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.
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.
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.
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:
- Feeling loved
- Having a positive impact
If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking:
“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.
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
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.
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.
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