Okay, I'm actually 43 (or maybe 18 with 25 years experience?). Prime mid-life crisis age. Or is it? Is there such a thing?
Developmental psychologists study people through the lifespan and while most of the focus has been on the earliest and later stages of life, the experts will tell you that those of us in the middle are still growing and developing and changing.
That's mostly a good thing. In fact at middle age (generally considered to be sometime around 40+) our thinking skills may be better than they were when we were younger and while life can be at its most stressful thanks to a combination of work, children and finances we're better equipped to cope with it than at any point previously.
Other benefits of geting older include less emotional volatility (it turns out that we take a long while to master our feelings and we get increasingly better at it with age) and we become less and less fussed about others expectations of us and more able to find contentment with who we are.
But what is it about this age that it also brings confusion, frustration and existential angst?More than once in recent months I've heard a cry from similarly aged friends and colleagues, 'I think I'm having a midlife crisis!'
A 40-something (or even late 30s) transition period is a very real thing - and not just for the blokes. Women at my age can and do experience a midlife 'quest for identity,' especially if much of 'us' and our hopes and dreams for the future are put on hold to pour our energy into the little people in our lives and the new routines and challenges and changes that come with family lfe.
At the point at which kids become a little less dependent on us and we begin to have the mental time and space to consider ourselves again, we also start to wonder, 'What next?' Is there now a chance to rekindle those dreams? Can we be the people we were before children or is it time for reinvention? Do we want to return to prior careers or start something new? Can we begin again? What do we do? Who are we?
I've been doing a lot of reading and research on this topic and these are my tips for coping with the midlife transition:
1. Look to the future - Dreaming about the future and the possibilities it could hold is a motivating force. If we move our minds away from the problems of today and we can begin to shift, psychologically, towards a better place to get unstuck.
2. Pick a goal - Start small. Think of something you've always wanted to do but haven't - yet. Write it down. What's the first tiny step you need to take to achieve your goal? Think baby steps here. Write that down. Next, do it and celebrate your small but important win.
3. Celebrate successes of the recent past. We often get stuck in the challenges and problems of today and focus on the things that we have not yet achieved. Put that aside for a moment and focus on what you have achieved, no matter how small it may seem. Give yourself a pat on the back for what you have achieved and keep focusing on the wins rather than the losses.
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