What is a mid life crisis?
Definition of a mid life crisis
The words mid life crisis might evoke a specific image. Maybe you imagine a middle-aged person buying a red and shiny sports car. Or finding a much younger partner to feel young again. While these things can indeed happen during the crisis, they are not the key aspects of a mid life crisis and rather represent the external manifestations of an inner conflict.
The mid life crisis is essentially a process of self-reflection and self-evaluation. There comes a point in our lives, usually during the 40s and 50s, when we look back on our lives and wonder whether we have accomplished anything and whether it was worth it. People often associated] it with a sudden recognition of how old we are and that our imminent death is getting closer.
People in a mid life crisis often are experiencing major life events. For example, health issues or an empty nest syndrome (when a child leaves the house as a young adult) are common. Or simply something that makes us realize we are getting older and that our lives have reached a mid point. A mid life crisis definition then is focused more on the inner process that might manifest in different ways or through different behavior, for example, cheating or buying the cliched new sports car.
Mid life crisis in men
When we think about a mid life crisis, we often think about middle-aged men. In fact, a mid life crisis is very common in men because they suddenly become aware of their age and wonder whether they have lived right. Death, gray hairs, becoming a grandfather, or sudden health issues, are examples of triggers.
The most common sign of a mid life crisis in men usually involves sudden changes in their life. A person may make changes at a frantic pace. Someone might find a mistress, buy a car, get a divorce, quit a job, etc. Some people might go for radical changes, but most will make smaller ones.
Some men might try to seek things that will make them feel younger: dye their hair, seek out younger women, etc. Others might try for a change of career, especially if they are not satisfied with what they have accomplished professionally.
Mid life crisis in women
Women also might experience a mid life crisis, although a mid life crisis in women is not as talked about as a mid life crisis in men. Women might feel frustrated with the direction their life has been going. For example, a housewife might start feeling that she missed out on professional development and seek out professional opportunities, while a career woman might want to spend more time with her family. Women might also strive to make more changes, often trying to become more independent from their husbands. Many pursue art, college courses, or other activities, although some do go the route of an affair or plastic surgeries to feel younger.
A mid life crisis in women might also be triggered by gray hair, health issues, or the death of someone close. However, it might be associated with an empty nest. The woman might see her children becoming independent and wonder what she should do with her life now.
How to navigate a mid life crisis
A person having a mid life crisis should try to avoid rash and radical decisions. Especially if they involve things like affairs, divorces, or quitting. Things like having a mistress or drinking more is unlikely to solve the crisis. Rather, it might dig the person in deeper. It is very important to weigh one’s goals against reality. Can the individual accomplish what they really want to? So, if the person shouldn’t buy a shiny new car or go to a monastery in the Tibet, what should they do then?
A good idea is to get in touch with one’s feelings and analyze them. Where do they come from? What can you do about them? Confronting one’s own mortality is scary, but it is also unavoidable. It’s best to avoid radical changes and let one’s feelings pass through.
Another important strategy is being grateful. The person can focus on the positive aspects of their achievements. It’s important to try and appreciate the things the person did achieve rather than on the things they didn’t manage.
It may also be important not to become withdrawn. The person in crisis needs the support of their friends and family more than ever, but many feel like they can not be open about their doubts. It’s best to talk things through with those close to us and, if we feel we can not share our doubts with them, we should seek a friend or a therapist to talk things through before making rushed decisions.
Is a mid life crisis normal?
Yes, definitely. It is a response many people have to the natural process of becoming older. It is similar to the adolescent stage. The individual must resolve a personal crisis. If the person manages to resolve it successfully, they are likely to be more satisfied as older adults. However, rushed or impulsive decisions that may ruin the individual’s family or work life can be associated with worse outcomes. Overall, some people may decide that leaving something important is right for them, but this needs to be a responsible rather than a rushed choice.
Having said that, it’s also true that some people do not experience a mid life crisis. They could feel quite satisfied with what they have or not reflect significantly on the changes they are going through. A crisis is common. However, it is no automatic.
A mid life crisis is an inner process of reflection and evaluation of the “road so far” that can make the person want a change in their lives. It happens to both men and women. An event or the natural aging process can trigger a crisis.
To manage such a crisis, it’s a good idea to avoid rushed decisions. Many people feel the need for change and can frantically leave their families or jobs. It’s best to meditate on some ideas, see whether they are realistic, feel grateful for what you have, and reach out to family, friends, or counselors for support. While change can be beneficial, it should also be rational. It’s best to avoid radical decisions, especially those with potentially severe consequences.
A mid life crisis is normal, but it’s also normal not to have one. Different people experience their aging differently and might face these challenges in various ways.