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Published on February 27, 2019

8 Tips for Coping with Anxiety During the Midlife Crisis

8 Tips for Coping with Anxiety During the Midlife Crisis

Let’s face it: having anxiety sucks. It’s stressful to constantly worry about stuff that may or may not happen in the future.

What if you’re coping with anxiety while also dealing with a midlife crisis? If you’re in such a situation, it’s very important to know what you’re in for. Dealing with one of these two problems on its own is already challenging enough, but combine them together and you’ve got a pretty serious storm incoming.

If you are here and can already see the dark clouds approaching, then you’ll definitely want to read these 10 actionable tips on how to better deal with your anxiety during your midlife crisis.

1. Realize That Having a Midlife Crisis Is Normal

Have you ever heard of the U-curve in happiness?

It might actually be one of the reasons you’re reading this article right now. See, happiness has been researched a lot, and the U-curve has been a consistent observation in a lot of these studies.

I think the best example of this U-curve was observed in the Gallup World Poll survey data. This is the biggest worldwide survey on happiness, and it’s published every year. In a 2016 paper, Carol Graham and Julia Ruiz Pozuelo found that the U-curve in happiness can be observed in almost every country.[1]

This U-curve is really simple to understand. Your happiness is likely going to reach rock-bottom levels during your midlife crisis:

    What does this U-curve have to do with your anxiety or your midlife crisis?

    Well, it’s simple:

    A midlife crisis is much more common than you might think. Having said that, let’s dive right into the second tip.

    2. Know That You’re Not the Only One That’s Struggling

    We are all pilots of our life. The analogy is that we are piloting a plane filled with passengers (think about your family, friends and significant other).

    What is your main objective as the pilot?

    To give the impression to your passengers that you are in full control and that everything is going smooth and efficient.

    The thing is, we are all pilots of our own flights, and we all hit some turbulence every now and then.

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    As good pilots, we are taught not to blow the alarm and initiate emergency procedures every time we encounter some turbulence. No way, we need to provide our passengers with a nice and relaxing flight. We think we need to create the impression that everything is under control.

    It’s important to know that everybody is a pilot and that everybody is trying to create the impression that everything is under control. In reality, however, it’s a fact that every pilot will bump into some turbulence during their flights (their life). That’s what causes this U-shape in happiness.

    Just like you, others are also hesitant to show their anxiety and worries to the public. I’m willing to bet you’re reading this article right now, without having told anybody else that you’re dealing with these challenges.

    The thing is, denying your midlife crisis doesn’t make your anxiety go away.

    My tip to you is to know that you’re not alone, and that a lot of people all over the world are facing the same feelings of anxiety during a midlife crisis. Therefore, it’s good to open up about your anxiety to people that are close to you.

    3. Don’t Compare Yourself to the Person That You’re “Supposed to Be”

    This one is extremely important. Some people spend their whole lives trying to fulfill expectations, whether they come from their parents, their peers or society. They work their asses of every day, and end up feeling miserable.

    Why?

    Because they are trying to meet expectations that don’t fit their passions or their purpose in life.

    It’s important to stop comparing yourself to those expectations.

    A friend of mine has studied medicine for 8 years now. Her parents applied her to study medicine and she just went along with it without being critical of this decision. At this point, she’s slowly becoming aware that she’s only working hard because that’s what others are expecting of her.

    She recently told me that she’s unhappy.

    Are you finding yourself in a similar boat? Then stop comparing yourself to the person that you’re “supposed to be” and start being the person that you want to be.

    4. Find out What You Really Want in Life

    What do you want out of life?

    This question is very common, but makes you think about what you truly want. Answers are usually a variation or combination of the following:

    • Success
    • Feeling loved
    • Having a positive impact
    • Fortune

    If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking:

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    I want everything you just said!”

    It makes sense, right? Who doesn’t want to feel loved, or be successful?

    I want to challenge you to think further.

