Mid-life Crisis - Comedy or Reality?
Is there really such a thing as a mid-life crisis for men?
We have all heard the stereotypical actions of a man in mid-life crisis - the red sports car, the affair with a younger woman, the dyed hair. It’s the bread and butter of many a sitcom. But do men really experience a mid-life crisis?
Well, the answer is yes but it isn’t really very funny. The real mid-life crisis can result in marriage break down, career disruption, rebellion, depression and suicide.
At around 50, women usually go through a very specific change (the menopause) which is reasonably well researched and documented and for which there are varying degrees of support (that is a whole other blog post!).
A man however arrives at this point and finds he is not a child, a teenager, a young adult or an old person. So what is he? Inevitably this can lead to reflection on what he has achieved, how far he has come, which in turn leads to projection - what is ahead of me? Couple this identity crisis with big life changes such as career change (redundancy, retirement), death of a parent, caring for elderly parents or a child leaving home. Throw in a ‘big’ birthday ending in a zero. Now add to the mix falling testosterone levels. A degree of psychological trauma seems inevitable.
"Middle age went by while I was mourning for my lost youth." - Mason Cooley
How do you know you are experiencing a mid-life crisis? Do these sound familiar:
feeling anxious about the future
feeling sad for long periods of time
increased alcohol or drug use
change in libido
obsession with personal appearance
loss of interest in people and activities you used to enjoy
gnawing restlessness and feelings that ‘there must be something else’
irrational or risky behaviours
"Midlife is when you reach the top of the ladder and find that it was against the wrong wall." - Joseph Campbell
What can you do to navigate this potentially difficult time?
Switch the thinking. The word ‘crisis’ comes from a Greek word which means ‘the turning point in a disease which leads to recovery or death’. It brings with it ideas of danger and fear. But it also brings choice and opportunity. Try to use the experience to take stock and look for opportunities. Acknowledge how you are feeling and try to make some changes.
Keep it simple. Try to stay focused on making small changes which bring tangible results. You can’t change everything and in fact, when you really think about it, you might not want to change everything. Prioritise and take one thing at a time.
Self care. Physical well being is closely linked to mental well being. Exercise, good diet, sleep and relaxation will all help to make you feel better. Why not try a new relaxation class or take up a new hobby. Make the time to look after yourself.
Start talking. Talk to people you care about and who care about you. They are not mind readers and I bet they have noticed the changes in you. Tell them what you're feeling. Explore your expectations of yourself and what you think others expect of you. Through talking you will get a much more honest view of yourself.
Take it seriously. If the feelings of hopelessness or sadness are overwhelming, visit your GP and/or find a counsellor. It’s ok to get specialist help.
Acknowledging and accepting that your life is in a transition phase can lead you to make positive changes which enhance your health, your relationships and your career. So don’t ignore or belittle it - grab the opportunity to change.
"Turn your midlife crisis to your advantage by making it a time for renewal of your body and mind, rather than stand by helplessly and watch them decline." - Jane E. Brody
Does this strike a chord? If you think counselling might help you, get in touch.