Mariam Mell’Osiime Mpaata
Let’s hit the road running, what is a midlife crisis? Elliott Jaques, a Canadian psychoanalyst, and social scientist invented the term when he claimed that people in their mid-30s typically experience a depressive period lasting several years.
Many social scientists have since agreed with him by redefining the phrase as a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in middle-aged individuals, generally 45 to 65 years old.
Other scientists, however, have called it a psychological crisis brought about by events that highlight a person’s growing age, inevitable mortality, and possibly lack of accomplishments in life. Some, on the other hand, concluded that some people don’t experience midlife crises and that the notion of a midlife crisis is a social construct.
Mental health professionals who have over the years debated whether the midlife crisis is real or not, claim that there shouldn’t be such a huge hullabaloo about the phenomenon, and the term “midlife crisis,” is not a recognized mental health diagnosis.
So don’t expect to walk into a medical facility and be diagnosed with a midlife crisis! Could it then be that the phrase is just another name for the grief, exhaustion, and anxiety that generally affects people in the age bracket of 40 and 60?
Whether it is real or not, the midlife crisis is not only instigated by aging, but by events such as relationships ending or shifting, careers becoming more demanding, having unfilled dreams, children living the nest, or one’s parents and friends growing older or even dying.
Interestingly, studies have shown that midlife crises are different for men and women. Whereas for women midlife crises can be quite turbulent because they are not only dealing with biological changes, but also social and personal issues, for men it may be centered around their achievements, or regret about not taking actions to better their careers when they were younger.
Despite all this worry and anxiety, the happiness curve is generally U- shaped, and in our 50s, levels of contentment take off again and by the time we are in our 60s, we may experience the peak of our happiness. If the U-curve scientists are right, your midlife crisis may resolve itself as you get older. Meanwhile, here are ways that may help you through the crisis:
1. The first step to dealing with any crisis is to acknowledge it by being honest with yourself. Once you do, then it is easier to take the next course of action towards solving it.
2. Do a self-assessment, take a deep dive into your feelings to find out what the problem is and what’s meaningful to you. Think about where you spend your time and energy and what’s working for you. Find out what your energy vampires are. That may mean re-aligning relationships: letting go of toxic ones, finding new friend groups, or doing more hobbies or things for yourself.
3. Lose the guilt, don’t feel bad about your self-exploration. Recognize that this is a necessity and not an indulgence.
4. Do things that bring you as a person joy. It is said that those who do what they love and fulfill their dreams are less likely to find themselves in a midlife crisis, while those who put most of their efforts into caring for others and little effort into their interests are more likely to come to a midlife crisis.
5. Keep a gratitude journal: Take note of your wins and losses, and how you either overcame those losses or took you to succeed. Looking back at your entries will not give you a sense of gratitude but hope that even the next phase will pass.
6. Talk to a doctor. Many of the symptoms of a midlife crisis overlap with depression, anxiety disorders, and hormonal imbalances.
7. Talk to your friends. Midlife is easier if you’re surrounded by a circle of friends. Women with friends and supportive family members have a greater sense of well-being than those who don’t.
8. Last but not least, make healthy lifestyle choices. Change eating habits, find a sport, explore nature or try exploring with your creative side.
One thing we can all agree on is that a midlife crisis doesn’t have to be a crisis at all but a chance for you to take control and make different choices in your life. Susan Albers, a psychologist sums it up for us, “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”
The writer, Mariam is a sports activist with a master’s in sports management from Real Madrid Graduate School.
Source New Vision.