    Why do you want all these things out of life? I’m willing to bet you’ll come up with an answer along the lines of: “I just want to be happy”.

    You see, these goals in our lives are only there because we have reason to believe that we’ll be happy when we actually reach them.

    However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that you should already be happy when you’re chasing these goals!

    I’ve been tracking my happiness for over 5 years now. Before I started to track my happiness, I wanted – among others – to become rich and financially free. Why? Because I was working a job that I absolutely hated.

    During the last 5 years, my happiness has moved quite a bit (this is an understatement).

    Throughout this time, I constantly forced myself to think about these questions:

    What do I want out of life? What makes me happy?

    I’ve learned that it’s not so much that I wanted to be rich. I just wanted to not have to work a job that I didn’t like. Instead of focusing on a vague pipe-dream (quitting my horrible job with enough money in the bank), I focused on actively steering my life in the best direction right away.

    What I did?

    I steered my career in a different direction, despite the lower pay. I focused on being happy now, instead of only planning for my future happiness.

    What I’m trying to say is that it’s truly the journey that matters much more than the destination. You can spend your whole life working towards something that you think you want (being rich, successful or having a great career), while you should really focus on being happy now!

    Life is just too short to only focus on eventually reaching happiness. You have to start loving what you do NOW. Don’t continue to postpone your happiness.

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    5 Get out of Your Comfort Zone

    It’s usually when we find ourselves in a difficult situation – without being able to fall back to your usual life – that we truly find out who we are and what we want.

    It’s really simple when you think about it. You only know who you are, what you’re capable of and what you are made of when you’re tested.

    A lot of us (me including) spent our career just going with the flow. We don’t question the choices that we make, or the ones that are made for us. We simply nod and move in whatever direction our managers, colleagues and friends want us to go.

    As a result, almost everybody will reach a phase during which you find out that what you’ve been doing isn’t something that you want to continue.

    My advice? Take a step outside your comfort zone, and try something that you’ve never done before:

    • Set a different goal. Instead of focusing on your career, spend time on a new hobby instead.
    • Go on a multi-day hike on your own.
    • If you haven’t already, open up about your anxiety with friends or family.

    It’s important to try something you’ve never done before. It doesn’t have to be something drastic. You can only find what you’re missing if you try something new. This article can also help you:

    Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

    This shares a lot of common ground with tip 3. We have to break free from who we are “supposed” to be.

    6. Be Grateful for What You Already Have

    Think about what you’ve already accomplished, rather than the things that you still want to do.

    It’s important to realize what great things you already have going in your life. Think of your accomplishments, the people you live with, the lives you have a positive influence on. These are all great things that you should feel grateful for.

    The human race is difficult to please. We are constantly looking for more, without already appreciating what we have. This “greed” can keep us from being happy.

    My tip to you is to focus on the good things that you’ve got going on when you are anxious about your midlife crisis. Remember that a pessimist sees the negatives or the difficulty in every opportunity whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

    You need to try and tackle this challenging time from a positive angle. Focus on what you already have instead of what you’re currently missing, and go from there.

    Here’re some inspirations for you to stay grateful every day:

    60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

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    7. Keep a Journal of Your Journey

    If you still have the opinion that journaling is for little girls, then you should wake up.

    I’ve been journaling for over 5 years now, and the amount of knowledge I’ve gained during this time is priceless. Keeping a journal of what’s eating me has given me a lot more self-awareness, to the point where I was better able to navigate through the challenging times. This has happened more often than I can remember.

    Journaling is one of the most underrated things you can do to get to know yourself better. So when you’re done reading this article, I’d really suggest you to write down what you’re dealing with.

    • What are you anxious about?
    • What are you unhappy with?
    • What do you want out of life?
    • How do you want to get there?

    These are all critical questions that you can answer in your journal.

    Whenever you’re feeling anxious again, you can open up your journal and add your latest thoughts in there as well. Or you can reread your old thoughts in order to better understand what’s causing your anxiety.

