What Is A Midlife Crisis?

     Most of us evaluate our lives from time to time, questioning decisions we've made or wondering if there is more to life than the daily grind.  For some though, this appraisal of the reality of life (and the realization of one's own mortality) triggers anxiety and depression, or spurs on a strong and urgent desire to drastically change some aspect of their life in an effort to make themselves happier. This happens to both men and women and often begins between ages forty and sixty. [1]   

     The term "Midlife Crisis" was coined by psychologist Elliot Jaques in his 1965 article "Death and the Midlife Crisis"[1]  which discussed our feelings of mortality as we enter this middle stage of life.  It can be triggered by a large life event or change such as the death of a parent or birth of a grandchild. [2]     

      Symptoms include:[1]

- An urgent need to move or change jobs

- An increased desire for adventure 

- Increased alcohol or drug use

- Daydreaming, boredom, listlessness 

- Sudden and intense anger

- Loss of interest in one's spouse and children

- A change in the desire for intimacy 

- A feeling of being trapped

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Conquering The Midlife Crisis: What To Avoid 

      The first step to getting through this crisis or stage of your life is to ACKNOWLEDGE that it's happening.  Own up to the thoughts and feelings that you're having.  Evaluating your life and taking stock of the good and bad can bring about positive change.  There are some pitfalls you want to avoid though:  

- Avoid rash or abrupt changes in your life.  Take the time and make the effort to think through your new and powerful ambitions.  Some of them may genuinely lead to more positive changes in your life.  If you have a family to take care of remember, they need you and love you.  Any changes, no matter how small, should be discussed with the family and made with the consent of everyone who will be affected by the change.  

- Don't let your feelings or impulses take over.  You control your feelings, they don't control you.  Think about the consequences before you act on an impulse.

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Conquering The Midlife Crisis: Strategies To Help You Get Through The Crisis

- Seek professional help.  If you're feeling depressed, unhealthy or suicidal, look for help.  Many other people have and are going through the same thing.  There are proven and effective methods of treatment that can help.[3]

- Start a new hobby or revive an old one.  Sometimes it's just a matter of keeping busy.  Write that novel you've been mulling over for years or volunteer at your local shelter or food pantry.  These things will help to invigorate your sense of self worth and make you feel more productive.

- Exercise.  Studies have shown that exercise helps to reduce stress and relieve symptoms of depression.[4]

- Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings.  Talk with loved ones about what you are going through.  Take control of your thoughts and feelings, remember, you control what you think, say and do.

- Take time to look at the good in your life.  It's all around you.  Sometimes we get so focused on what makes us uncomfortable that we forget to acknowledge what we love and enjoy about our lives.


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 Conquering The Midlife Crisis: The Takeaway

     There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Many middle aged people have embraced their midlife crises and used them to bring about positive and fulfilling life changes which, in turn, reverberate through their families, communities and vocations.  It's natural to want to hang onto youth, however, reality is always lurking just around the corner.  Our idea of what happiness is changes as we age.  With a little thoughtfulness and planning, the quest for happiness and fulfillment can be successful.