The signs of a midlife crisis can be subtle. You may not even realize why you’re feeling certain ways. Here are some signs you may be experiencing a midlife crisis and some tips for surviving – and thriving – in midlife and beyond.
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When we think of a midlife crisis, we tend to think of the ones we see in the movies: the man who trades in his practical four-door sedan and his trustworthy long-time wife for flashier, younger models and drives off into the sunset or the woman who leaves her humdrum life to start over in Tuscany. The truth is a midlife crisis can be much more subtle. In fact, we may not even realize when we’re experiencing the classic signs of a midlife crisis.
Here are some signs you may be experiencing a midlife crisis and some tips for surviving – and thriving – in midlife and beyond.
1. You Feel Like You Must Be Going Crazy
You walk into a room and can’t remember what you came for. You lose your train of thought while you’re telling a story. And you growl at anyone who dares to give to give you a friendly smile.
These changes can be caused by a drop in estrogen during menopause or perimenopause but can cause problems in your life if you’re not aware of what’s happening. If you’re irritable or distracted, you can end up harming relationships you truly value or behaving impulsively in ways you regret later.
If you’re concerned about changes in your personality, talk to your doctor. He or she can identify what’s really going on and offer help to manage your symptoms.
2. You Keep Wondering “Is This It?”
You can have career success, a wonderful marriage, and well-adjusted children and still feel a little niggling feeling each day: “Shouldn’t I be happier?” We often feel guilty for even feeling this way, but that feeling is a sign that we aren’t being authentic to our wishes and desires in some way.
As Brene Brown famously says in her amazing essay, The Midlife Unraveling:
Midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
I’m not screwing around. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go. Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy and lovable, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever. Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through your veins. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.
Instead of feeling guilty, take some time to evaluate each part of your life and ask yourself, “Does this really make me happy?” If the answer is no, then take some time to think of ways you could be happy. Maybe you’re successful in your corporate job, but realize that you feel most engaged and alive when you’re volunteering at your local church. You might have a comfortable relationship with your husband, but discover you need more adventure in your relationship.
Discovering the areas where you are dissatisfied and identifying how you could be happier doesn’t mean you need to immediately quit your job or divorce your husband. You don’t need to take drastic steps to increase your satisfaction with your life. Instead, try thinking of small changes that you can make to get you closer to where you want to go. Maybe you can add some type of volunteer component to your job or plan a just-us-two adventure vacation with your husband.
3. You Feel Like You Look Old and You’ll Do Anything to Change That
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best at any age, but staring in the mirror at the inevitable wrinkles and gray hairs can lead to an unhealthy obsession. Our society over-values youth, which can lead to feeling unwanted and ignored as we age and it’s all too easy to think looking more youthful will actually result in being younger.
If you feel like updating your style would help you look and feel more confident, go for it! I’m a huge fan of YouTube Makeup tutorials and I’m constantly playing around with new makeup techniques and clothing styles.
If you feel like it’s time to try Botox or invest in cosmetic surgery, then you absolutely should! (Just do your research.) But if it seems like every time you get something done, you see something else you want to fix, you might want to pull back and examine why.
If you feel that life is passing you by or that you haven’t achieved everything you wanted, it can be easier to focus on recovering your lost youth rather than facing the harsh truth about your current situation. Take some time to investigate ways in which you feel disappointed by how your life has turned out. You may find some ways to reach the goals you feel are slipping away or you may need to take some time to mourn some lost dreams.
Nobody loves a good skincare routine more than I do, but when I look back at my early 40s it’s easy to see that my obsession with every possible thing anyone could do to turn back the clock had more to do with my sadness over my marriage ending than I ever acknowledged. Once I was able to mourn that loss and take steps to create a new happier life for myself, I found that I felt more at home in my skin and more accepting about looking the age I am. I still slather on the Retin A every night, but it doesn’t bother me to look like a 55-year-old woman. That’s who I am, after all.
4. You Feel Like Your Best Years are Behind You
Do you feel like you no longer have a purpose now that the kids are grown? Or do you look back at the decisions you made when you were younger and wish you could have a do-over?
My meditation teacher once told our class, “Regret is just a way to try to buy yourself a better past.” We can’t do that, of course, so it’s best to let go of regret and look to the future. I know that’s easier said than done.
The trick to getting past regret is to find something new that fuels your passion. It could be learning to play an instrument or discovering the joys of exercising. Make a list of new things you could try and then try at least 5 of them. Keep going until you find something you can’t wait to try again.
My workbook, 10 Days to Rediscover Yourself after the Kids are Grown, can be a good resource in helping you find your passion.
6. You Just Literally Can’t Even Any More
Are you feeling like you can’t take even one more second of something you used to tolerate just fine? That’s great news! It’s your intuition telling you that the time for change is now!
As we get older, we no longer have the patience for people and situations that don’t serve us. We understand that time is a finite resource in a way we didn’t when we were younger. Take a look at the people or situations that are bugging you. It could be that a friendship has become unhealthy and needs to end. You could realize that your toxic work environment is starting to have an impact on your health. Or you feel like every single thing in your life is awful and you need a break now!
Whatever the issue, if you suddenly can’t handle a situation or if you find your reaction to a situation is out of proportion to how annoying it truly is, take a look at it. It may be your intuition is telling you that it’s time to make a change.
Be careful, though. Your desire for change could be a symptom of your crisis. For example:
7. You Wake Up One Morning and Decide You Want a Divorce
Ok, maybe not a divorce. Maybe you’ve decided you need to quit your job. Today. Or move to a new city. Whatever it is, you’ve decided that you need to make this change and you need to make it now.
If you suddenly feel the need for a drastic change, examine your feelings to really understand why you feel this need. This is a perfect time to reach out to a therapist to work through your feelings. Talking with a professional can help you get clarity behind your impulse. If, after reflection, you decide that a drastic change is needed, a therapist can help you make a plan to minimize the pain that can rise up when life must change.
Your Midlife Crisis is a Gift
If you’ve decided that you’re definitely having a midlife crisis, then you can be grateful that your intuition is telling you that something needs to change. As Vikki Nicometo wrote in The Gift of the Midlife Crisis:
“We can use this wake-up call as an opportunity to take a look at our life and see where it’s not matching up to our heart’s true desires. Once we do that, we can start to make the changes to get back into alignment with our Essential Self.”
This is your time to get to know yourself again!