Male midlife crisis is a time-honored trough, described by Dante and Shakespeare but women are certainly not immune to it. This is a very unique period in one’s life. In this 40 to 60 age group one is neither too young to be innocent nor too old to be uninterested. One has achieved quite a bit but not everything. But while perusing the goals yet to be achieved his/her life starts taking peculiar turn. This midlife stew often starts with some garden-variety boredom. If you've been hoeing the same row for 20 years, only an idiot wouldn't wonder if there aren't some more interesting rows somewhere else. On top of tedium, we often get our first bolt of serious bad news: the death of a parent, trouble in a marriage, a career setback, the transformation of the 8-year-old who thought you were God into the adolescent who thinks you're the devil. Crushing chest pain and the word "biopsy" can set a fellow to thinking about what he's done with this life. It is now that some undeniable facts start eroding the dubious pillars on which we've built our notion of a man or a woman.
A midlife crisis was first identified by the psychologist Carl Jung and is a normal part of the maturing process. Most people will experience some form of emotional transition during that time of life. A transition that might cause them to take stock in where they are in life and make some needed adjustments to the way they live their life. Most seem to come through the process smoothly without making major life changes but some go completely overboard.
The gender divide: Yes, men and women react differently to this crisis
Men go through a midlife crisis because they reach a certain age and realize that life is passing them by. Commonly, men in midlife crisis become afraid of:
· the changes that come with aging.
· becoming ill.
· becoming less attractive to the opposite sex.
· not attaining goals they have set for themselves.
· never feeling sexual passion again.
They often feel that their choice in wife was a mistake and being responsible for the family is holding them back from attaining their fullest potential.
Women, on the other hand, are thrust into midlife crisis because they reach a certain age and find they finally have the opportunity to do all the things in life they have put off while caring for a family but are alarmed to find that they are no more young and fit to live their lost dreams.
· Her children are grown and all of a sudden and they don’t need her and often leave home to pursue studies or career. She experiences empty nest syndrome and is left with a feeling that she is now less useful to them.
· She and her husband have both worked hard, are now financially secure and this is her opportunity to explore all those things she has put on the backburner.
· She goes through menopause, which means both biological and psychological changes. The latter can cause them to question how they have lived their life and whether they should make changes to better their lives.
· If she married young and had children early she may feel a fervent need to recapture her youth.
So while men in crisis often obsess about big questions, as in, "Does my life matter?" women on the other hand have a very different question, “Do I matter to the world?”
Certain undeniable symptoms that do not remain undetected to a keen observer are insomnia, fatigue, despair, morbidity, inability to concentrate, ruefulness about roads not taken, dread that life holds no more surprises, regrets, sharp longing for some materialistic thing like a gunmetal Porsche, or a villa by the sea or someone like a beautiful movie star.
But this midlife crisis is not for unknown reasons all the time. The three factors which are controllable are debt, loss of a dear one and an avoidant personality. Finding oneself in middle aged, in debt and facing retirement can add stress to an already stressful time in life. Responsible financial behavior at this crucial juncture is vital. Parental loss, particularly in Indian joint families can be bewildering and overwhelming. The person in this crisis, bereft of parental guidance, considers himself/herself at the front of the firing line, responsible for the entire family. And lastly if a person has a crisis prone personality he/she suffers from feelings of inadequacy, low self – esteem and they are the ones who find midlife transition harder to navigate. More than likely, they will run from their problems instead of trying to find solutions to them. It’s this personality type that normally ends up in divorce court during midlife.
Stages of Midlife Crisis: Both men and women go through the same stages during a midlife crisis:
Some will process through these stages smoothly. Some will go back and forth between stages until they work their way through the crisis. Anyone who goes through a midlife crisis is experiencing an internal change that will have either a positive outcome or negative outcome. – learn a new trade, play a new game, utilize the time better and metamorphose into a better human being with a renewed sense of adventure and improved awareness of physical and mental fitness.
How to manage the mid-life crisis: So why is it that more often than not, that exhaustion and achievement go hand in hand. But a burn-out is no symptom of success; it's our body's way of telling us to slow down. A short quick fix like an Ayurvedic / Chinese / Korean medicine may seem like a good solution, but in order to get to the root of the problem, some fundamental change in life are required and that takes time. I would suggest a holistic life style modification:
1. Get all the sleep you need – at least a full seven to eight hours of sleep and midday nap may do wonders.
2. Eat good and healthy food and eat in time.
3. Skip the caffeine - If you're feeling anxious, stressed, or burned out, coffee isn't your long term fix. Rather, opt for something that offers a long term solution, such as exercise or meditation, to help you feel energized and awake.
4. Get (and stay) active - There's no better mood-booster and stress-reducer than movement. Exercise has been shown to protect memory and thinking skills.
5. Take comfort in silence - Meditation really works. It reduces stress, boosts immunity, improves sleep, and, possibly, increases happiness.
6. Do things that make you happy - Starve your ego and feed the soul. Just because something brings you a sense of achievement, it does not necessarily mean that it will fill you with joy.
7. Listen to your intuition, your gut feeling - If you're feeling tired, take a nap. If you're in need of a vacation, go on a trip. If something doesn't feel quite right, look into it.
8. Spice up your routine life with adventure now and then - challenge yourself to do something completely new at least once a week. New experiences open your mind to new ways of thinking and perceiving, making you happier.
9. Surround yourself with positivity and surround yourself with positive thinking people of all ages. Consider the value they add to your life and well-being. People who are mindful of their relationships tend to be more confident in their judgment.
10. Take the time to learn something new – This invariably makes us happy and keeps your brain sharp and young.
11. Keep a journal – It will relieve stress, boost comprehension, spark creativity, build confidence, and encourage you to accomplish your goals.
Midlife crisis is an emotionally uncomfortable period that men and women go through between the age of 35 and 55. For most it is a time to question priorities and adjusting their lifestyle to fit better with their emotional needs. With proper planning we can surely tide over this phase and get prepared for a brighter second innings.