    Getting started with journaling is not hard. You’ll soon find out that a lot of different people find value and purpose by journaling.[2]

    8. See a Therapist

    This might not be the tip you are hoping to see here, but it’s dead-simple:

    Therapy can help you in facing your anxiety during a midlife crisis.

    You should not feel too proud to go see a therapist. The negative stigma of seeing a therapist should not stop you from finding the help you need.

    Think about it: there’s no taboo on seeing a doctor when you are in physical pain, right? Then you definitely shouldn’t be anxious about going to therapy for something that your emotionally struggling with.

    Bottling up your feelings is the last thing that you want to do right now.

    If you find a therapist that you can openly share your problems with and one that understands you, then just go for it.

    Final Thoughts

    The most important thing to remember when dealing with anxiety during your midlife crisis is to know that you’re not alone. The negative feelings that you’re having are normal and a lot of other people are experiencing them as well. In order to better deal with these feelings, I want you to:

    • Stop comparing yourself to what you are supposed to be.
    • Find out what you really want out of life.
    • Get out of your comfort zone for a while, and try something different. For example, go on a multi-day trip by yourself or open up about your anxiety to your family or friends.
    • Face your anxiety by focusing on the positive things that you already have around you. Don’t just look at the negative side of your situation.
    • Keep a journal and write down your thoughts. Find out what you want out of life and write down how you want to get there. You can then later fall back to your journal when you’re anxious again. Don’t bottle up your emotions.
    • When you continue to be anxious about your midlife crisis, consider speaking to a therapist.

    More Resources About Dealing with Midlife Crisis

    Featured photo credit: Steven Spassov via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Hugo Huyer

    Author at Tracking Happiness, lifelong happiness tracker and passionate about all things mental health and well-being.

    The Key to Happiness and Leading a Fulfilling Life 13 Ways to Seize the Moment and Enjoy Life More How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts Stuck in a Rut? 6 Steps to Break Free and Live a Happy Life Again 8 Tips for Coping with Anxiety During the Midlife Crisis

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    Last Updated on November 11, 2019

    Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

    Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional?

    A dysfunctional family is more than disagreement or constant arguments. Anything from plain neglect, to abuse and even verbal and physical violence is the everyday experience of those who are part of a dysfunctional family.

    You know how this looks:

    • Parents constantly comparing children.
    • Siblings in conflict because of tolerated bullying.
    • Domestic violence.
    • Adultery…
    • And many others.

    For all the members, this will mean emotional pain and even trauma; which, in case it doesn’t get resolved, will have a detrimental effect on the individual’s personality and development.

    Needless to say, the younger members are the most vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean the parents are out of danger, as most commonly the parents play the roles of abuser-codependent, and in some cases, both parts inflicting pain on one another.

    Most like to think these problems stem from deep-seated issues, and that therefore it’s pretty much impossible to deal with them.

    This is only true for families not willing to do what it takes, for if only a single member is determined and knows how to do it, the whole family can do a lot of progress.

    In this article, I’ll break down for you the basic steps of fixing a dysfunctional family. Although it may seem hopeless, it is possible to turn things around.

    If you have ever felt in this position, or if you know somebody who is, this article is for you.

    How to fix a dysfunctional family

    In a few words the solution for a dysfunctional family lies in dropping the ego, focusing on the solution, switching blame for responsibility and doing the work as a unity, for the good of the whole family.

    And this will accomplish things you once only saw as a dream.

    Dropping the ego? Switching blame for responsibility? Doing the work? What does all this mean?

    It’s simple. In a nutshell, it’s that which will allow you to turn a dysfunctional family into a functional one.

    Let’s take a look at how exactly this can be done. And near the end we will also talk about what you can do in a dysfunctional family with cynical traits.

    Dysfunctional families where not only problems are well-known, but also nobody seems to want a fix or openly decide to perpetuate the harmful behaviors. Such as the case of abuse and physical violence.

