The term Midlife Crisis originated with Sigmund Freud, who thought that in middle age, people began to be plagued by the fear of impending death. Since Freud’s coining of the phrase, the term is widespread in our culture and is often used to explain uncharacteristic, out-of-the-blue yet stereotypical behavior—a 50-year old man buying a flashy sports car or a woman undergoing breast enhancement surgery or a facelift at 40. The term has a negative connotation, but in reality, it should not. A midlife or existential crisis can happen at any age and, depending on how or why it hit you, there are different ways to cope.
WHY DO WE HAVE EXISTENTIAL OR MIDLIFE CRISES?
Any turning point in our lives can trigger a crisis, but a major trigger for a midlife crisis is when we become aware of our mortality. This happens for most of us in our 30s. Other life-disrupting events such the loss of a loved one through death or divorce, significant disappointments and dramatic misfortunes can crush our world. These events may come up at any time in our lives and change us forever. If we are resilient enough, we might get over the crisis with no help or lingering effects, but not all of us are so lucky.
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Other crises creep up slowly and with no apparent triggers. A life that once followed an orderly, meaningful script suddenly loses its significance and appeal. Yet in order to grow and evolve, we must make changes in our lives periodically, whether it’s a career shift, a new fitness regimen, or just redecorating our house. Change keeps us interested, guessing, and enthusiastic about our existence. So maybe these midlife or existential crises are just life’s way of telling us to wake up, because we’ve inadvertently become listless and complacent.
We have no life instruction book to follow, but by tuning in to what is missing in our lives, we can make changes. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself no matter what your age, so when crisis hits, don’t run from it. Face it head on and listen hard to what it’s trying to tell you.
HOW TO SPEED THROUGH YOUR CRISIS
- Make some changes. It’s never too late to change. Try to figure out what your passions are. Write them down. Ask yourself what you’d really like to do with your life. It might take a while to figure it out, but writing down and exploring your options will eventually bring you the answers.
- Share how you feel with friends. Talking it out helps you brainstorm. Nobody else can tell you what to do, but they can be your sounding board.
- Seek professional help. Find a psychologist with whom you feel comfortable. You need someone who can see your situation from a neutral perspective, and you must feel safe in his or her presence.
- Get up and move. Instead of lying around feeling sorry for yourself, try new experiences and meet new people. Sometimes, a fresh start clears the air and gives you new perspective.
- Don’t run from your feelings. If it’s a loss you’re dealing with, allow yourself to grieve and process your emotions. Get them out in the open and surround yourself with people you care for and who care for you. Pain eventually goes away, but not if you keep your feelings bottled up.
- Lastly, don’t ignore it. Face your feelings and try to do something proactive to address them. No, drowning them in booze doesn’t count!
I’ve had my share of crises, and every one of them pushed me to do things I never thought possible. I eventually became more experienced and…braver. I now feel well equipped to face the next emotional or midlife crisis—no matter when it hits.