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Archive for Monday, November 7, 2011

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Mind Matters: Navigating midlife

November 7, 2011

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It’s as though one mountain has been climbed and you are now asking, “Where do I go from here?” You are feeling depressed and anxious. You sense that life is short and time is passing you by.

You seem to have an increased awareness of your body aging and your mortality. You are feeling bored, want to make changes or simply want to run away. You have lost interest in sex and/or feel your marriage is just not working. You question the value in what you do for a living but aren’t sure what else you can do. You feel lost and unsure if life has any meaning at all.

You may be struggling with midlife crisis. Not everyone goes through a major change or has a difficult time with the midlife process. For those that do, it can be helpful to know this a normal process in adult development, one that Carl Jung described as the “afternoon of life.”

This potentially difficult time is no longer reserved for those in their late 30s and 40s. Because many of us live longer and enter old age more vibrantly, a midlife crisis can extend well into your 50s.

If you find yourself struggling with this leg of your life journey, it is wise to avoid acting too impulsively. It is probably not a good idea to quickly ditch your spouse or go for radical plastic surgery. Instead of reacting hastily, it is important to reflect on your experience and act responsibly. Hasty decisions can deepen the struggle when you realize that your actions have been unwise.

It is a good time to reach out to close friends or a professional to get help with understanding and processing what it is you are experiencing, particularly if feelings of depression or anxiety become entrenched.

Reflection can help identify and address the issues that feel unsettled. Journaling can be a helpful tool at this time.

If your marriage is struggling, now is a time to address this directly rather than having an affair or deepening the distance with your spouse. What may seem like a marital issue may be your own internal struggle that you are projecting onto your relationship.

Deepening your spiritual life through practice and/or investigation can help provide direction and meaning. As our bodies age, we can keep in mind we are 99 percent spiritual, and 1 percent body, not the other way around. However, nutrition, exercise and sufficient sleep cannot be overemphasized in their importance. Practicing good self-care goes a long way in helping to regulate emotional imbalances, enabling clearer mental processing and even deepening spiritual experience.

In midlife, you may need to add rather than subtract. It might be a time to start a hobby or try some new creative activity. Join a book club, learn meditation or take a dance class. Sometimes small changes are all that are required.

Talk with others who are further along this journey and ask how they dealt with their midlife struggle. Look for older people who appear vibrant and healthy and ask them what they have done to keep their spirits lifted. You may need to find good role models, particularly if your parents didn’t navigate this phase in a healthy manner.

Even though this can be a challenging time, remember you do have choices. Even if you don’t have clarity on what to do today, you can make this an exciting time of exploration and discovery. Embrace the struggle; it is what is required at this time.

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