Life Begins at 40 ! It is a line many use when they hit the 40 year mark. But it is also a stage in life synonymous with the dreaded mid life crisis- a situation of being unhappy, lonely and uncertain about life. Although the condition is known to affect both men and women, its magnitude varies from person to person. Experts describe midlife crisis as a psychological and behavioral observation that commonly occurs in people between the ages of 40 to 65.
It manifests in different ways: Some people may experience feelings of depression, remorse and anxiety, while others may experience feelings such as the desire to achieve youthfulness or make drastic changes to their current lifestyle or atmosphere. This stage of growth occurs mainly around the ages of 40 to 45 and lasts for around five years in women and as far as 10 years for men.
A mid-life crisis involves a combination of factors in one’s life, these can include;
- some pending difficulties from the past,
- dissatisfaction with the present achievements in one’s life,
- fear of the less opportunities in the future or,
- fear of ageing.
“Everyone reacts differently in this period of life. For some people, a sense of restlessness, depression, uselessness despite many positive achievements in their lives, and all these feelings aren’t attributed to any single specific cause,” one may feel the urge to destroy what they have achieved in the past, may leave their jobs, break family ties and relationships in the process of trying to be the kind of person they feel they need to be, to lead a more contented and fulfilling life. Other people feel fearful about going past their youth years.
There is no exact cause of midlife crisis, hence, it varies across individuals but the most common causes include;
- change in physical appearance as one ages,
- high cost of living, and above all,
- awareness of death as one ages.
- Especially in women, Menopausal changes can also set in around this age and can aggravate a midlife crisis,
How to cope when midlife crisis strikes:
Women at this age are like young children and to help them with what they are going through, they need to have friends and family close to them. Some women at this stage start comparing themselves to colleagues who are younger; they start to have more questions than answers and this can make them fall into depression.
Women at this stage tend to experience certain marital problems like tension in the relationship, or disagreements with their children, and this doesn’t make it any easier for them. The most important thing, is to show them love and care. Counseling and confronting challenges head on helps in overcoming this situation. Assessing oneself and identifying the positives achieved, taking good care of oneself and self-love, coupled with acceptance of the challenges faced in this stage of life, will give a better outcome..
“One can cope with all these midlife crisis challenges in various ways such as reassessing one’s life at that stage and focusing on the positives achieved in life, and doing all they can to protect what they have built up to that point by restraining from any ideas that would lead to its destruction.”
A mid-life crisis can provide tremendous opportunities for personal growth and positive change; therefore, one can use this opportunity to plan and tackle that stage with wisdom, maturity and self-confidence; something that could have been distinctly lacking in earlier life.
Is it a crisis or a quest for identity?
Working women experience a different midlife crisis more than men. In the past, the major shift in identity that women faced was the transition from mother to freedom. Now the career-minded woman’s life path more closely resembles a man’s, shifting aspirations with the turn of each decade of their lives.
Yet the reasons for the shifts differ for women. Women now enter the workplace with high expectations of career advancement.
Many in their 20’s say, “I want to be CEO” then face the reality of having to live in the trenches for a while before they can rise up.
As they enter their 30’s and their career focus narrows, this is where their development splits off from men. As they cope with the ongoing inequality in the workplace, their disappointments of dreams not achieved, by the time they enter their 40’s, many lose their taste for proving themselves.
This quest might even endure into their 50’s and 60’s as circumstances change and desires surface. It is possible that women without careers go through significant explorations each decade as well.
“If you are questioning what is next for your career and possibly, your life, this is a great time to talk to friends who might be going through a similar experience. There is no need to tough it out on your own.”
Friends are so helpful at this stage since some can be going through the same course in their own lives. As people live longer, fuller lives we can now cast aside that stereotype and start thinking in more relative terms of a mid-life transition rather than mid-life crisis.
In fact, research shows the your brain is, in many aspects, functioning a higher capacity than it did during your 20s, and it creates a more optimistic outlook: “A rich and fruitful life after 50 is a much more realistic possibility.”
Tackling new learning opportunities or a new career choice are not unreasonable moves. The added benefit is that you may now have a better chance of succeeding because your choices will be rooted in knowledge and experience rather than youthful blind ambition.
Discuss major life changes with the people you know you best: colleagues, friends and family. They will be able to support you in the new direction you want to take. Think about what you’ve learned about yourself so far. Consider what you’ve found to be your strongest abilities and what most pleases you, not what your parents or society expected from you when you were younger.
While I continue to wrestle with the mid-life crisis demons I also need to take time to appreciate what I have achieved so far. I haven’t reached all of the goals my 20-year-old self would have liked but so what, I have lived and there’s still life in the old girl yet. I might be much older but I am also wiser and I hope that by having a crisis and questioning where I am at in my life now, I will eventually come up with a plan that makes the most of the next 40 years – for both myself and my family.
I am Happy being “40 and Fabulous”