Coping with Midlife Crisis
When a 57 year old well-established doctor suddenly decided to quit his stable government job of 25 years, 8 years ahead of his retirement age, change his career path, move to a new town, buy a swanky car, many were taken by surprise.
When a lady of 52 years, decided to leave her career of 15 years as a school-teacher, to dive into her passion of Hindustani classical music, her friends and family were taken aback.
When a 40 year-old successful industrialist running a health care industry suddenly deciding to leave his corporate life and take to spirituality and social service, his colleagues were stunned.
Many men and women, usually between 35 and 65 years, often show a change of mood, or surprising behaviour, that smack of mid-life crisis. It was described first by Elliot Jacques in 1965, and since then been recognised the world over.
The common symptoms and signs include:
- 1. Change of job, often giving up one that had been going smoothly for years, and taking up a more challenging one.
- 2. Making new friends, often younger, and dropping old ones
- 3. Splashing on a new car, youthful dresses, a luxury trip
- 4. Mood changes such as snappiness, low feelings or unexpected joviality
- 5. Asking questions on meaning and purpose of life, looking back and assessing one’s achievements, wondering if life should have been lived differently
- 6. Picking up new hobbies. Several people take to photography, music, theatre, social work or art at this age.
- 7. Impulsive decision making such as changing partners, filing for divorce or having an affair.
- 8. Obsession with health and fitness
- 9. Increase in alcohol consumption
While researchers recognise that some people demonstrate such strange behaviour during the middle years of their lives, there is much speculation on the reasons behind it. Some people seem to be seeking a break from that monotonous life when their children leave the nest, freeing them of their daily parenting responsibilities. Many, on the other hand, look to fulfilling their dreams and aspirations in the evenings of their lives before the dusk of old age sets in.
Middle age brings with it change in moods and behaviour. Depression is common, manifesting often as those strange questions that keep popping up: “What have I done in life?”, “What am I living for?”, “What did I wish to achieve and where have I reached?”, “What are the things I still want to do before hanging up my boots?”.
These are indeed difficult questions that can make anyone shift uncomfortably in bed, but what is funny, is that they seem to crop up at this age, often making people feel low, or paradoxically in some, emboldening them to do strange things.
Depression and confusion may require a few sessions with a professional or a trusted colleague. Meditation, healthy food and exercise certainly help.
Midlife crisis is however not inherently a bad thing. On the positive side, it helps people to wake up and realise their unexplored potentials and goals before they walk into the sunsets of their lives. For many then, it can serve as a midlife course-correction than a crisis.