It might creep up on you like Autumn turning to Summer or it might hit you in the head like a tsunami, but whichever way you feel it, a midlife crisis is rarely fun.
It usually strikes us in our forties or fifties and for some of us, it’s traumatic. Symptoms can include deep brooding, rash decision making, sleeplessness, boredom, a deep sense of loss and an overwhelming concern about our wrinkles and saggy boobs. Sometimes they also include a strong desire to purchase a sports car or get a face lift.
According to psychotherapist Dr Robi Ludwig, it’s a time when we pause and question whether we’re on the right track in life and reflect on what we’ve achieved. We contemplate how we want to spend the rest of our lives and whether we feel fulfilled.
It’s important to remember this isn’t all bad. Sometimes, reflecting on where we’re at can motivate us to make changes for the better. A 2016 study from the British Psychological Society discovered that individuals who experience midlife crises by becoming ultra-focused on their purpose in the world are likely to find creative solutions for their challenges.
The study found that “while crisis episodes bring distress and feelings of uncertainty, they also bring openness to new ideas and stimuli that can bring insight and creative solutions, which can move our development forward. This enhanced curiosity may be the ‘silver lining’ of crisis. Armed with this knowledge people may find the crises of adult life easier to bear.”
By improving your lifestyle behaviours, many of the negative symptoms can be managed or reversed, and you can turn a crisis into an opportunity for growth. Physical activity and a healthy diet can reduce both tension and stress, and provide you with the endorphins you need to keep happy. Combining this with adequate sleep and a close-knit support group will ensure you learn to embrace the many joys of midlife as opposed to fearing them.
Most experts look at a crisis in midlife as an opportunity to take action, evaluate priorities and transform life for the better. A midlife crisis can be a transformative period, marked by tremendous growth around achieving new goals or revisiting old ones. It’s also about coming to terms with new life patterns and finding new meaning in one’s life. For some, it might involve channelling time and energy once reserved for raising children into new and fulfilling endeavours and adventures.
Learning how to handle stress during midlife can help circumvent a crisis. Here’s what we recommend
1. Nurture yourself
Pursue fun and nurturing activities, such as sunrise walks with your friends, ocean swims, yoga or bike riding
2. Identify sources of stress
Evaluate your weekly activities and start crossing off those that are non-essential. It’s a beautiful thing to give freely to others, but if you’re feeling resentful or stressed, remember it’s okay to say no to things that don’t serve you
3. Set up a support group
Put time and energy into your family and friends, as they can support you through challenging times. Focus on building relationships by being a good friend, and feel the reward of having great friends there for you, too
Physical activity will relieve stress and elevate your mood. Fitness is essential for mental and physical health as we age.
5. Eat nourishing foods
You’ll feel better. You’ll think more clearly. Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts.
6. Get enough sleep.
Make sure you sleep in and wake up naturally a couple of days a week, and go to bed earlier.
7. Accept help when it’s offered.
Believe it or not, this can be one of the hardest things to do. Accepting help does not mean you’re a failure, it shows wisdom.
8. Say no.
Accept the fact that you can’t do everything well. Overcommitting can sap your energy and leaves less time for you to do things that support your wellbeing.
9. Learn to release your frustrations.
Holding onto issues and resentments of the past will only keep your arms full and inhibit you from recognising and appreciating the joys of today. Talk it through with a counsellor or friend, so you can release any pent up issues in a healthy way.
10. Keep a sense of humour.
Laughter can be the best stress buster on the planet. Learn to find humour midlife as you experience challenges throughout the day.
If you need a supportive community to help you get through a challenging mid-life period, come and join us. Our Wild Women Community on Facebook is full of like-minded women who are looking to connect!