices and running out of stamina. The way these symptoms manifest is where the difference lies.
For example, men may experience dissatisfaction in their career and make choices based on a desire to make up for lost time by starting a new job or suddenly quitting their old one. Women may experience dissatisfaction in their changing appearance and become more focused on adjusting the way they look.
Does this last forever?
During the years of midlife, it might feel like a never-ending emotional rollercoaster. And while it might be a period of life where things are more difficult than before, it doesn’t last forever, nor does it have to be miserable in the meantime.
Instead of just waiting for midlife to be over, you can take important steps in self care by knowing the signs and taking active (or even proactive) steps to keep midlife from pulling the rug out from under you. Staying in touch with friends, keeping to a healthy routine and reaching out to a counselor can help you handle midlife with grace and peace.