Aging

Dealing With a Midlife Crisis

“You are trapped by nothing more than a poor attitude.” – Sid Mittra

A man in therapy holding two masks, trying to deal with a crisis

Chapters In Life

As we go through life we go through different stages. As we go through these various stages, we often encounter different things in our path. We meet new people, we start new endeavors. Periods of our life can be marked by the things we did, such as when we were young and were in school, for example. Or, we may mark the stages of our lives by the people we met, who we lived with, or spent time around. 

Often times, we may identify where we are in our life by our conchological age, counting the years since our birth and putting ourselves into a category based on that age. This is a popular method for assessing our lives, both where we have been in our life as well as where we are at the present moment. However, there are challenges that come with this form of assessment.

What is a Midlife Crisis?

As previously stated, in our lives we will encounter many different obstacles and even crises. One such crises that has been popularized in mainstream society is that of the midlife crisis

The midlife crisis is a dilemma that is brought about when one uses their chronological age as a means of assessing where their life is and its trajectory moving forward. The midlife crisis occurs when someone comes to the realization that they are at the age where they have lived approximately half of their life, thus they are in the middle of their life. 

When Does a Midlife Crisis Occur?

There are a variety of times and situations in one’s life that may conclude in dealing with a midlife crisis….

A midlife crisis can occur when someone considers their life expectancy to be what the average life expectancy to be. For example, if the life expectancy at the time for a female to be 80.

An individual may also experience a midlife crisis when someone thinks that they are in the middle of their life. For example, if an individual thinks they will live until they are 100-years-old, then when they are around 50-years-old, they will be more prone to think of their life to be in the middle. Similarly, someone who thinks they will only live until 70 years of age, which will put them in the middle of their life when they are only 35-years-old.

Envisioning your life having a beginning, middle and end can be stressful. Thinking about one’s limited time on the Earth and the fragility of life can be stressful and overwhelming at times.

Trying to determine how much time one has left to live can invoke a lot of different thoughts and emotions. There may be various emotions such as sadness that one has lived half of one’s life already, or possibly pride of the life one has already lived and a desire to repeat or one-up their past.

Life is Short

Often times a midlife crisis can involve individuals wanting to do different things with their life. The realization that life is short and that the time spent here on Earth is fleeting and fragile often dawns on individuals later in their life as they are approaching the mid-point of their life. 

In their youth, individuals are often naïve to the fact that life is finite and as they grow older, they learn about death. Even still, often times people go into their twenties and thirties seeing life through an indestructible lens. As teenagers, and often into the thirties, people may feel invincible and invulnerable. The aging process usually reminds humans they are not invincible and indestructible, instead they are vulnerable. 

Realizing that one is vulnerable, and their life and well-being is fragile can be accompanied by many different feelings such as hopelessness, helplessness, sadness, dread, frustration, depression, and anxiety.

Existential Anxiety

A woman with her hand on her forehead, looking stressed

On top of all these feelings related to vulnerability and fragility, individual’s may also experience complex existential feelings. For example, some people may have existential anxiety, a nervousness about one’s life, purpose, and meaning. 

Individuals may have concerns about where they originated from and what will happen after they die. These existential concerns and anxieties may lead individuals to change their thoughts and behaviors and can also lead to changes in mood. Some of these changes may involve:

Wanting to try new things – feeling a desire to do things that one has not done in the first half of their life.

Accomplishing goals – doing things that one has set out to do, but has not yet accomplished.

Meeting new people – sometimes, in extreme versions, the individual may try to start all over, leaving those behind from the first part of their lives.

Doing “bucket list” activities – people may feel like they have lived the first half of their life without doing any of the things they truly wanted to do, or things they dreamed about doing. When a midlife crisis hits, that person may go out and buy a motorcycle that they always wanted to own or go skydiving for the first time. Although individuals in a midlife crisis may come to the realization that they are vulnerable and their life is fragile, they still may engage in risky behaviors because of the desire to do better than the first half of their life, or to accomplish things they haven’t done before.

Shutting down – on the opposite end of the spectrum, some individuals may choose to be more cautious and conservative, sometimes to the point of simply staying inside and avoiding dangers and harm as much as possible. These individuals may be depressed at the thought their life is halfway over.

Serious Business

Clearly, a midlife crisis is not something to take lightly. It can come with a host of thoughts and feelings. This wide range of emotions can have an impact on the decisions one makes when they are facing a midlife crisis. 

If you are in a midlife crisis, it can be helpful to seek outside help. Talking with a therapist who will keep the things you say confidential between the two of you is a great place to start when facing a midlife crisis. 

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