    There is also a solution for these, it’s just not what you are expecting…

    Dysfunctional… Or just average?

    Most families are dysfunctional, though at varying degrees of dysfunctionality.

    The milder cases, are just marked by “typical” comically-shrouded bullying or lack of interest in other members’ development or wellbeing.

    You can know a family is dysfunctional if their interactions are anything different than cooperation, solidarity, care and support. But let’s get more specific…

    A dysfunctional family is one in which members directly or indirectly suffer emotional and/or physical harm inflicted by other members of their family. Most commonly, perpetrated by the parents.

    Even harmful actions as “passive” as neglect, which is inflicted by inaction rather than action, signifies a dysfunction within the family.

    Dysfunctional families have conflicts such as:

    • Unrealistic expectations
    • Lack of interest and time spent together
    • Sexism
    • Utilitarianism
    • Lack of empathy
    • Unequal or unfair treatment
    • Disrespect towards boundaries
    • Control Issues
    • Jealousy
    • Verbal and physical abuse
    • Violence and even sexual misconduct or abuse

    You may think a dysfunctional family has very little or nothing to do with personal productivity, but you would be wrong in thinking this way…

    If a person is not emotionally well, she will not be able to perform as desired, as the emotional harm that has been inflicted will hinder everyday performance in the way of inability to concentrate, lack of mental clarity and low levels of inspiration, motivation and discipline.

    Having a functional family does exactly the opposite: It creates productive members with no emotional baggage.

    How to turn it around

    When you’re part of a dysfunctional family you know it. You can quickly identify in other members the behaviors and conflicts that create the dysfunction.

    But just in case you’re having trouble telling functional from dysfunctional I will tell you the following:

    One of the easiest ways you can recognize if you are in a dysfunctional family is to survey your won feelings.

    We often overlook this, but have you stopped to ask yourself how you feel?

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    As cheesy as it may sound it really sheds a lot of light on the subject.

    What behaviors, actions and attitudes in your family you wish were better?

    Do you think certain behaviors and actions from your family marked you in the past?

    Sadly, we cannot go back to the past to correct it. But we can do a lot in the present…

    Correction is possible

    In order to fix a dysfunctional family, you must start by putting an end to the behaviors and actions that are affecting you.

    Verbalize it.

    All members of the dysfunctional family have one issue in common: They don’t put a stop to the harm.

    Whenever you feel your boundaries being overstepped there is just one single word you have to remember: STOP.

    This is the door to a better, more functional family, because after this, comes the fix.

    But first you have to identify and make others know where exactly lies the problem.

    So go ahead and fearlessly start with “Stop”, followed by your expression of dissatisfaction.

    Putting it to work in real life

    In real life it would be something like this:

    “OK, stop! Every time you belittle me I feel you don’t care. I need attention and respect, and it is your responsibility as my family to provide them to me”

    Or:

    “Stop. When you compare me with my cousin it hurts, I feel like I don’t matter and that’s not ok. I ask you to stop doing it.

    Or:

    “Please stop. When you start yelling all respect is lost and it turns into a battle of who can do it louder. Don’t raise your voice and let’s work this out the way humans do”.

    As you can see, here you start by putting a stop to the toxic behavior when it arises. And afterwards you verbalize why it’s wrong and what needs of you need to be fulfilled.

    This is what you have to remember:

    1-Stop.

    2-Why it’s wrong?

    3-What you need.

    And this will also work well in case you need to do it for another family member.

    It’s a family thing

    A dysfunctional family cannot be fixed by one member alone.

    Yes, a single member can initiate progress and be the leader of the change. But in order to completely become functional all members must contribute to the solution.

    In other words, you will need cooperation…

    So don’t be afraid of asking for it!

    Approach your family member and ask to be listened.

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    We sometimes feel our needs are “not that important” or we simply believe they won’t listen. But thinking like this would be like being defeated at an unfought battle.

    You will be amazed by how much people listen when you voice your needs, especially if it implies showing yourself open, vulnerable and in need.

