What is a midlife crisis?

What is a midlife crisis?

Joseph Darby

9 ways can you avoid or exit a midlife crisis

A midlife crisis is expensive.

From flashy cars to trendy clothes and accessories, to artificially trying to look younger with Botox or surgery, a midlife crisis will cost you both money and stress.

It’s not easy parting with the vigor, fitness, and attractiveness of youth. It is also not easy to accept that we won’t live forever. As you navigate the middle years of your adulthood, try the strategies below to stop the emotional and financial bleeding, and inject some fresh vitality into your life.

Defining a mid-life crisis

Midlife is the central period of a person's life, spanning from approximately age 40 to age 65. It can be a stressful time, as many people come to feel discontented and restless as they struggle with aging, mortality, and holding onto a sense of purpose. Because there’s no official diagnosis or definition for a midlife crisis, and it expresses itself in many different ways, it’s difficult to study scientifically.

During midlife crises, adults tend to contrast the goals and dreams of their youth against their current life — and find it wanting. That can lead to thoughts like “I’ve wasted my youth,” or “What have I done with my life?”

Consider two different models for midlife crises.

1. In the classic model, it takes the form of an acute emotional crisis, often triggered by a single event during adulthood such as a death, divorce, or a job loss.

2. The other model for a midlife crisis is more protracted, expressed as a period of lower happiness or slow-burning depression.

You’ve done everything society, family, and friends have expected to do: gone to school, been educated, have a profession or career, are probably partway through raising a family and repaying the mortgage, and you realise: “is this all there is to life?”

Signs and Symptoms of a Midlife Crisis

In response to these feelings, adults often start behaving in any way possible to make them feel young, successful, attractive, energized, or in control of their lives and destinies again.

A midlife crisis can also lead to changes in one’s attitudes and behaviours, such as a sudden obsession with physical appearance, an increased interest in status symbols, or infidelity. It often accompanies feelings of resentment or blame that can wreak havoc on personal and professional relationships, and may be characterised by feeling restless, apathetic, or unfulfilled.

Midlife Crisis: Financial Impacts

A midlife crisis can ruin you financially. Some of the high costs could include:

  • Divorce/separation
  • Career derailment or job loss
  • The direct costs of splurges. Sports or luxury cars, designer clothing, flashy hobbies, and beauty services don’t come cheap!

How to Prevent or Escape from a Midlife Crisis

Yes, every midlife crisis looks different. One person might end up divorced and with a much younger spouse, while another goes down the rabbit hole of serial cosmetic surgeries.

They all cost you, and usually in more ways than one.

The following strategies can all help you retain (or regain) control over your life, your happiness, and your personal finances. You’re not alone, no matter how it feels in the moment. Bring your life back into alignment with intentionality, and a focus on improving your personal relationships and progress toward long-term goals.

1. Talk Through It With Loved Ones and Professionals

Your spouse, family, friends, and other loved ones might not know what you’re dealing with if you don’t tell them. Even if they suspect you’re falling into a midlife crisis, they will nearly certainly struggle to understand your perspective without you explaining it.

To meaningfully change your life, you need to bring the people who share that life with you on board with any changes. But it also helps to simply unload, to unburden yourself to a disinterested third party.

Talking to a counselor or other professional can help too. Not necessarily for advice, though they may offer sound ideas, but often just to verbalise your thoughts and get things out in the open.

2. Reevaluate Your Long-Term Goals

All our lives should align with our long-term goals. When they no longer align, we might start drifting in a direction we don’t truly want to go.

Whether you aim to buy a new home, retire early, help your kids become doctors, take dream holidays, or maybe even buy a supercar, take a second look at your long-term goals — then form a financial plan to reach them faster. And if you need some expert advice, don’t be afraid to reach out to a financial adviser or other professional.

3. Retake Control with Lifestyle Design

Far too many of us drift with the tides of life, falling into our jobs, our relationships, even the city where we live. It’s no wonder so many of us might wake up one day and realise the life we lead might not actually be something we like.

To help rectify this, write out a description of your ideal life, starting with where you live, the kind of work you do, your family life, your social life, your hobbies, and every other detail you can put to paper. No holds barred, nothing off-limits — simply outline your perfect life.

