I often wonder if I’m having a midlife crisis. I think I’m still too young, but who can really say that there is a right age to have one. The worse part is, I haven’t even finished growing up.
I don’t really know the specifics of a midlife crisis, but if it means having been an adult for at least a couple decades,achieving several societal milestones, and then realizing your life is empty and meaningless, then yes, I could be in crisis.
After reading the Forbes article,15 Signs You’ve Hit Your Mid-Life Crisis (And What To Do About It,) I felt validated, followed by inspired, and finally annoyed. Clearly this article was written for rich folk who have time to slow down, take sabbaticals, reassess their lives, and repurpose themselves. But what do you do when you have to work to make a living and you can’t afford to “slow down?”
CONSIDER THAT LIFE HAS BEEN GOOD
If you’ve reached your 40’s or 50’s and it’s the first time you are having a crisis of identity, it probably means your life has been pretty smooth until now. It might mean you were successful in achieving the typical milestones that everyone aspires to. You got an education, you got the good job, you met the love of your life, you bought the house and the car, had the kids (not necessarily in that order), you get the point. You’ve had a good life and you have many reasons to be grateful.
Which brings me to my next point.
WHAT LOOKS LIKE A CRISIS, MIGHT ACTUALLY BE AN AWAKENING
What’s interesting about a midlife crisis is that it seems to be a common experience among humans, and it seems to occur around a specific age. We reach a point where there are no more milestones to reach because society hasn’t outlined them for us. We are given instructions for how to set ourselves up with a comfortable life and then we are just supposed to go on living a humdrum existence until we die?
No thank you! Wake up! Your soul is speaking to you!
Having this existential experience means you know you are meant for more. It means your soul wants to grow. You are having an awakening where shit just got serious. You know you don’t have forever on this Earth and you want to make an impact. Leave your legacy. You are a forced to be reckoned with.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Everyone deals with this crossroads a little differently. Have you ever heard the cliché about the guy who goes out and buys a sports car, makes some other outrageous purchase, or maybe even has an affair with someone younger?
Certainly many people experience dramatic relationship, job, or other life changes during this time, but our energy can be used constructively to bring about positive changes that can propel us into a more satisfying position in life. Many people choose to make huge lifestyle changes during this time. Often doing things like running their first marathon, dramatically changing their diet, or quitting smoking . These are things that certainly don’t cost money and are very easy to incorporate into an already busy life. Not to say that buying a sports car won’t bring satisfaction, but it may only be temporary. Once the novelty wears off we are left with unresolved thoughts and emotions.
5 MINUTES OF QUIET TIME
So how can we use this time constructively you ask? For those of us unable to take a year long sabbatical in the Italian countryside away from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it might be useful to schedule some time to get quiet. The most important thing you can do during this process is listen. Listen to yourself. That sounds ridiculous! You might be thinking, but don’t knock it ‘till you try it.
Start off with something really small like 5 minutes. If you find you have trouble getting quiet, then just observe the running commentary in your head. Avoid judging your thoughts, just notice them. Often times, giving ourselves a bit of undivided attention can do wonders for our stress levels and feelings of unhappiness. Once you start to feel the benefits you’ll naturally want to schedule longer chunks of time.
5 MINUTES OF DAYDREAMING
Take some time to write down what you want your life to look like if there was nothing holding you back. When we are in early adulthood we have very few commitments and responsibilities. The world seems like a boundless ocean of possibility and dream making. As our responsibilities and commitments increase, the time and energy we have to put into actualizing dreams, decreases. Many people begin to believe that they’ve missed the boat on doing things they never got to do.
Good news! It’s never too late. Giving yourself time to reconnect with dreams can be a way to bring a spark back into your life. You might find it’s possible to still do the things you never did, or you may find you have new dreams you didn’t know you had.
5 MINUTES OF GOAL SETTING
This is a good time to re-evaluate goals. Ask yourself what they are. If you do get a chance to pinpoint some dreams you could take 5 minutes a day to write down some actionable steps you can take to achieve them. The simple act of planning to do something for yourself can break up the monotony of everyday life. The opposite of this can also be true. Maybe you want to let go of some things on your goal list. Maybe there are some things that are not as important anymore. Maybe you are doing too much and you want to create more serenity in your life.
5 MINUTES OF REFLECTION
If you do get the urge to do something like make an outrageous purchase or dramatically change the way you look, ask yourself what you hope you will achieve by doing these things. What kind of feelings are you trying to evoke for yourself? Is there something else that might provide you with the same experience?
5 MINUTES OF GRATITUDE
This is not a new idea but it is very effective. It also bears repeating. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. One of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves when we are feeling stuck in life is to take time to notice the things that are working. Whether it’s looking back at the things we’ve accomplished or being thankful for our health, family, or just that we have food on the table, practicing gratitude redirects our focus from feeling bad about ourselves to feeling good. This article from Psychology Today discusses several studies that demonstrate a host of benefits that can be achieved from such a simple practice.
Remember, there is always the option to seek professional help to walk you through your struggle, and there is no shame in that. But if you are not completely comfortable with that idea, and no one else is available to empathize with you, you can be your own support by doing these small things. Eventually 5 minutes a day can add up to huge rewards.