    It’s not a free-for-all battle

    In order to get your family to cooperate, first you must fix your individual relationships with every member of the family. Remember: Relationships are always between two people, and two people only.

    No matter how complex, the quality of a multi-member relationship (like a family) will always depend on the quality of the individual relationships.

    Once you have straightened the relationship with every member of the dysfunctional family you will be able to better communicate with other members and help in the betterment of their individual relationship.

    And this is where we will talk about the fix itself. The one I mentioned in the introduction…

    The method

    1. Drop the ego

    Wherever there is conflict there is ego.

    You cannot fix a relationship where there is ego, because the ego will want to win. Always. Yours and the other person.

    Ego craves control and satisfaction, and in many cases, to establish dominance.

    What does this have to do with a dysfunctional family? Everything. Ego will interfere with every plan you have to fix it.

    It will make people suborn and defensive. And it will also make them drop responsibility. This is why, the first step is to drop the ego.

    After you make sure you are not going to allow your ego to interfere you must work to make the other person do the same. How? By speaking from the heart…

    Tell the other person how important all this is to you.

    Tell the other person that it’s not a matter of arguing, but just working things out together.

    Point out how it is not possible for you to do it alone.

    And ask for sincere attention without any desire of opposition, because what you are doing is by no means in the hopes of harming the other person, but just to better the relationship and stop the damage being dealt to you.

    You will have to point out the mistakes you need corrected, that’s for sure. And that leads me to the next point…

    2. Not blame, but responsibility

    When talking about others’ mistakes we often use an accusatory tone. And that’s natural, it’s what things should be like if ego was not present.

    But since we are all creatures of ego, this immediately brings the shields up. And then unsheathes the swords…

    When we blame others they automatically enter a defensive state, and this only leads to a failed negotiation.

    What you need to do is to shift from blame to responsibility. And even that will have to be done carefully!

    Instead of telling them off or demanding change or complaining, calmly point what the problem with their behavior is.

    As much as this feels contradictory, also make them feel understood. You know how difficult it is to accept a mistake, so just make them feel it’s no big fuzz… which does not mean it’s ok, but it takes tension off.

    You will do something like this:

    “Hello dad. Can I talk with you for a minute? I really need to tell you something.

    I have been feeling pretty sad lately and I know this is something you do care about.

    You see, whenever I talk about my accomplishments you mention something else that makes my achievement pale in comparison.

    I know you don’t do this intentionally and I know you might have not realized this until now, but I want to let you know this really brings me down.

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    It would mean a lot to me if you could stop doing it, and it would help better our relationship, because this has already forced me to distance myself from you. And I don’t want that, I want a good, healthy relationship with you”

    What happened here?

    We started off with making it something important, something that needs both time and attention. Then we openly show ourselves vulnerable, just as we are.

    We also mention why he should listen, and shove our feelings there again, because they are important.

    We describe the issue with no attachment and with no hostile intention. It’s just a description.

    And then we take the blame off. Just before we assign responsibility without actually saying it.

    You are not blaming him directly, but you are pointing out the inevitable fact that his actions are causing a dysfunctionality. He is now responsible for changing.

    This is what “switching blame for responsibility” means. What comes next? Doing the work!

    3. Doing the work

    What would any of this mean if, in the end, nothing changes? Exactly, nothing!

    This is why you must follow up with every change that needs to be done.

    Do so in a manner that is not hostile. Bring it up in a casual manner, and emphasizing how you both reached an agreement and how that is important to the family.

    If the person doesn’t follow up don’t hesitate to bring it up again, and tell them you feel disappointed that your honest try at it was not listened.

    It may even be a subject in itself, and therefore the need for another conversation.

    “When you go back to old habits it shows that you didn’t really care about what I said. But back in real life you just reinforce how much contempt you show towards me and my feelings.

    I talk with you because I care. Because although it would be easier for me to just distance myself from you I rather do my part in nurturing this relationship.

