Are you going through a mid life crisis??
It dawns on us all at one time or another that life is finite. Usually this happens later in life, some point after turning 40. We start to reflect back on our lives and start to feel a sense of urgency.
Have I done everything that I wanted to?
Am I where I expected to be at this age?
What do I still want to achieve?
Am I satisfied with what I have achieved in my life?
We begin to look at life from a different perspective and some of us begin to think about our own mortality. This is a normal process and is a natural phase of life. For some though, the anxiety creates a knee-jerk reaction and they do something drastic in an attempt to redress the balance.
Some go off and have affairs, some move to the country and others just work harder than ever before and work on denial more than ever before. The truth is, when it comes to perspective and considering the ‘bigger picture’, many of us continue as if we will live forever and do not confront the reality of life. We stay in jobs we hate and put up with bosses that bully us. Some stay in unhappy marriages or fool ourselves into staying because “we’re doing it for the kids”.
Dig that hole a little deeper to stick your head in… I believe there would be fewer mid-life crises if people were more open and honest about the transient nature of life. I also think we would try harder to make the most of life instead of plodding along and accepting unhappy situations to continue.
I have come up with a few tips to ease the anxiety associated with a possible mid-life crisis:
1) Acceptance instead of resistance
Don’t go out and buy the latest gadgets if you think this will solve your worries – it won’t. It will only delay the anxiety for a while. Instead of buying things to alleviate the issue, stop resisting and start accepting. I don’t mean you have to be passive, but by accepting where you are in life, you can begin to deal with it productively rather than finding short lived coping mechanisms which ultimately won’t help one iota. Deal with the fact that you are older and not as sprightly by looking at the fact that you have more free time to do what you want. That you can be more present in your life and stop to admire nature and really connect with others. Taking on an observer role has many positive aspects to it. Being an observer is only one aspect though. Go out and do what you want to do, even if it means buying something you’ve denied yourself in the past – as long as you enjoy it for what it is and don’t expect it to offer you the contentment you seek.
2) Practise Mindfulness
This a perfect phase of life to start practising mindfulness. It’s all about being present in your life, engaging all of your senses instead of living at such a fast pace that you never really enjoy much of anything. When we’re younger life tends to fly by in a blur. There are constant deadlines, socialising, kids to feed and taxi back and forth, career ladders to climb…When we age, we hopefully have the wisdom to slow the moment down and savour life. If only we could learn this from a younger age.
3) Adjust your thinking
Part of acceptance involves adjusting your thinking. As we get older our identity changes. We are no longer the youngster that could party all night and drink a bottle of vodka in one go. Life may have battered us along the way too. Instead of all our naive dreams, we’re a little more hard nosed and sceptical about life. Whatever you do, don’t allow cynicism to get the better of you. No one likes a grumpy bitter old person. You may have lost some things along the way but you will have gained too.
4) Attitude of gratitude
It serves no purpose to focus on lack and loss. This will only encourage you to feel miserable. Instead focus on the good in your life, no matter how small. It could be as simple as the fact that the sun is shining that day or that a stranger smiled at you. Spread good cheer and concentrate your attention on what is going well. Humans tend to default to the negative position. We tend to focus on the positives of what we don’t have and the negatives of what we do have. How is that helpful?
Instead – focus on the good of what you have and the negatives of what you don’t have – make your thinking work for you, not against you.
It’s all too easy to look at our youth and feel that everything was rosy then. The reality is that we probably lacked confidence, had no money and didn’t have a clue about what we wanted to do for a career.
Each phase of life brings its own challenges. You can’t change the phase of life that you are in. The best you can do is adjust your attitude to it and make the most of each day.