My Mid-Life Crisis: From Surviving to Thriving

7T -midlife-crisis-1Mid-Life Crisis….

Do you know anyone who has had one?

Have you been there yourself?

For some people it is a sudden shock around the age of 40 when life suddenly seems to no longer be as fulfilling and the search for answers begins. For others, the search for answers and reflection on the meaning of life and finding fulfillment is more gradual with the gnawing feelings and questions beginning in their late 30s and lasting into their late 40s and beyond.

Whilst the timing of the onset to the Mid-Life crisis stage of development will be different for each of us, the outcomes we are seeking will be similar: Survive the Challenge of Transition and pursue a Life Strategy to Make A Difference in the World and Fulfill our Life Dreams.

The challenges and obstacles we face in achieving these outcomes are great. Not only do we have to contend with the gradual decline in our bodies and increasing health problems as a result of ageing, and the psychological adjustment of leaving our youth and preparing for old age and death, we also have to run the gauntlet of 7 of the Top 10 Tsunami Sized Waves of Life.

How many of us have had to face the challenges of raising children and teenagers, caring for elderly parents, managing financial problems, and relationship strain – often all at the same time!

But there is hope! By balancing the four elements of your wellbeing, having a clear sense of purpose and understanding your preferred legacy you can make an amazing difference in the world during the next stage of your life. By reconnecting with your dreams in life, setting goals and action planning to accommodate for all your limitations and responsibilities, you can still find a way to live your dreams.

My Mid Life Crisis….

I still remember it as if it was only yesterday despite the years that have since past… I was recently divorced, managing financial crises and legal issues, working in a full-time job while part-time solo parenting my two beautiful daughters, and facing the challenge of mid-life dating. In the midst of this, I was then further overwhelmed by unexpected tragedy and the seemingly impossible task of recovering from this loss while managing the ongoing turmoil in other areas of my life. I described this time in my life to friends as a “nuclear winter”.

The sheer scale of events was so massive and continuous that I wondered if I would survive. At times I literally expected to be struck by lightning or some other disaster at any given moment. On numerous occasions the way ahead seemed completely impossible. Some days the best I could do was to complete small amounts of work in between high amounts of rest. The sense of fatigue was overwhelming. The raw emotions of sadness and loss were, at times, only barely contained beneath the veneer of “I’m doing OK” statements I made regularly to enquiring friends and colleagues.

Surviving: Recovery & The 4 Elements….

The journey of recovery from multiple mid-life Tsunamis was an enormous challenge. Under the weight of such extreme trauma, major health problems are not uncommon, further complicating our recovery. In my case I had increasingly serious chest infections. They struck more frequently and took longer and required more medicine to heal than infections I’d had before these events. While my recovery was ever so gradual, I stayed focused on bringing balance to the 4 Elements of my Wellbeing (Mindsets, Emotions, Lifestyle & Purpose) wherever possible.

Mindsets were the cornerstone that held everything together. I initially struggled with Blame but quickly shifted to the mindset of Responsibility — I needed to make so many decisions so quickly to avert further problems. The mindset of Worry was not too big a problem — the scale of events left me feeling strangely helpless and Accepting of my fate. Demanding attitudes also played a limited part in my distress — again I was reduced to rolling with the circumstances and following the advice and Encouragement of others.

Emotions were at times hard to manage. The sadness and loss could be all-consuming and overwhelming. Sometimes I felt as if my eyes were leaking tears when I least expected it. Mindfulness meditation and learning to sit with uncomfortable negative emotions gave me much peace as the high tide of these strong emotions ever-so-slowly receded.

A healthy Lifestyle was also crucial, in particular getting enough sleep and avoiding too much alcohol and coffee, so I remained rested and calm. Exercise was also a key factor. I had exercise and fitness on my side as I had already set goals to complete a long distance triathlon and return to climbing mountains and surfing, prior to being overrun by tragedy — so I doggedly pursued these goals as part of my recovery.

Purpose was also a key factor in surviving my multiple mid-life Tsunamis. So much of my decision-making throughout this time focused on my goal of being a great dad to my children, and living in a way that would have made my grandfather proud. This is not to suggest I made no mistakes — there were plenty — but I did my best to be responsible and supportive to those closest to me.

Thriving: Life Strategy & New Beginnings…

Making a Difference: Your Legacy

Often people describe the first sign of a mid-life crisis as a realization that they do not feel like they have made a significant contribution to the world and they become deeply unsatisfied with their previous achievements. If these thoughts and feelings have happened to you then it may be a good time to start some further thinking and planning about your purpose and legacy in life.

One of the simplest ways to begin this process is to set up 15-30 minutes of quiet reflective time and begin by imagining your funeral. The end of your life. There is a speech or eulogy being given by friends and family who loved you and are saddened that you are no longer with them. In the eulogy speech they describe the legacy they remember you for in 4 different areas of your life: Work, Play, Family and Relationships. Write down one or two sentences that describe what you would like to be remembered for in each of these 4 areas. This is your preferred legacy and can form the beginning of your life strategy for the next stage of your life.

Living Your Dreams: Life Strategy

The next stage of a mid-life crisis typically involves the desire to fulfil dreams in life. How many of us have embarked on major travel adventures, bought Harley Davidson motorcycles, boats, cars or other mid-life toys, got a tattoo or got inspired to cook, paint, dance or sing? Often we pursue these dreams without any planning or consideration of others, which can have some nasty side effects. To prevent problems occurring yet still fulfill our life dreams we need to have a life strategy – a specific plan that will help us fulfill our life dreams across the 4 different areas of our life (Work, Play, Family and Relationships) and also make a difference in the world according to our preferred legacy.

To have an effective life strategy we need to clearly identify what our life dreams are, set some specific goals for each area of our life – including stretch goals, and then develop detailed action plans which address timeframes, resources, activities, support networks and setback plans. We also need to maintain a flexible approach to life and be able to adjust these plans should any unforeseen opportunity or adversity strike.

My Inspiration to Write & Next Steps for You!

The journey through my mid-life crisis has been a major source of both suffering and inspiration for me as a writer and psychologist. To help people navigate through the various challenges that mid-life can bring I have written a series of books focusing on the key components of successful transition.

I wrote Riding The Waves of Life Without The Stress to provide the foundation knowledge and skills needed to master stress management in the context of leading busy and demanding lives and I used myself as one of the case studies. In The 7 Mid-Life Tsunamis I wrote a detailed survival guide for each of these 7 Mid-life Stressful Events and in writing Living the Endless Summer Life Strategy, I showed you my own step-by-step journey to develop my Life Strategy to live my dreams and make a difference.

In writing these books I hoped to teach, anyone who is willing to read, the secrets of success that are usually reserved only for those who can afford expert therapy or life coaching. I would encourage you to take the next steps toward mastering your mid-life crisis and living your dreams by spending some more time reading the free articles and resources available at TheStressSurfer.com, reading one of the books I wrote and putting the strategies into action, or getting yourself a life coach or therapist to make your Mid-Life a time of not just Surviving but really Thriving and living your dreams!

Ride The Waves of Life!

Dr Pete

The Stress Surfer

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