Midlife has generally been considered to occur between the ages of 40-60, however, some argue that may occur later (45-65) given the greater longevity people have due to better nutrition and medical care. American culture tends to put a high premium on attractiveness, and a youthful appearance, and relative to many other cultures is quite death-phobic. Contemplating, let alone discussing, one’s mortality is not something that happens often in our society. As people are forced to acknowledge and face the fact that they are aging, and will die someday, it can create an existential crisis for some, which is commonly referred to as the midlife crisis.

Does Stress Trigger a Midlife Crisis?

It is often a number of life events and stressors that cause people to face the hard realities of life which can bring about a midlife crisis. How well a person is able to cope will largely determine whether they end up having a midlife crisis; more on this later. Midlife is a period of time when some unhappy events begin to occur. Many people are having to deal with the loss of a parent, or having to step in and get more involved in the caregiving of an elderly parent. Realizing their parent’s mortality often spurs contemplation of one’s own eventual demise. Children being grown, independent, and moving out can be a great relief but the empty nest syndrome makes it more evident that you are aging. Beginnings of medical issues, yours or others, menopause, and more frequent aches and pains also bring home the reality of aging. For some the financial stress of planning for retirement and realizing you may not be able to work much longer can also be unsettling.

Events such as these can be the impetus for a midlife crisis. No longer able to bury their head in the sand, some people succumb to mental and emotional struggles with how to deal with things. Although research finds a slight dip in life satisfaction in midlife, how one copes with these stressors has a direct impact on that satisfaction level. Interestingly, many report an increase in life satisfaction in their senior years.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Midlife Crisis?

Like many experiences and issues, there can be a wide range of resulting symptoms that can manifest. Some of these can be physical manifestations such as weight changes, sleep disturbances, increased distractibility, muscle tension, and increased substance abuse to name a few. Other signs may be more behavioral such as deviation from routines and relationships or being impulsive such as with spending.

Emotional signs and symptoms are quite common. These may include irritability, anger, impatience, anxiety, depression, sadness, losing confidence, feeling unfulfilled, feelings of regret, boredom, or feeling empty. Likewise, many people see a change in their thinking. They may experience a loss of meaning and purpose, reminisce about the past, become more indecisive, ruminate about their physical well-being, or focus on ways to cling to their youth.

Often some of the stereotypic manifestations of a midlife crisis stem from poor coping and some denial about one’s own aging process. Some people seek out cosmetic surgeries to maintain a youthful appearance, they may quit a job, move to a new home, seek out extra-marital affairs as a form of validation for their attractiveness, or engage in reckless spending. Most of these are different forms of distraction intended to deny reality and not have to face one’s own aging and mortality.

How Do I Cope with a Midlife Crisis?

There are a variety of ways to work through and accept inevitable changes that are occurring. Some people find that working on their physical health gives them a sense of control over their health and well-being and naturally boosts their mood. Losing weight, being fitter, and building muscle, especially at the core, are all things that improve longevity and reduce risks for the future. Talking through feelings is a great way to ensure they don’t overwhelm you. Good friends you can be open with and get support from help to ground us and release pent-up feelings that otherwise eat us up from the inside out. Some seek the aid of professional therapists to work through their feelings and address their thinking. Changing the way we conceptualize aging and mortality can have a profound effect on our moods and global outlook. Working to accept changes and seeing them as another new phase of life to be conquered can make life more manageable and enjoyable.

If you are interested in exploring midlife concerns, feel free to contact IPC so you can schedule an appointment with one of our providers for a more thorough assessment.  Please call us now at 763-416-4167, or request an appointment on our website: WWW.IPC-MN.COM so we can sit down with you and complete a thorough assessment and help you develop a plan of action that will work for you. Life is too short to be unhappy. Find the peace of mind you deserve.

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