What are the signs of midlife crisis and other questions

I am, undoubtedly, in a middle of a midlife crisis. Big time. Let me share with you guys what I’ve learnt so far about this tornado. But first, let’s see if you show the symptoms of a midlife transition.

Signs of midlife crisis (for women)

Ever wondered, ‘Do I have a midlife crisis’?’ Well, answer the following questions with yes or no to see.

  1. Does ‘I’m going to die one day’ pop up in your thoughts at least once a week?
  2. Do you feel strangely not so content with your life lately, although it is just the same as it was before?
  3. Are you fed up with things and you feel you can’t put up with them anymore?
  4. Do you feel yearnings towards things you used to love but had to miss out on, because you never had the time?
  5. Are you reading self-help books regularly?
  6. Have you started exercising or will start it tomorrow?
  7. Have you taken courses to learn something new?
  8. Have you changed something major about your life lately? Career, marriage, hobbies…
  9. Are you preparing to make big changes in the near future?
  10. Can you relate to one or more of the midlife crisis archetypes on the following infographic?

Infographic about female midlife crisis archetypes

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have a midlife crisis. If you answered yes to more than half the questions, you are in the middle of the storm! Keep reading for a safe sail.

What is a midlife crisis?

Midlife crisis is a phase in life that

“brings traits, needs or desires that have been ignored or repressed roaring back on center stage in one’s personality”

writes Sue Shellenbarger, author of The breaking point – How female midlife crisis is transforming today’s women.

Midlife crisis can start anywhere between 35 and 52, an average, around 42.

Why does midlife crisis happen?

Because at middle age, we realize that we are getting older and will die soon. Who likes that thought? Nobody, but we have to accept it and deal with it. We have a deadline, and if we want to achieve something we better get working for it. That urgency, that push and motivation to improve our lives, fill in the gaps, find what’s missing – that is midlife crisis.

Who goes through midlife crisis?

About 1/3 of people have midlife crisis, both among men and women. There are certain factors that can make somebody ‘hardwired for crisis’, being high risk, according to Shellenbarger’s research:

  • People with unfulfilling or all-consuming careers
  • People with stall, unhappy or abusive marriages
  • Women who sacrificed everything for their family and never had a chance to pursuit their own goals
  • People who postponed renewing their lives, and just survived and bottled up their frustration
  • People with difficult childhood
  • People with depression*

Can we avoid or prevent women’s midlife crisis?

In my personal opinion, no. We can try to achieve as balanced a life as we can in our 20s and 30s, joggling roles, and apparently that will lower the odds of a disruptive, turbulent crisis in the 40s and 50s. But honestly, who has time for that? I barely had time to breath and take a shower at that time. 🙂 I literally cannot remember my 30th birthday, for example. I’m 41 now, so I had to have it, but I have no memories of it. 🙂

What are the benefits of midlife crisis?

The motivation. The risk taking. Our willingness to get off the couch and do something about what makes us unhappy and discontented.

According to two long-term studies, the decisions we make at midlife can significantly improve our chances for happiness later.

 

Choices women made at midlife - graph based on two long-term studies

What to do about midlife crisis?

Do something. Not completely without planning and rational thinking, but really do something.

Why? As you can see on the chart above, people who decided not to do anything, were significantly more unhappy later than the others. According to the studies made at the University of Michigan and at Radcliffe Collage, ‘ these women were the unhappiest of all at the next round of interviews. They suffered lower well-being, more depression, and a feeling of being less effective in life’.**

Women may go through their midlife crisis changes with different speed or potency, says S. Shellenbarger.

Sue Shellenbarger, graph based on women's midlife crisis modes or pathways

Some make significant changes, creating some heat and smoke in the process, hahaha, and improve their lives on the long haul. (See Sonic Boom, Moderate and Meltdown)

Some try, maybe a bit hastily, or hesitating too much, and have a little success. (Flameout, Slow Burn)

And some of us don’t even try, out of fear of losing everything. (Non-Starter)

Best way to deal with women midlife crisis

Find out your midlife crisis archetype

Being aware of your type should give you some direction of where to turn, what areas to work on in midlife. Based on your archetype, a good first step maybe

  • save up and travel, or find new sports to try (The Adventurer)
  • open up your heart and get meaningful relationships (The Lover)
  • give yourself a permission to build that business, that legacy you feel so passionate about (The Leader)
  • find the time and resources to rekindle your love for arts and create something (The Artist)
  • surround yourself with worthy people and make a difference in their lives, in your home, garden and community (The Gardener)
  • reach out to spiritual leaders to find your path, the meaning of life, either in person or through books and videos (The Seeker)

Learn from other’s stories

It is wise to seek the company of older women who has been through midlife crisis some time ago. They can share their memories with us, and we can learn from their choices. Shellenbarger says that decades later the only ones with overwhelming regrets are the Non-Starters.

‘The biggest mistake, it seems, is not having a midlife crisis at all.”

Find a support group

No one can understand you as much as another women struggling with midlife crisis. If you can, reach out and find them for support and understanding.

Work on life skills

According to research***, those who successful in making positive changes in midlife:

  • Focus more on the positive events in life, rather then on negative ones
  • Have higher degree of life competencies such as communication, relationship skills or work skills

So it is never too late to work on these important skills.

Get a life coach

In midlife we long for a change, simply being tired of the same old job, same old life or taking care of family without a break…

A life coach can help us to use the motivation of our midlife crisis to achieve what we are yearning for in order to eventually have inner peace and a more fulfilled life.

Takeaway about midlife crisis in women

  1. Be aware of it.
  2. Think about it, talk about it.
  3. Do something. Take some risks.
  4. Live happily ever after.

Contact me if you would like to talk about midlife with a safe, nonjudgmental person.

Take care!

Livia

Sources

*R. C. Kessler, K. A. McGonagle, M. Swartz, et. al., “Sex and Depression in the National Comorbidity Survey, in Journal of Affective Disorders 29 (October-November 1993): 85-96.

**Jutta Heckhausen, “Adaptation and Resilience in Midlife,” in Handbook of Midlife Development, ed. Lachman, pp 354-55.

***Carol Magai and Beth Halpern, “Emotional Development During the Middle Years,” in Handbook of Midlife Development, ed. Margie E. Lachman, pp 333-34.

S. Shellenbarger, “The breaking point – How female midlife crisis is transforming today’s women” Henry Holt and Company, 2004

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