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Fighting Depression & the Midlife Crisis
Learn 10 Ways to Handle Stress Before it Becomes a Crisis

Research midlife crisis and you’ll find many descriptions. We certainly did. From feeling trapped in a job or relationship to questioning the meaning of life or drooling over a fire red mustang.

There’s also research supporting the notion that midlife crisis doesn’t exist. As middle age people, we disagree. While age might bring wisdom, it can also bring along a set of complicated issues that can seem overwhelming, which can lead to midlife stress and, if not handled, to a middle age depression.

Think about it, every day, adults in their 40s and 50s deal with a range of difficult interwoven complex issues like relationship challenges, health concerns, aging parents, loss of loved ones, teenage children, children moving out (or, maybe worse, they  never move out), job loss, financial hardship, and retirement concerns.

Sometimes, it helps to know that you aren’t in this midlife stress party alone. The group at Healthy Midlife (and 100% of middle age folks) have dealt with and are still dealing with some of these above issues. While misery might like company, the simple truth is that not handling midlife stresses can lead to a crisis, which could become an unhealthy middle age depression.

Let’s look at the difference between a crisis and a depression before exploring potential stress busters

Signs of a Midlife Crisis Signs of Middle Age Depression
  • Desire to change career or job
  • Exploring new religious and church experience
  • Desire to get physically fit
  • Seeking new creative outlets like music, writing and art
  • Wanting to simplify life
  • Seeking a new direction in life
  • Buying (but not excessively) things that make you feel good
    (clothing and, maybe that fire red sports car)
  • Extreme change in eating habits
  • Consistently fatigued and exhausted
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • A feeling of hopelessness, guilt or worthlessness
  • Irritable, restless or unexpected bouts of anger
  • Thoughts or attempts of suicide
  • Decrease or increase in desire and ambition
  • Compulsion for alcohol or drugs
  • Desire for a sexual affair
  • Feeling overwhelmingly trapped by responsibilities, such as
    financial, family and job
  • Consistent desire to run away from responsibilities
  • Doing things out of character that could lead to trouble

Turning a Midlife Crisis to a Midlife Transformation

Most experts look at a crisis in midlife as an opportunity to take action, revaluate priorities and transform life for the better.  A midlife crisis can be a transformative period. One marked by tremendous growth around achieving new goals or revisiting old ones. It’s also about coming to terms with new life patterns and finding new meanings in one’s life. For some, it might be channeling time and energy once reserved for raising children into new and fulfilling endeavors.

Fighting a Midlife Depression

A depression, regardless of any age, could require professional support. Rash decisions made while clinically depressed could have devastating effects on relationships, financial stability and overall health. Depression can be triggered from many life events, such as illness or death of a parent, being overworked or feeling overlooked in the job market, anxiety of growing old or hormonal changes brought on by menopause. Addressing overwhelming feelings of sadness, frustration and anger as well as coping challenges with a medical doctor can be an important first step to fighting middle age depression.

Handling Middle Age Stress with 10 Simple Stress Busting Tips

Learning how to handle stress during midlife can help circumvent a crisis becoming a major depression. Below are 10 tips that can help alleviate stress.

1. Nurture yourself. A fast pace lifestyle can be stressful, especially with midlife challenges. Taking time off for yourself can make a world of difference and allow you to put events and challenges into perspective. Give yourself permission to turn off the cell phone, television and computer.  Pursue fun and nurturing activities, such as visiting a state park, getting a massage or going for a bike ride.

2. Identify sources of stress. Cut out what you can (over commitments to non essential activities and clubs can be a good place to start). Target solutions for the rest, by putting a project plan together. Write down the results you want to achieve and create a step-by-step action plan with accompanying deadlines.

3. Set up a support group.  Enlist the help of family and friends to help keep you on track of your project plan. Use your  support group to be a sounding board. Just discussing your feelings and goals can be a huge stress reliever and create a wellspring of ideas.

4. Exercise. Physical activity will relieve stress and elevate your mood. even a brisk 20-30 minute walk around the neighborhood will help. Fitness after 40 activities are essential for mental and physical health as we age. Include friends or family members in your fitness activities for additional support.

5. Eat a healthy diet. You’ll feel better. You’ll think clearer. Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts.

6. Get enough sleep. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If not, see your doctor or learn stress relaxation skills like yoga, deep breathing or meditation. Just as the right diet is important after 40, sleep is essential to keep your mental and physical capabilities functioning in top form. Fatigue can diminish your reasoning abilities and make stress events even more stressful.

7. Accept help when it’s offered. Believe it or not, this can be one of the hardest things to do. We all want to handle issues ourselves and not feel like a failure by needing help. Accepting help does not mean you’re a failure, it shows wisdom.

8. Say no. Accept the fact that you can’t do everything well. Now is the time to have a laser focus on what’s important in your life and what’s not. Midlife is your time to work on you. Over committing can sap your energy and take you off track of your project plan. Again, use your support group to keep you focused on your goals.

9. Learn to release your frustrations. This is a period in your life to let go. Holding on to issues and resentments of the past will only keep your arms full and unable to hold or even recognize the joys of today. Keeping yesterday issues in the present will keep you from a fulfilling future. Look towards your friends and family for support or seek a professional to help excise difficult frustrations.

10. Our favorite: Keep a sense of humor. Laughter can be the best stress buster on this planet. Learn to find humor as you experience challenges throughout the day. Laughter actually reduces your level of stress hormones and can increase your immune system. Make laughing an exercise. Take five minutes in the morning (the drive to work is perfect for this) and just start laughing. This little exercise will take the seriousness of life out of your system. And give you a joyful attitude throughout the rest of the day.

Is a Midlife Crisis a Normal Part of Aging?

Midlife crisis has been blamed for many positive and negative choices a middle age person might make. A middle aged man buying a sports car or a woman in her 50s choosing to have elective plastic surgery comes to mind. For the most part these types of decisions don’t have a negative effect unless the behavior becomes obsessive.   On the other side of the coin, those who choose to have illicit love affairs as a way to recapture their youth are making decisions that can be very destructive.

In recent years, experts have raised the possibility that the midlife crisis is a myth.  And that few people actually go through a crisis during middle age. People in middle age typically have more disposable income, which can be used to buy nicer things or elective medical procedures. For the most part, experts have found that most middle age people are satisfied with their lives. On flip side, if a person has become dissatisfied in a relationship or with a job situation, the concept of midlife crisis can be a convenient excuse for illicit behavior.

Regardless of evolving definitions, midlife stress can be real. Chronic illnesses can crop up during middle age. Parents can become ill and pass away suddenly. Children do start to move out on their own.

Midlife can be one of the most stress-filled phases in this journey called life. It forces us to deal with the most complex of life’s issues and pushes us to look at who we are and who we want to become. Many experts look at midlife as a turning point. Learning how to deal with midlife stress can help ease this transitional phase. Taking proper action on middle age depression can save relationships, finances and lives. Recognizing that a midlife crisis is an opportunity for personal growth and transformation can create new meaning and fulfillment for this next stage in life.