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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

8 Tips for Coping with Anxiety During the Midlife Crisis

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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.

    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 The Key to Happiness and Leading a Fulfilling Life

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    1 Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why? 2 Does Depression Make You Tired And How? 3 Overwhelmed at Work? 17 Ways to Manage Work Anxiety 4 Why Am I Depressed If My Life Is Fine? 5 How To Cope With Traumatic Events And Stress

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    Published on October 15, 2021

    Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

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    Does Anxiety Make You Tired And Why?

    When you think of anxiety, several scenarios may come to mind: the endless tossing and turning of a restless night, dread over potential future events, pandemic-related overwhelm, or full-blown panic attacks. Even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve likely experienced anxiety symptoms at some point in your life. In these situations, you might feel a queasiness in your stomach, racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, chest tightness, some tension in your jaw/neck/shoulders, or worrisome thoughts as you prepare for the worst possible scenario. But does anxiety also make you tired?

    After experiencing these symptoms, you may indeed feel fatigued. The sensation could fall anywhere on the exhaustion spectrum, from feeling like you just ran a marathon and need to sleep for two days, to just a little worn down and wanting a quick nap to recover.

    Below are 7 ways anxiety zaps your energy and how to restore it.

    1. Stress Hormone Overload

    Anxiety can make you tired via overloading your body with stress hormones. The “fight or flight” response is a key connection between anxiety and fatigue. In fact, this process is made up of three stages: Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. Anxiety triggers our body systems to go into high alert. This is a natural, involuntary reaction that developed in the human brain for survival.

    When humans lived with the real, imminent threat of being attacked by a predator, it made sense for our bodies to spring into action without much preparatory thought. Such dangers are rare in modern times, but our brains continue to respond in the same way they did thousands of years ago.

    The hormones and chemicals that flood our bodies to prepare us for safety can both affect and be affected by several body systems, and this interaction itself contributes to exhaustion. Adrenaline and cortisol are the two most notable hormones to address here. First, adrenaline is sent out, tensing the muscles and increasing heart rate and blood pressure in preparation to run. Later in the stress response, cortisol is released, enhancing the brain’s use of glucose. This is one of our main fuel sources, so it’s no wonder this contributes to fatigue (see #2).

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    You can regulate baseline levels of these stress hormones by regularly practicing yoga, breathwork, meditation, and/or engaging in aerobic exercise.[1] It’s easier to lean into these routines for relief during stress when you’ve already mastered using them during times when you feel calm.

    2. Elevated Blood Sugar Levels

    Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is shown to be associated with anxiety in diabetic patients.[2] Many people who experience hyperglycemia report feeling tired all the time regardless of their quantity or quality of sleep, nutrition, or exercise.

    Although this connection has shown more prevalent and prolonged effects in diabetics, it also occurs with nondiabetics exposed to psychiatric stress.[3] In fact, for all people, the natural stress response elevates blood pressure and heart rate as well as cortisol levels, all of which increase blood sugar levels.[4] This means that anxiety causes a double-hit of exhaustion related to blood sugar fluctuations.

    Instead of reaching for comfort foods like chocolate during times of stress, take a calming walk around the block. Gentle movement alone is a great stress reliever that incidentally also helps to regulate blood sugars.[5]

    3. Negative Mindset

    Anxiety can also make you tired because of repetitive negative thinking (RNT), which is a common symptom of anxiety. RNT involves continuous thoughts via rumination (dwelling on sad or dark thoughts focused on the past) and worry (angst regarding the future). Some researchers argue that having a longtime habit of RNT can harm the brain’s capacity to think, reason, and form memories.[6] While the brain is busy using its energy stores to fuel negative thought patterns, the energy available for these other more productive endeavors is thereby reduced.

    Negative thoughts can also disrupt or prevent healthy sleep patterns, keeping our minds racing at night and effectively wreaking havoc on daytime energy. (See #7)

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    Reduce these patterns by reframing your feelings over anxious thoughts. Instead of staying stuck on “what if,” focus on what you can do in the here and now. What activity can you engage in for five minutes (or more) that brings you joy? What are you grateful for, no matter what’s going on around you?

    4. Digestive Issues

    It’s common for people to experience both intestinal and mental issues simultaneously. This suggests a strong connection between the central nervous system and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which is known as the gut-brain axis.[7] Simply put, what happens in our digestive tract (and as a result of what we eat) affects the brain and vice versa.

    The gut microbiota is a complex population of GI tract microorganisms. When its balance is altered, the body can develop conditions that affect the gut-brain-endocrine relationship. The endocrine system produces and manages adrenaline, for starters. And the gut bacteria’s production of feel-good hormones (serotonin and dopamine—see #5) ties into this relationship as well.

    GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors are also found in gut bacteria. GABA is a natural brain relaxant that makes us feel good by helping the body to unwind after a stress-induced neurotransmitter release (e.g., cortisol and adrenaline). When GABA activity is low, it leads to anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood disorders. These are just a few of the manifestations that demonstrate how gut bacteria influences behavior. All of these contribute to feeling both physically and mentally tired.

    You can minimize the symptoms of depression and anxiety by keeping your gut microbiota balanced with probiotic-rich fermented foods. Yogurt with live cultures, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, miso soup, and tempeh are great foods to include in your diet.[8]

    5. Depression

    Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Research continues to indicate a complex relationship between depression and decreased serotonin—a key neurotransmitter for regulating mood and feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Anxiety is also a direct symptom of serotonin deficiency. Serotonin helps with healthy sleep, mood, and digestion.

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    Serotonin is produced in the gut, almost exclusively, at an estimated 90 percent. However, a small quantity is also produced in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that is pivotal for transmitting energy balance signals. This small cone-shaped structure receives and relays signals transmitted via the vagus nerve from the gastrointestinal tract. It has a central role in mediating stress responses, regulating sleep, and establishing circadian rhythms. It senses and responds to a myriad of circulating hormones and nutrients, directly affecting our mood and energy.[9]

    Dopamine is another mood-boosting neurochemical that is depleted in depression. It creates feelings of alertness and wakefulness and, when the body is operating normally, is released in higher amounts in the morning (allowing for daytime energy) and lower at night (preparing for healthy sleep). Stress is one factor that can deplete dopamine, thereby leading to depression, sleep disorders, and fatigue.

    Studies show that dopamine levels in the brain can be elevated by increasing dietary intake of tyrosine and phenylalanine.[10] Both of these amino acids are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, dairy, soy, peas, lentils, and beans.

    6. Breathing Problems

    Breathlessness and anxiety are closely linked, and this is one of the ways anxiety can make you feel tired. Anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which can cause shortness of breath while feeling breathless can exacerbate anxiety.[11] It’s a vicious cycle that often leads people to take rapid and shallow breaths, breathing into their upper chest and shoulders.

    This type of breathing minimizes oxygen intake and usability. Despite comprising only two percent of the body, our brains consume 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. Oxygen is fuel for both mental and physical tasks. When breathing patterns compromise healthy oxygen levels, this can cause considerable fatigue.[12]

    End the anxiety-fatigue cycle with focused breathing exercises. It’s important to practice this regularly while you’re not experiencing anxiety or stress, as this will help you to be prepared should a moment of breathless anxiety hit unexpectedly.

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    There are several different styles of breathing exercises. There’s an easy one to try, called “Resonant Breathing.” Simply breathe in slowly through your nose as you count to five, then exhale for a count of five. Repeat this for a few minutes. It’s helpful to bring your awareness to any tension, deliberately relaxing your neck, shoulders, and jaw in particular.

    7. Sleep Issues

    Most of the elements we’ve already discussed inherently tie into sleep issues, which is often the reason why anxiety can make you feel tired. But it’s important to note that this is not always a directly linear cause-and-effect process. Much of it is cyclic. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, we increase our risk of excessive cortisol production, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels, depressed mood and mindset disorders, and dysregulation of appetite/craving hormones that affect our digestive health.

    Sleep is obviously the number one antidote to feeling tired as a result of anxiety. But at the same time, many of these elements—including anxiety itself—lead to less-than-restorative sleep. We can improve our energy levels by addressing each element discussed here, as well as taking a proactive approach to our sleep health.

    One simple habit to help recalibrate your circadian rhythm for healthy sleep patterns is to get outside in the morning. Sunlight exposure in the early hours of the day regulates melatonin production, helping us to feel sleepy at night.

    You Don’t Have to Live Your Life Anxious and Exhausted

    Times of extreme stress, like driving in heavy traffic or nerve-wracking situations like public speaking, can easily induce an anxiety response. Even “normal” everyday stressors, like feeling overwhelmed with work and home responsibilities, can build up to anxious feelings over time.

    Our bodies’ response to stress and anxiety affects many of its functions in complex ways. When we unravel the interconnections of these processes, we can see how each part plays an intrinsic role in contributing to fatigue. By addressing each element individually, we can make simple lifestyle changes that resolve anxiety and diminish the ways it makes us tired as a result.

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    More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

    Featured photo credit: Joice Kelly via unsplash.com

    Reference

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