Once you’ve written out the what, you can then start brainstorming the how. The process is called lifestyle design. It doesn’t happen overnight, but by steadily working toward a life you want to live, you’ll find fresh meaning and purpose.

4. Sort your Finances

Money can’t solve every problem — but it can solve many. Even when it can’t solve a problem entirely, it can usually help. For example, anyone can get sick or injured, but the more money you have, the better your health insurance, the better-quality food you can eat, the less financial stress you’ll have, and as a result, the better your overall health outcomes tend to be.

Make your finances a priority and you’ll soon find your finances can start to propel you towards the life you’ve designed for yourself.

5. Consider a Career Change (Carefully)

Quitting your job in a blaze of glory might look great in movies, but it won’t do your career any favours. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should stay in that unfulfilling job either.

As an extension of lifestyle design, spend some time brainstorming careers that best fit your passions, strengths, and long-term goals. Bear in mind that the jobs you grow up hearing about — teacher, police officer, pilot, and so on — make up a minority of the actual jobs available today. Many of the occupations in today’s workforce didn’t exist five years ago, and you may never have heard of them.

Consider meeting with a career counselor to take a career aptitude test and discuss options. Though it might not be cheap, you could come across a bunch of new ideas that had never previously occurred to you — ideas that could well fit you better than your current role. They might also offer a higher salary or better benefits.

That said, take the utmost care in this area, as most often you may find the following to be true about your current situation or workplace:

“Opportunity is always under our feet. We don’t have to go anywhere. All we need to do is recognise it.” Shiv Khera

6. Consider a Side Hustle

Not everyone going through a midlife crisis is ready to change careers just yet. But, they may still want something more from their working life, maybe financially, mentally, or emotionally.

In that case, consider starting a side hustle while you figure out what you want to do with your career. You can turn a hobby of yours into a business and keep it fun if you like.

Starting a business doesn’t have to mean selling off all your assets and pouring it all into inventory, plant, or a commercial lease. To keep your startup costs low and build cash flow quickly, consider starting an online business.

All the while, you can keep working your day job while you decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.

7. Embrace Adventure — Constructively

You don’t need to go as far as packing up and moving to Timbuktu to inject some adventure into your life.

One or more of the ideas below could be a great start:

  • Start a new hobby
  • Try hiking, browsing nearby tourist spots, museums, attend a show, or do anything that might not usually occur to you
  • Write a bucket list
  • Plan an international trip
  • Plan a domestic trip
  • Shake up your routine
  • Start learning a new language, instrument, how to dance, or something else

8. Make Health a Priority

Your body and mind form a feedback loop. One of the easiest ways to jumpstart an emotionally healthier loop is to force yourself into a physically healthier routine. This is as simple as it is effective:

  • Get eight hours of sleep every night
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly

If you simply do the three things above, eventually you’ll wake up and feel a lot better, both physically and emotionally.

It doesn’t have to cost you more money. You can eat healthy on a budget and work out at home with no expensive equipment or gym memberships. Neither do you need expensive or habit-forming sleep aids, with all the natural sleep remedies available.

Finally, consider quitting or really cutting back the drinking. Alcohol is expensive for both your wallet and your health. Worst of all, it correlates strongly with depression: everything in your life looks worse after you’ve been drinking.

As a byproduct of living healthier, you might just find you feel younger too!

9. Keep Perspective

Often, making the most of life is just a matter of perspective.

  • How many hours do you volunteer each month? Volunteering for causes we believe in is a great way to feel fulfilled. If we’re doing it for the needy, this can help us feel more grateful for what we might have
  • When was the last time you did something new? This is great for the brain, and may result in you identifying a new pastime, new friends, or new career path
  • Do you think about your own mortality? Remembering we’re all going to die is a great way to make the most of each day!

The bottom line: exiting or preventing a midlife crisis

Most people who experience a midlife crisis come out the other side with a greater sense of curiosity about the world around them — and where they fit into it. Armed with a better understanding of themselves and their place in the world, middle-aged adults emerge more thoughtful, worldly, and compassionate than their younger selves.

As fun as it is to be young and fit and glamorous, growing wiser and wealthier with age comes with its own rewards. If the price you pay for them is letting go of the trappings of youth, just remember you’re going to lose them regardless. You might as well relinquish them gracefully and embrace the perks of more mature adulthood.

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