Midlife crises are complicated to navigate, causing an incredibly tumultuous time as one navigates the myriad of complex feelings of depression and guilt. Even those who have accomplished much throughout their personal lives and professional careers – such as executives, CEOs, and other high-ranking professional positions – are not immune to a midlife crisis. They can even find that the difficulty balancing one's professional obligations and personal ambitions becomes the source of such intense feelings.
Experiencing a midlife crisis is exceptionally complex. However, it is possible to combat these crises and emerge with a newfound sense of fulfillment and new goals for the future. Being vigilant of the signs and symptoms of midlife crises can help each individual be more prepared to acknowledge, address, and overcome the difficulties of a midlife crisis if it surfaces.
What Is a Midlife Crisis?
A midlife crisis is a period of time in one's life that feels dictated by depression, guilt, shame, or regret, often surfacing between 40 to 60 years of age, on average. However, with the newfound stresses of the world, volatile political and social climates, economic shifts, and much more, midlife crises can set in much sooner. These feelings of depression often come coupled with a feeling of “lost time" as an individual looks back on their accomplishments and life. They may consider, unfairly, how much they “should” have done or how they could have changed their lives some 20 years in retrospect.
Depression, regret, and being incapable of changing the past can all congregate into a midlife crisis, leaving an individual at a major transition point in their perspective of identity, accomplishments, and priorities in life. This transition can be extraordinarily difficult to navigate, and one may find themselves doing whatever they can to reshape their current life into a more “ideal” version.
The Symptoms of a Midlife Crisis
While age is a factor in determining if one is suffering from a midlife crisis, there are also other symptoms to consider. Some signs of a midlife crisis can include:
Sense of unfulfillment or dissatisfaction with one's life
Attachment to nostalgia
A newfound sense of meaninglessness in one's job
Relationship complications, such as a growing distance between one's partner or courting infidelity
Major behavioral changes
Changing one's appearance
Thoughts of finality or death
Negative judgment of one's own life choices
Disinterest in hobbies
Increased impulsive behavior or decision-making
Pervasive feelings of regret
Emotional fragility and mood swings
Withdrawal from social life or self-isolation
Increased use of addictive substances or the development of addiction
These are not the only symptoms possible that one may experience as a result of a midlife crisis. However, they are common signs that one should remain vigilant of when confronting feelings of depression or regret during one's midlife years.
Coping With a Midlife Crisis
Feeling the detrimental effects of a midlife crisis is incredibly stressful, compromising much of one's happiness or sense of accomplishment. However, it is possible to overcome these trials in a safe and healthy way. While feelings of depression and regret can cause one to make self-destructive decisions, actively inviting structured change into one's life can also be a healthy way to navigate and explore one's new, developing identity.
The complicated feelings brought about by a midlife crisis can tempt an individual to change their whole lives, upending their entire sense of identity to overhaul their current lifestyle. However, while such drastic change can lead to additional stresses or irrational and destructive decisions, inviting a degree of change can also be healthy.
Rather than deciding that “everything must change,” it can be incredibly helpful to embrace a creative outlet or choose what changes to begin with instead. Taking up art therapy, picking up an instrument, or embracing any other type of creative outlet can allow one's emotions and desires to take a concrete form. This can provide a better illustration of the changes one wants to make while granting a safe emotional outlet to process these desires.
Experiencing a midlife crisis can feel overwhelming, and one's feelings of regret or dissatisfaction can overshadow the more positive elements of one's life. Practicing gratitude by saying "thank you," giving gifts, or writing down one's gratefulness or appreciation in a journal, can all be ways of highlighting the aspects of one's life that continue to be a positive influence.
An atmosphere of negativity and pessimism can loom over an individual during a midlife crisis. Practicing gratitude can help them better understand which aspects of their lives may truly need change while injecting a feeling of thankfulness and positivity into one's life.
Comparisons are the bane of fair progress and self-esteem. Avoiding comparing oneself to others in as many aspects as possible is essential to remain focused on one's personal needs and goals. Detaching from social media and reminding oneself that one's accomplishments are valid and important is crucial in relinquishing the power of others' opinions that could otherwise be a detriment in one's life.