Many people experience a midlife crisis, so a midlife crisis in men is not uncommon. If you think you’re in the middle of one, it’s important to know that it’s never too late to start creating the kind of life that you want. Once you learn how to recognize the signs of a midlife crisis, you’ll be on the road to healing in no time.
So many of us slog through each day, only to look around and realize that we’ve been letting life pass us by.
If this is you, use this as a guide, and with any luck, you’ll begin to see the midlife crisis in men for what it really is: an opportunity.
Note that this is a midlife crisis guide for men, if you’re looking for a guide for women, check out this article instead.
What Exactly Is a Midlife Crisis?
A midlife crisis is generally defined as a transition of identity and self-confidence that occurs in a middle-aged person (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. Hence, midlife crises in men are very similar to midlife crises in women.
Not surprisingly, people can then experience depression, anxiety, and the desire to make significant life changes.
Incidentally, the term “midlife crisis” was coined by Canadian psychoanalyst and social scientist, Elliott Jaques, in 1957. (Funny enough, Jaques also coined the term “corporate culture.”)
But recent studies have shown that most middle-aged people don’t actually experience a midlife crisis. In fact, some have questioned if the midlife crisis even exists.
However, for many of us, the midlife crisis is all too real.
Signs of a Midlife Crisis in Men
The midlife crisis for men can materialize in a number of ways. Some of the most common are found below:
- Mood swings: Those experiencing a midlife crisis can seem highly temperamental, becoming angry or irritable with family members without justification.
- Depression and anxiety: A midlife crisis can undoubtedly cause one to feel sad, restless, or just plain miserable.
- Sleeplessness or oversleeping: Depression, anxiety, and a constantly spinning mind can greatly affect one’s sleeping habits.
- An obsession with appearances: Those going through a midlife crisis often feel the need to remain attractive to others.
- Increased consumption of drugs or alcohol: Middle-aged adults may turn to drugs or alcohol to mask their feelings.
- Feeling stuck in a rut: Those going through a midlife crisis often feel like they’re stuck—in a bad job, a bad marriage, a bad situation—with no way out.
- Thoughts of death or dying: A midlife crisis can cause people to think obsessively about their own mortality.
Other signs of a midlife crisis include: impulsive decision-making, having an affair, replacing old friends with younger friends, assigning blame to others, and extreme boredom.
Take a look at this chart to see how many of these signs are you experiencing:
Why a Midlife Crisis Happens
It bears repeating that recent studies seem to reject the idea that most adults go through a midlife crisis. Researchers believe that personality type and a history of psychological issues predispose some people to the traditional midlife crisis.
Of course, common day-to-day stressors can pile up, causing middle-aged adults to believe they are having a crisis. Midlife crises in men may sometimes be just midlife stressors.
Additionally, many middle-aged adults experience life events that can lead to prolonged depression or psychological distress. Psychologists often attribute the phenomenon to aging itself, the aging or death of one’s parents, the maturation of one’s children, spousal relationships (or lack thereof) and career (or lack thereof).
How to Deal With a Midlife Crisis
If you believe you’re having a midlife crisis, if you feel stuck, or if you’re experiencing trouble with your mental health
, I’d like to assure you once again that you’re not alone. A midlife crisis in men and women is normal.
Try following some of the steps below to help you learn how to deal with a midlife crisis and get yourself back on track toward a life you enjoy living:
Someone once said that “the first step toward getting somewhere is to decide that you’re not going to stay where you are.” And, I couldn’t agree more. This is truly where the work begins.
I began to experience a shift only after I made the decision—no, the unbreakable promise to myself—that I was going to change my life. And no matter how much you’re suffering, you can make yourself the same promise.
2. Stop the Search for Happiness
As humans, we spend our lives trying desperately to find happiness, and yet we don’t even know what it is.
We can’t explain, describe, or define it; we just know that we want it because it’ll make everything peachy. Time and time again, though, studies have shown that our never-ending quest for happiness is quite often the very thing that screws us up.
Trying to find happiness is a futile effort, likely to exacerbate the “crisis” you’re having. Stop the search for happiness and start taking action steps toward creating the life you want. When you do, you won’t need to find happiness. Eventually, happiness will find you.
What I used to dismiss as new age nonsense has positively changed my life in more ways than I thought possible. Meditation has been proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve focus and concentration, increase self-awareness, and promote better physical health. It is a great way to help ease the midlife crisis in men.
And, for me, it’s the only activity that effectively tames my “monkey mind,” or what neuroscientists have recently named the default mode network (DMN).
Your DMN is most active when you aren’t focused on anything in particular, and your mind is wandering from thought to thought. At best, these thoughts can be inspired and entertaining. But when you’re in the throes of a personal crisis, these thoughts can be destructive.
Meditation has a quieting effect and significantly decreases activity in the DMN. And when the mind does start to wander, those who regularly meditate are much better at snapping out of it.
Try this 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime, and experience its benefits.
