As we move through the middle years of adulthood, we often spend our lives focusing on the needs of others – such as partners, children, parents, co-workers, friends – and may put ourselves last on a daily basis. On some level, we’re also forced to confront the loss of our youth and our own mortality, all of which can cause depression or resentment. At the first sign of these feelings, instead of buying the clichéd sports car or having an affair, consider how a mid-life crisis can present a time to reflect and begin a search for inner peace. Approach these changes with a new sense of discovery toward the next phase of life.
Dr Frank John Ninivaggi, of the Yale-New Haven Hospital, encourages people to think of this time in their lives – not as a midlife crisis – but as a “midlife transition” when new opportunities await.
1. Establish self-care routines
Dr Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar emphasizes the importance of finding and maintaining a lifestyle that includes time for rituals of self-care during mid-life. Through a healthy diet, exercise, yoga, deep breathing exercises and meditation, time spent in nature or other creative means, we can all find ways to nurture our minds and bodies. It’s important to maintain these habits, carving out this space in our lives, even when other responsibilities may try to dominate our energy and focus.
Routinely practicing self-care is a way of reminding ourselves that we matter as individuals and feeding a positive self-image. Relighting the fire that grounds our core will help us move forward into this new stage of our lives.
2. Explore means for deeper connections
Examining our deeper needs for social or spiritual connections can bring us greater fulfillment, according to Ninivaggi. Take a class, learn an instrument, join a sports league, community service club or a spiritually affiliated group. The people we meet through these activities can add another dimension to these experiences. Friends enrich our lives immeasurably.
3. Reassess major lifestyle choices
Dr Marcia Reynolds, president of Covision – a leadership and coaching firm – suggests we also take a look at major life circumstances, such as employment, life goals and prioritize friendships, to improve our quality of life.
Finding a more fulfilling job where we can achieve goals that meet our present desires and needs may be an important step toward this quest. Even if an immediate job change isn’t possible, thinking about long-term exit plans from a highly stressful job, turning part-time, starting our own company or adding volunteer work may supplement feelings of goodwill.
Make time for friends, but also examine current relationships, creating more room for people who bring joy rather than stress. Take a hard look at any relationships with toxic people, and consider whether eliminating their presence from your life would be a good solution.
4. Therapy can provide another perspective
Sometimes the struggles feel too deep to tackle on our own. Rather than disrupt our lives and our families unnecessarily, professionals can help us sort out the deep feelings of depression, anxiety or resentment we can’t manage by ourselves. If we’re having a difficult time knowing whether to make a big change in our lives, it can be a great assistance to have a neutral third party to help hash out those issues.
As we approach middle age, many of us begin to feel a sense of dissatisfaction with our lives, which we can use as a call to re-examine our priorities. Take time to think about what’s important in this moment and the goals for the years to come. Foster immediate self-care needs, and make time for old hobbies and new ones. Find a fulfilling spiritual center and supportive circle of friends. Consider changes, as necessary, to move toward more fulfilling work, and let go of unhealthy relationships. Don’t hesitate to seek a professional’s advice for another perspective, while embarking on this adventure of re-discovery.