Make your mid-life crisis work for you

4 min read

Are you in the midst of a ‘mid-life crisis’? Psychotherapist Eric Durrschmidt explains why this life stage is completely normal, the best way to cope, and how to come out stronger on the other side.

Take a long look in the mirror

Dr Durrschmidt says that, “Part of a mid-life crisis is looking at the story you’ve created for your life, and starting to see that some of the plot has changed in ways you didn’t anticipate. There might be financial and career goals you haven't achieved, or a relationship scenario you’ve always dreamed about hasn't panned out. You don't have the life you imagined when you were younger. That's okay.”

Talk about it

“The plot of one’s life may end up very different to what might have been anticipated, but coming to therapy is an opportunity to rewrite the story to reflect new hopes and dreams that are more realistic to your current situation - and equally as fulfilling. My clients struggle with a mid-life crises in many ways, but it’s a significant developmental stage that we all go through,” Dr Durrschmidt says.

How does it differ from other crises?

“There is an extra dimension of fear of one’s own mortality, and the time pressure to accomplish goals,” he adds. “The way through a mid-life crisis is the same as it would be for any other troubling situation. When clients come to my office, I review healthy coping skills that may have been obscured by the crisis, and help the client to access the motivation required to get back in the driver's seat. ”

It's not always about buying a convertible or dating someone half your age 

“Men and women stereotypically experience the mid-life crisis differently, the doctor explains “Many more people are living single today, and/or not having children, and mid-life is the time where acceptance of not having included these things in one’s life experience becomes critical. “

Negative coping skills will only make it worse

“The stress and complexity of mid-life issues can obscure healthy coping skills, which can destroy marriages, friendships, and partnerships,” Dr Durrschmidt warns. Many people pick up really negative coping skills along the way in life, and find themselves drinking more than they would like, abusing drugs, or isolating. People in their late 40s and 50s can become more reclusive, and retreat into primary relationships. This isolation can cut off the wider support network they have always used to negotiate life's challenges. It's important to know there are healthy ways of coping, and to spend time working on developing tools to manage the depression and anxiety that are part of the typical mid-life dilemma.”

How to completely avoid a mid-life crisis

Dr Durrschmidt also suggests that, “The keys to standing against the invitation to enter a mid-life crisis are resilience and flexibility. Many people don’t work on these things until their life becomes unmanageable. Developing resilience and flexibility often requires aspects of self-care that many people have never previously engaged in. This may include meditation, exercise, social engagement, and support such as therapy.”

Renegotiate your values

“People are often under the assumption making money and having a lot of possessions is the most important thing in life,” he explains. “In mid-life, they start experiencing loss of family and friends, and see how short life can be. It's now that values change and they often discover it's more important to spend time with loved ones, and to give back to the world in some meaningful way.”

Spin it with positive solutions

“Like any other time of crisis, this is an opportunity for growth,” he concludes. “Growth never happens without some kind of discomfort, and reframing the pain as something useful helps people to lean into it instead of running away. The most important thing to do in crisis is to remain proactive about creating solutions. This is not always easy to do alone, which is why having a therapist to speak with can often be helpful.”

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This information is current as at 16/09/2016.

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