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Life in the midst of your 40s, 50s, and 60s is not for the faint of heart. Life changes are happening all around and they can cause a range of emotions. My midlife crisis started in 2018 and I'm doing my best to move forward. How about you?
Midlife Crisis Defined
If you are in the midst of a midlife crisis like I was, you know it can be a painful and challenging phase in life. What is a midlife crisis?
A midlife crisis is generally defined as a transition of identity and self-confidence that occurs in middle-aged individuals (typically 45 to 64 years old). This psychological “crisis” is fueled by events that bring to light a person’s age, inevitable mortality, and perhaps a lack of notable accomplishments in adult life.…Tony Endelman
The stereotypical midlife crisis of buying sports cars, having affairs, and trying to act 22 years old are not only stupid (reckless, immoral), but far less common than the more typical issues so many deal with.
Midlife Crisis Symptoms
What does a midlife crisis look like?
- Anxiety about future (or lack thereof)
- Depression due to real or perceived lack of accomplishment and/or opportunity
- Excessive pursuit of appearance of youth
- Drastic life changes (or the desire to create them)
Most of us experience variations on these themes throughout life. It's not abnormal or problematic. It's when those things intensify, stack on top of each other, and become debilitating that we need to step back and asses.
Are your midlife crisis symptoms causing problems in your relationships? In your career? In your ability to enjoy good things in life? If so, it's time to tack action
Midlife Crisis Causes
Turning 30 (and 40 and 50) were no problem. Turning 29, 39, and 49 were somehow more impactful. For me, it was the almost milestone that threw me for an emotional loop. It was the approaching, perceived, impending doom on the immediate horizon that got me. Once the big zero birthday actually hit, I was already over it.
Similarly, in 2018, when our second-to-youngest child graduated from our homeschool, I could clearly see the looming empty nest and the end of life as I knew it. And I full on panicked.
No, I didn't do anything rash or with lasting devastating consequences. But there was a lot of despair and many tears. I reassessed my entire life and every choice I'd made. Every negative outcome I had utterly overwhelmed the real positive experiences and results.
What are the things we midlifers ruminate about the most?
- Concerns about mortality
- Physical changes due to aging
- Unmet life expectations
And here's the rub: those fears and concerns are real.
We are mortal and we are getting closer to the ends of our lives. Close enough that we can start to see it. Close enough that we have more life behind us than we do in front of us.
Aging effects vary greatly from person to person, of course. But everyone ages. Even those pouring piles of cash into cosmetic procedures to look younger, are still just as old under the facade.
Unless you lived a directionless life—with the goal of living simply being to end up wherever the flow of life took you—you undoubtedly have fallen short of some of your goals. If you've never failed, you're goals were too easy.
It's one thing to manage fears that are based on overblown predictions. It's another to try to reign in concerns based in truth.
Midlife Crisis Triggers
Major life events and milestones—particularly those that mark new ages and life stages—tend to bring on the trouble. These events are things such as:
- The big 0 birthdays (particularly 40, 50, 60)
- Youngest child graduating from high school (or college)
- Children moving out, getting married, becoming independent
- Death of parents
- Physical signs of aging
- Negative health issues, typical of aging
We know from decades of psychological analyses, that major life changes negatively impact both physical and mental health. Humans like constancy and midlife is a time full of big life transitions that can cause major stress.
Try to remember that this stress is normal. Also remember that while some of the life changes themselves are permanent, the stress from them will pass as we adjust. We can take the reality of our situations and make our lives positive and fulfilling.
Midlife Crisis Cures
If you watch the very first video on my Midlife Credo YouTube channel, you will see that I don't have all the answers. When my crisis hit in 2018, the only thing I knew for sure was that I had to move from where I was to somewhere better. And I was hoping to invite (coerce? drag?) other struggling midlifers (in their 40s, 50, 60s, and beyond) along on the journey!
I thought of what kind of person I wanted to become and used CREDO—which is a statement of the beliefs or aims which guide someone's actions—as an acronym for my personal credo. CREDOS are:
Those were all things that seemed seriously lacking in my midlife self—and a theme I saw running through the community as a whole. The path to that end was to set goals in seven areas:
- Body: health; fitness; food; sleep
- Fun: entertainment; travel; leisure
- Good: philanthropy; character; spirituality
- Home: organizing; decorating; cleaning
- Love: marriage; family; friends
- Mind: productivity; education; development
- Money: business; budgeting; investing
Improving in each area of my life is my midlife crisis cure.
You are welcome to join me on this journey. The more the merrier! And some days we could really use a little more merry in our lives.
Midlife Crisis Resources
In the past two years, I've found a lot of great resources that have been helping me along the way. Just forcing myself way out of my comfort zone to create vlogs has been a game changer in so many parts of my life. But if you're just starting out, just sticking your toe into the midlife makeover journey, I recommend these two books:
This book began far away from midlifers and their collective crises! The book came about from a very popular course the authors taught at Stanford University to help college students grapple with life in the real world. The idea of the “design lab” was to take design strategies and apply them to tackling the “wicked problems of life.”
What problem is more wicked that trying to start over and redirct when half your life is already over?
This was the first book I read when starting my journey and it is a game changer. I loved it so much, I bought copies for three of my young adult children last Christmas.
There is an accompanying workbook: The Designing Your Life Workbook: A Framework for Building a Life You Can Thrive In. I haven't used this yet, but given all the deep work the book recommends, it's probably a good investment.
I've studied and even taught courses in goal setting for decades. This book takes those strategies to another level by combining self-improvement and productivity strategies with ways to quiet down the emotional responses many of us face. While I've never had mental health issues, middle age (and motherhood in particular) lead to a build up of anxiety in the form of rumination over all the issues each member of my family was facing and how I was measuring up in my attempts to help them.
This post isn't aimed specifically at those dealing with a midlife crisis, but I found the life improvement tips and techniques a perfect fit for anyone wanting to move forward in life in spite of challenges with negative thinking.
More Midlife Reading
If you love browsing through books and read regularly (three to four books per month), I recommend a service I just joined a couple of months ago:
Kindle Unlimited does not carry every book title on Amazon. But they do have over a million titles in the program. (Of the two books listed above, the first is not available, but the second is.) They also have tons of magazines and Audible audiobooks and can be used on any device.
You can browse the library for titles. Another way is to simply look at the listing for a book you are already interested in. If it's available on the service, it will be listed as one of the purchase options.
Amazon has a special that gives you a 30 day free trial after which it costs $9.99 per month. You can have 10 titles downloaded to your app at a time. If you are at your limit and want to download a book, you simply check one back in and then replace it with the new download.
There are so many quality titles applicable to us midlifers, that I am editing this section and creating a new page listing the best midlife titles on Kindle Unlimited I find. If you have suggestions, please let me know in the comments and I'll check them out!
So far, I love the service and offerings. Let me know if you've tried it and what you think!
Making Midlife Better
Midlife does not need to be a crisis and angst filled time. It can be a time of discover, growth, and renewal.
Have you been able to make your second half the better half? Share your best midlife crisis tips in the comments!
Alison Moore Smith is a 57-year-old entrepreneur. She has been (very happily) married to Samuel M. Smith for 36 years. They are the parents of six incredible children and the grandparents to one astounding ginger grandson.
She is the author of The 7 Success Habits of Homeschoolers.