Are You Having a Midlife Crisis?

middle-aged man stepping out of red sports car

Buying a fancy sports car, getting botox injections, and selling your house to travel the world — what do all these have in common?

These are all supposedly signs of a midlife crisis.

The term midlife crisis was coined in 1965, and it’s used to describe a time of transition between the ages of 40 and 60 when you find yourself reflecting on your life more deeply. A midlife crisis is often sparked by a major change, such as your youngest child going off to college or a health scare. No matter the cause, you may be left thinking about how you’ve lived your life so far and your purpose.

It’s normal for a midlife crisis to cause sadness, anxiety, or boredom — all of which can get worse over time if left unaddressed. However, if you deal with these emotions in a healthy way, your crisis may be the beginning of an exciting new phase in your life.

By knowing the signs of a midlife crisis and acknowledging this new phase, you can work through your emotions and embrace this period as a time to move forward in a positive way.

Here are five signs of a midlife crisis — and how you can cope with them.

1. You’re feeling “blah” about your day-to-day routine.

Your alarm goes off, and your first thought is that you don’t feel like getting out of bed. Aspects of your life you used to enjoy, such as your career, hobbies, and even sex, just don’t provide you with the same motivation they used to.

The feeling of restlessness can tempt you to make major changes, such as an expensive purchase or a drastic move. While these might ease your restlessness temporarily, they’re not a permanent answer to your midlife crisis — and your negative feelings are likely to come back.

How to Cope

Restlessness isn’t always a bad thing — but it can be if you let it linger. It can lead to a lack of energy or enthusiasm in your life. Take the time to consider what’s going well in your life. Is it your career? Your relationship with your family? Your health?

Acknowledge the aspects of your life you appreciate, and capitalize on these strengths. A midlife crisis may make you feel stagnant, but it’s actually a perfect time to change things up to satisfy some of your newfound curiosity.

If you’re proud of your family’s home, start a new project, such as landscaping or redoing one of the bedrooms. If you’ve built a successful career, take on a new role, such as mentoring an aspiring employee.

2. You’ve lost your sense of purpose — and can’t seem to recover it.

Many people at this stage in life think about their purpose and wonder about the contributions they’ve made to the world around them. For much of your life, that may have come from building a family or a career. During this transition, you might feel uncertain about what comes next.

This uncertainty can lead to drastic and impulsive changes, such as selling your house and moving across the globe. While that may sound exciting, it’s not necessarily going to fulfill your sense of purpose. You might end up back where you started — just on a different continent.

How to Cope

One of the most effective ways to combat the feeling of purposelessness is to get engaged with others in a meaningful way, such as through volunteering. Volunteering allows you to directly witness the way you impact the world, whether you’re working with children, planting a garden, or taking care of animals.

By giving time to your community, you can regain your sense of purpose, while also making your community a better place and forming meaningful connections.

3. You find yourself getting jealous of others — a lot.

The green-eyed monster has visited everyone at some point in their lives, and that’s normal. During a midlife crisis, jealousy can be especially common, and you may find yourself envying other people’s possessions or accomplishments. If you let these feelings linger, they can lead to resentment and unhappiness.

Jealousy can come from many scenarios, such as a colleague getting a promotion instead of you, or your next-door neighbor purchasing your dream car. Whatever the reason, jealousy can cause you to analyze other people’s lives — without knowing their whole story. More importantly, it can keep you from focusing on your own accomplishments in order to move forward.

How to Cope

Everyone has a different set of opportunities in life. Your experiences are different from your neighbor or co-worker, and it’s not fair to you to make direct comparisons. Stop thinking about someone else’s future — and start thinking about yours.

Try to use your jealousy as a gentle motivator. If you want a promotion, demonstrate your skill set to your boss at work. If buying a sports car consumes your mind, take the time to save up and make sure you really want it. It’s better to have a purchase you can be proud of over one that was caused by feelings of jealousy.

4. You feel pressured by a ticking clock.

There’s no denying that the older you get, the quicker time seems to pass. When you were 16, each year felt like, well, a year. By now, a year might feel like a few months, and that can make you feel anxious about the time that you have left.

A midlife crisis can cause you to feel pressured to make changes right away. In many cases, these hasty decisions aren’t new decisions, but ones you’ve been contemplating for a while now, such as a purchase or a new hobby.

How to Cope

Feeling a little bit of pressure isn’t a bad thing, and a midlife crisis doesn’t mean that you should put a halt to all decision-making. Change can be good — as long as it’s well thought out and planned. However, if you’ve only been thinking about opening up a coffee shop for the past week, you may want to consider giving it more time before running to the bank for a loan.

Don’t let the label of a midlife crisis keep you from progress. With the right preparation and resources, this is a great time in your life to give yourself permission to make thoughtful changes you’ve been considering for some time.

5. Your body hurts for no apparent reason.

The way you feel physically can often be a reflection of your mental state. Feelings of anxiety and pressure can cause headaches or other physical aches and pains that don’t seem to be tied to any other health condition.

Your body is great at communicating with you, and it’s important that you listen. Just like your stomach rumbles when you’re hungry or your muscles hurt when you don’t stretch effectively, too much emotional stress can make you feel pain and be a sign that you need to relax.

How to Cope

The best way to feel better physically is to ease your mind emotionally. Try to clear your mind through relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga. By finding ways to pause and give your brain some downtime, you may also find some physical relief.

If your physical pain doesn’t go away, talk to your health care provider. In addition to making sure your pain isn’t a sign of something else, they can help you find more ways to relax. If necessary, they may also recommend other forms of treatment, such as therapy or medication.

When Is My Midlife Crisis Something More?

Some sadness, anxiety, and unhappiness at this time of life is normal. However, if you’ve been purposeful about trying to cope with these feelings in a healthy way, and aren’t feeling better, you may be experiencing clinical depression.

Signs of clinical depression in adults include:

  • Problems with memory or personality changes
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite, or problems sleeping
  • Physical aches or pains
  • Suicidal thoughts or feelings

Depression is more than just a phase — and you won’t be able to just snap out of it. However, with treatment from your health care provider, such as medication and therapy, you can experience long-term relief.

Making the Most of a Midlife Crisis

A midlife crisis can feel similar to a loss. However, when you’re looking at your life in your rearview mirror, you may be less focused on the rest of your journey.

While it’s easy to try to fill this void with major purchases and trips, these are often an attempt to rekindle the past. As a result, you may miss out on opportunities to address these important feelings with new and meaningful interests.

By taking the time to incorporate some small but effective changes in your life, you can move forward from this time of your life — and maybe pick up a few extra interests along the way.

Still have questions about your midlife crisis? Call 785-270-4600 to set up an appointment at the Stormont Vail Behavioral Health Center or call 785-354-6000 to talk to a primary care provider about ways to cope.

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