There’s a lot going on as we reach midlife, we often have more obligations than ever with a career to maintain, families to care for it’s often the greatest time of introspection where we evaluate ourselves and lifestyles.
The indicators of age are well and truly settling in, we’re established and we no longer have the freedom of youth, where significant changes to our life can no longer be made.
But is the midlife crisis a ‘crisis’ at all? It’s a period that we dedicate to ourselves and pursuit of happiness and fulfilment more than ever, with the funds to follow-through, it’s a privileged position to be in.
It’s A Luxury
There’s a reason it occurs during the ages of 45 – 64 and that’s not just following the U-shape happiness trend. We’ve reached established points in our lives, we have a structure and routine which we can’t change liberally anymore.
In this respect a midlife crisis is often not a crisis at all, it’s a time where we’re established as adults and we’re comfortable, something we’ve previously spent building up. We now have the luxury to search for happiness, fulfilment or whatever else with the funds available to do so.
As Dr Ronald Levant, professor of psychology at the University of Akron in Ohio explains, “The midlife crisis typically occurs in educated people who have the luxury to worry about what they want from their lives, as opposed to those who have to simply focus on making ends meet”.
A Time Of Change
The figures show just how destructive this part of life can be, as we dissect every aspect of our lives to understand what we really want and search for fulfillment.
The U-shaped curve of happiness shows we reach the lowest point during our 40s and 50s, the same curve found in over seven large surveys considering hundreds of thousands of opinions across the globe.
The period not only has the lowest levels of happiness and highest levels of anxiety, but has been coined the ‘frustrating forties’ for marriage, where divorce rates for men are shown to be highest in this age range.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, it’s a time where dreams of career changes finally come into fruition, we invest and start new business ventures as over 50s are shown to be responsible for setting up businesses faster than any other age group.
It’s undoubtedly a time of change, but what exactly is it about this period that makes it so volatile?
Midlife Change Is Inevitable
There’s no hiding it that midlife is a difficult period, but it’s still a fantastic point of life where we can chase our true desires.
Midlife has the potential to be one of the most exciting times of our life, where we can experience levels of growth and change at a rate we’ve never seen before.
It’s a rare period where we have the opportunity to examine everything and worry about what we want out of life”. We’re at a stage in life where we most likely have the financial freedom and the availability to find and chase what makes us happy and fulfilled.
The Myths Of Midlife
In the midst of midlife lies two destructive myths, identified by Harvard Business Review.
The first is that we undergo a ‘magical transformation’, where we believe with the right willpower and vision we will one day wake-up and flourish into the person we’ve always wanted to be. We’re told fairy tales that we can be anything we want to, but it’s just not realistic and our past experiences and knowledge has ingrained into us a way of thinking which isn’t malleable enough to let us segue into any career we want.
There are things we simply can’t do and realising this can be debilitating especially when so much inspirational literature and success stories have sold the idea that it’s possible.
That’s not to say moving on to something in an entirely different field is out of the question. It’s about finding what’s realistic, focusing on our skills and how they’ll help us achieve our dreams. “People can rid themselves of the illusion of omnipotence by concentrating on the connection between their skills and aspirations.” Harvard Business Review.
The second myth is the complete opposite. We’re faced with the onset of decline, a deep fear we all have. It’s a destructive idea and it’s not difficult to see how this can make us feel inferior and wreak havoc on our self-esteem and confidence.
These account to some reason as to why our life’s trajectory of happiness bottoms out during midlife. The fear that there is nothing left but decline and coming to terms with the sobering truth that we can’t become anything we want to be.
It’s no surprise that the period during our lowest levels of happiness see the greatest time of change. We’re not content with the way things are and so we do all we can to try and improve our situation.
Top Tips To Beat Midlife Anxiety
Anxiety levels are higher than ever in midlife and it’s something that comes with the territory of such a volatile period of change.
See our recommendations to dealing with midlife anxiety:
Try something new
Trying new things and pushing your own boundaries new will keep life interesting, you’ll start to become accustomed to the unfamiliar and things which once caused angst and worry will no longer phase you.
Learn to spend more time in the present, steer your mind away from thoughts of negative past experiences and apprehension towards the future. Anyone can practice mindfulness and it’s easy to get started, we suggest trying out the headspace app for a crash course in meditation.
Take a mini travel break
Arrange a small break from everything to go traveling. Explore places you’ve never been before. Getting away from your obligations, connections and digital devices even if only temporarily will help you to live in the present, create happy memories and give you places you can call back on and visualise in times of high stress and worry.
Studies have shown that people who know they have a vacation in the pipeline experience more happiness than those who don’t.
A therapist can help reframe your outlook from negative to positive and work with you to find the source of your anxiety while helping you make plans for the next stage of your life.
To find a therapist near you, try the itsgoodtotalk directory.
Can’t remember the last time you properly laughed for more than a second? Laughter releases endorphins which makes us feel good and in turn, reduces stress and anxiety. Seek out what a laugh, whether than be through a comedy night, connecting with friends more, or simply watching funny compilations on YouTube. A laugh or two a day can work wonders.