    But there is just so much I can do, if you refuse to do your part I can do nothing else.”

    You need very clear and positive communication in order to make this work.

    Love is all you need

    You must remember that in order for a dysfunctional family to become functional, all the work needs to stem from love.

    That is the single one requirement for all this to work: Love.

    And what happens if it simply is not there?

    What happens if, nobody is willing to do what it takes?

    What happens if a member of the family refuses to change and is happy with the harm he or she is dealing?

    There is only one thing you can do:

    To break away.

    Let’s be honest, people, especially adults, are very difficult to change.

    There is a Jewish proverb that I love, which sums it up like this:

    “We spend the rest of our lives trying to unlearn what we learned before we were 7”

    If you find it very hard to change the very traits that make your family dysfunctional or if it’s simply impossible, you still have a card up your sleeve…

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    Although nobody likes to beak away from family members, we must remember we have a responsibility with ourselves as individuals, before any relationship with anyone.

    You have the responsibility of making yourself happy and free. Because you matter as an individual, regardless of any relationships you have, be it family, friendship or romantic.

    Putting distance

    So in case you are dealing with a family member who is simply unwilling to change take both physical and emotional distance.

    What do I mean?

    Learn, first, to take their damage in a detached manner.

    Don’t let it hurt you further. Instead take a deep breath and distance yourself emotionally.

    Don’t be attached to feelings such as “Why doesn’t she love me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” or “If he wasn’t like that my life would be perfect”.

    Simply refuse to keep participating in the emotional downward spiral and accept, even if it’s painful” that there is nothing you can do. Accept that even without that relationship you are whole, you are worthy of love and respect.

    They are their responsibility and you are yours. So decide what is best for you.

    Realize it only comes down to two possibilities:

    I keep the relationship and therefore accept the abuse. Or…

    I choose my peace of mind.

    And don’t let your mind fool you. We often think that since we all are imperfect, we must take the good and the bad behaviors of people. And we are especially forgiving towards our family…

    Well, guess what? We are also responsible adults who are aware and must own to their acts. Never excuse abuse or violence or transgression towards you or anybody else.

    Choose your happiness and if possible, also distance yourself physically, as it will increase your peace of mind tenfold.

    How to prevent it

    There are two key concepts you must bear in mind in order to prevent the dysfunctionality of a family:

    • To be completely aware of one’s own mistakes and not allow them to impact others and…
    • To make sure our SO’s are also on the same channel before creating a family (i.e. having children)

    Dysfunctional families are the product of irresponsible paternity, for the decades-long unresolved emotional conflict ends up surfacing in the family inevitably, and it will for sure harm those who least deserve it: Innocent children.

    You may notice we went from talking about family, to talking about individual relationships, to talking about you. We went from “them” to “us” to “me”.

    Why? Because in the end you have the power to fix a dysfunctional family. To correct the mistakes you have in yours and to prevent dysfunctionalities if you don’t have a family but plan to create one.

    Priorities and clear thought

    You may be part of a dysfunctional family, but that does not mean you are powerless or that you have to suffer the consequences.

    You learned today how it’s all a matter of priorities and thinking clearly.

    You learned that, if love exists, everything is possible. You learned that even when there is no love and no fix for your dysfunctional family, there are still things you can do. It’s a matter of choosing your peace, because you deserve it.

    Everything will be better if you apply this knowledge. If you talk to that problematic family member. If you help them see the harm they are doing. If you make sure they do change and treat you the way you need to be treated…

    If you choose yourself over that toxic family member. If you refuse to justify the harm that others can do to yourself. If you realize the most important relationship you have is with yourself.

    And lastly, that you also have to be aware of your actions and be open to criticism. Because we might be unknowingly harming others. And that would be us creating a dysfunctionality. Don’t allow it to happen.

    Dysfunctional families are not impossible to fix. It just takes love, cooperation and responsibility.

    But if you tried and those elements are not present, just choose yourself instead.

    Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

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