Are you looking forward to your mid-life crisis?
The man in the Porsche pulled into the car-park, and leapt out in his one-piece lycra triathlon suit.
He whipped his carbon-fibre bicycle weighing less than a small rodent off the back, pulled down his Oakleys and waddled to the start line.
Everyone around was thinking the same thing– mid-life crisis.
This is real
According to a survey published this week by the charity Relate, the mid-life crisis is more common than ever.
Interestingly, it is also coming earlier in life – now many people in their early to mid-30s are reportedly going through a crisis.
The survey describes the symptoms as feelings of loneliness, depression, emptiness and despair. Life appears to be out of kilter with the person we really are and the values we old dear.
It seems that we let the busyness of day to day life and the pressures of making a living pile up.
Typical sufferers talk about reaching a bursting point, where suddenly everything spills out at once.
Life appears to lose meaning and feels empty. Big questions emerge – “what is this all about?”
This recognition that all is not well kicks off the emotions we’ve been ignoring and they all come racing forth at once.
Often the shock of this leads to an extreme reaction – hence our friend in the lycra.
In reality however this crisis can lead to big personal changes, often in the heat of the moment. Life or often lives can be permanently altered by this sudden moment of anguish.
Crisis, what crisis?
I think that we should all have a midlife crisis. In fact, I think we should all have lots of mini-crises every day.
The Midlife Crisis seems to be about stopping and reflecting on how our life is going. Weighing up what is happening in life, what direction we’re heading in and how we feel about that.
It is about asking the big questions –
What is life all about?
What is my purpose?
What makes me happy and fulfilled?
What will be my legacy?
Am I living a life that is aligned with my values?
The problem with the midlife crisis is that we ignore all these questions every day. Life simply seems to get in the way.
There is never time to stop and reflect. No opportunity to identify what isn’t working and figure out what to do about it.
No time to feel our anxiety, frustration and anger and get to the bottom of it.
It all just builds up and then erupts like a volcano and in that crises we often make irrational decisions and do things we regret (again, lycra).
If we regularly took the time to stop, reflect, plan and take care of ourself, we’d head it off at the pass.
In fact the benefits would be huge.
Rather than letting the stress of every day life pile up on top of us, we’d have a daily release valve.
Rather than feeling directionless and unfulfilled we’d have a chance to work out what makes us tick and bring that into our life.
Rather than feeling that time is an enemy and ticking away, we’d feel that we were in control of our time and able to shape our destiny.
Where do I sign up?
At some point, I am secretly looking forward to my lycra moment (I think many of us do).
However, there are some good practices I’ve found to try and ensure that the mid-life crisis is about looking a bit stupid rather than exploding my life, and here are a few:
• Setting aside 10 minutes every day to myself. Simply having some punctuation in every day takes me off the treadmill of life. I like to breathe and meditate, other people listen to music, read, journal or simply stare into space.
• Taking the time to get clear on my values. Understanding what is most important to me helps me to identify and evaluate the choices I have in life. It also helps explain the times when I don’t feel happy or something feels wrong (this is almost always because I’m compromising an important value)
• Reflecting on and setting some goals. Having something to aim for gives me a sense of purpose and fulfilment, and helps stave off the feeling of drift.
• Spending time with people I love. A great way to get perspective is to talk through your feelings, thoughts and ambitions with someone you love and trust.
• Thinking about the bigger questions. I used to ignore some of the bigger questions about life, death and existence. Now I try to explore them and find the answers that I need and for me, that fills a hole.
There are a million ways to have your own mini-crisis every day. How do you manage the pressure of every-day life, set your direction and answer the big questions?
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If you are close to or having a mid-life crisis, this is an invaluable resource to get the support you need to work through it
Belinda Munoz is an expert on negotiating the middle of life at her great blog, the Halfway Point.
Patty Bechtold makes adventure in meaning at Why not Start Now
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