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4 Ways To Turn A Midlife Crisis Into A New Beginning

Do you feel lost and a little useless? Maybe this will help.

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illustration of woman reading a book on top of sideways hourglass
Kiersten Essenpreis
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My last kid is starting his senior year of high school, and I’m wondering what my life will be like when he's gone. I’m so grateful I was able to stay home, working a part-time job, while raising my kids. But now I need to fill the empty space that was once focused on parenting, my greatest priority through all these years.     

My roles are shifting, and the unknown future I’m facing is scary and confusing. A sense of sadness is starting to engulf me as I near the end of this season, along with an urgency to do more with my life. But I also feel old and tired, and doubtful I have any skills or even the motivation to succeed in anything I might want to pursue. Could I even go back to my career after almost 20 years?

I feel lost and a little useless, but I still have no regrets about staying home with my kids. This is a turning point in my life, though. I’m wading through new waters, unsure if I’m able to swim. I need to find answers to so many questions as I carefully tread into my life’s next stage.    

I realize these issues are some of the many different signs of a midlife crisis, which most women experience whenever they go through big life transitions. Not only are we struggling with the physical changes that come with aging, but we also are experiencing significant events that are shifting our perspectives and disrupting our lives. Many are losing loved ones or caring for aging parents while growing increasingly aware of the fragility of life and how fast time flies.

Whatever the trigger, there’s a hunger for change in one area or another and a restlessness that fuels our discontent wherever we are. While some women struggle with negative symptoms of depression during their midlife crisis, others are fueled with the motivation to discover new pursuits and take better care of themselves. I’ve started to learn constructive ways to move through this transitional phase, while I take slow, intentional steps to cautiously calculate where to go next. If you’re facing murky midlife questions like I am, maybe these tips for navigating a crisis will help give you clarity too.      

Make self-care a priority.   

In midlife we’re experiencing the physical symptoms of menopause and all the mood swings that come with hormonal fluctuations. We’re often exhausted or stressed from a host of things going on in different areas of our lives. Women feel so much pressure to do everything well that they can lose themselves in the process. It’s important we don’t dismiss how we feel, both physically and mentally, and prioritize self-care. Eat well, exercise regularly, rest and relax, explore new interests, start new hobbies, connect with friends, and get outside. I’ve learned the hard way that I’m not capable of taking charge of my life if I don’t take care of myself first. When I’m tired and stressed, I grow increasingly emotional and reckless with my choices. That’s no way to wander through a midlife crisis.      

Take time for honest introspection and reflection.     

Everyone experiences midlife crises differently, with their own personal revelations, challenges and transitions. Take the much-needed time for serious self-examination, and work through your issues honestly, so you can carefully assess your needs. Ignoring your feelings will drastically affect your mental and physical health in negative ways, thereby making your crisis worse. For a while, I didn’t want to acknowledge my feelings, but when I started opening up about them, I felt a sense of relief. Reflecting on what I’ve accomplished and evaluating what I want and need in my future is helping me gain clarity. This contemplative work is hard and revealing, but it’s helping me gain a fresh perspective on my life.    

Don’t make impulsive decisions. Think long and hard before you do anything drastic.    

No matter how distraught you are, reckless behavior will hurt you more. There are lots of options someone might feel tempted to pursue for relief or excitement, like quitting a job, having an affair or moving to a new locale, to name a few. Don’t do anything without thinking about the people you love, and the consequences of the choices you’re about to make, for a good long time. In one fitful afternoon, I rather recklessly decided I was going back to teaching and dug up my old dusty books and mapped out a strategy to implement immediately. My husband gently suggested that I not make any hasty choices without taking the time to consider if this commitment was what I really wanted to do with my future. I'm so thankful he anchored me back in before I went through with my plan.    

Talk to others about what you’re experiencing.     

Share what you’re going through with your partner so they can be aware of your midlife struggles and support you through this difficult season. You won’t feel so alone if you reach out to your friends for their validation, and honest feedback too. It really helps to talk to someone who has already gone through their own midlife crisis or who is facing one now. If, however, you’re struggling to function or feeling depressed or hopeless, therapy might be exactly what you need. On a particularly bad day, I texted my best friend with my laments. She responded with affirmation, reminding me of her midlife transition after divorce. I watched her take those terrifying steps toward rebuilding her life full of purpose and joy. This gives me hope that I can do this as well.     
Do you think you've gone through a midlife crisis? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Lifestyle