4. Develop an Abundance Mindset
For years, I operated from a scarcity mindset. I was angry that all the world’s goodies seemed to go to everyone else. I wondered why those around me were getting recognized, getting rich, getting a nice partner, and I wasn’t.
Maybe, I thought, there’s just not enough to go around. Of course, this kind of thinking isn’t just debilitating; it’s downright inaccurate.
The world, in fact, is a place of abundance with limitless opportunities. Remind yourself of this every day, regardless of your age. Open yourself up to all that the world has to offer.
5. Practice Gratitude
Before you go to bed at night, think of five things for which you are grateful. Better yet, write them down. These can be common, everyday occurrences, like seeing a beautiful sunset, learning something new, or hearing your favorite song on the radio.
As Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at UC Davis and the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, wrote,
“Gratitude is, first and foremost, a way of seeing that alters our gaze.”
Need a little inspiration on how to practice gratitude? Here are 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.
6. Pursue Your Passions
Another helpful thing to help ease the midlife crisis in men is to pursue passions.
Certainly, if you’re having a midlife crisis, it might seem hard to feel passionate about anything, but you can reinvigorate your spirit with a remarkably simple activity.
Think about what you love doing or what you loved doing when you were a kid. Think about how you might spend your time if you had the financial abundance to do anything. Think about those you admire, those whose careers you wish you had.
Whatever your passions are, pursue them wholeheartedly. If you’re not sure what your passion is, check out this guide.
Exercise is, by far, the most widely recommended way to stave off negative feelings and gain perspective. But you don’t need to go to the gym to get exercise.
You can do yoga, play badminton, or jump on a trampoline. You can go swimming or dancing or hiking or biking. You can hula hoop with your kids or practice Kung Fu.
You can clean your garage, pull weeds in your garden, or take a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Just do something physical, and you only need to do it for 30 minutes three or four times a week.
8. Set Goals
Make a list of everything you’d like to accomplish in the next year, in the next five years, and the next ten years. Talk to a coach or someone you love about your goals, and work out a plan to achieve them.
Learn to use SMART goals to achieve what you want: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life.
9. Stay off Social Media
I can’t think of anything worse for a fragile human psyche than social media. It’s no secret that using social media can lead to depression, anxiety, envy, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, and all kinds of other problems.
One study found, specifically, that “participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media”.
It’s also a colossal waste of time. Imagine what you could accomplish in your own life during the hours you spend scrolling through the highlight reels from the lives of others. If you want to survive a midlife crisis in men, get off social media.
10. Laugh as Much as Humanly Possible
Whoever coined the phrase “laughter is the best medicine” was really onto something. Studies show that laughter releases endorphins, activates neurotransmitter serotonin, relieves physical tension and stress, boosts the immune system, and protects the heart.
If you’re having a midlife crisis, you might be wondering if you’ll ever experience laughter again. That’s why you need to seek it out.
Before I go to bed, I watch ten minutes of stand-up comedy. I read funny books, see funny movies and spend as much time as I can with ridiculously funny people.
Make a conscious effort to integrate laughter into your daily routine. You’ll be tickled you did.
11. Think of Your Life as a Party
The fact that you’re alive isn’t just a cause for celebration, it’s a miracle—so improbable that if you try to comprehend it, your mind will almost certainly turn to mush.
Dr. Ali Binazir, a wicked smart Harvard grad and the author of The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible, actually crunched the numbers, demonstrating that the probability of your dad meeting your mom was one in 20,000, the probability of your dad dating your mom was one in 2,000, and the probability of the right sperm meeting the right egg was one in 400 quadrillion.
And that’s just the beginning.
Your grandparents, great grandparents, and everyone before them—going back millions of years to the first Homo sapiens—had to meet and have children. In the end, explains Binazir, the probability of you being born was one in 10, followed by 2,685,000 zeroes.
Tragically, so many of us never truly appreciate what it means to be alive. We succumb to our fears, give up on our dreams, and tolerate the intolerable. We get into bad jobs, bad relationships, and bad situations, allowing others to treat us poorly.
Think of your life as a party and remember: life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured.
Besides, it’s never too late to live the life you desire!
No matter what age you are, every day provides a new opportunity to do something new:
- Sam Walton founded Wal-Mart when he was 44.
- Ray Kroc bought the first McDonald’s just after his 50th birthday.
- Rodney Dangerfield was 46 when he got his big break on the Ed Sullivan Show.
- Harland Sanders was dead broke at 65. Then, he sold the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.
- And Charles Darwin published On the Age of Species at age 50.
We can’t stop the inevitable. We’re all going to die. The question is: what are you going to do while you’re alive?
Life is precious. A midlife crisis in men isn’t the end.
Take a minute to examine what’s really going on, and you may find it’s not really a crisis at all. In fact, there’s a good chance it’s the perfect time to create the life you’ve always wanted. No excuses.
More to Help You Get Unstuck
Featured photo credit: Zach Vessels via unsplash.com