Midlife is often a time of contradictions. On one hand, many psychologists have defined midlife, like adolescence, as a time of “Sturm und Drang”—emotional and mental disquiet. Others believe individuals in midlife have fewer psychological symptoms, higher levels of marital satisfaction, and, in general, better life satisfaction. The term “midlife crisis” was first identified by the psychologist Carl Jung, and is considered by many professionals to be a normal part of emotional maturing. Individuals who experience a midlife crisis are commonly in their late 30s or 40s. Some of the feelings experienced during a midlife crisis include:
• Discontent with life and /or the lifestyle that may have provided happiness for many years.
• Boredom with things/people that have hitherto held great interest and dominated your life.
• Feeling adventurous and wanting to do something completely different.
• Questioning the meaning of life, and the validity of decisions clearly and easily made years before.
• Confusion about who you are, or where your life is going.
Some studies suggest the issues underlying a midlife crisis are different for men and women. For example, it is thought that men experience midlife depression resulting from anxiety related to their mortality. Men become overly concerned about their health and have exacerbated fears surrounding death and dying. For women, it has been hypothesized that their midlife depression stems from feelings of anxiety related to a sense of emptiness (especially for those whom have spent the majority of their 30s and 40s raising children), mourning their fading physical beauty, physical and emotional effects of menopause, and coping with their changing roles as a mother and wife. However, not all women experience this. Some career women experience mid-life issues related to having children later in life or not at all, desiring a career change, or feelings of disappointment about their current career path and/or lack of future career opportunities.
Regardless of the assumptions underlying the manifestations of midlife depression in women, midlife transitions and the emotions that go along with them can be scary for many. Many women may experience urges and desires that are uncharacteristic of them, and therefore some people are at risk for engaging in risky behaviors that can cause damaging consequences, such as divorcing their spouse of many years, engaging in an affair, or going into debt while pursuing an irrational goal.
It is important to realize that a midlife crisis does not have to result in destructive behaviors and ruined relationships. It can also be seen as a time of transformation and a chance to improve one’s life. Desires and feelings that manifest during a midlife crisis can be the result of one suppressing their personal growth and true potential. Denying these feelings and desires for change in one’s life is what exacerbates the crisis and applying old solutions to present problems does not allow space for one to grow and create new life philosophies and/or lifestyles, the very thing a life transformation is all about. However, when a crisis results in significant depression, loss of normal function, and/or destructive behaviors one should consider seeking help from a professional. Talking with a professional can help one move from a midlife crisis to a midlife transformation. Below are some tips to help you with the mid-life transitions:
• Evaluate where you are presently. In order to move forward you need to evaluate your current situation and decide what it is you actually want to change and work toward.
• Take your time when deciding what it is you want to do with your future.
• Ask yourself questions such as, “What do I feel I should have done by this time in my life?” and “What has been holding me back from living a more satisfying and fulfilling life?” and “How can I ensure my commitment to living a satisfying life?”
• Be patient with yourself. Change takes time and requires intentional planning and action.
• Try not to worry about what others may think. Letting go of concerns about other people’s judgments will help us to think outside the box and be more authentic.
• Try not to be too hard on yourself. Remember, there is no specific time frame, age limit or right or wrong way for making life transitions that result in living a more satisfying and enriched life.