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Midlife can bring much stress, but with a focused effort, you can avoid midlife crisis anxiety. What exactly is a midlife crisis? Popular culture will tell you it’s an unstoppable urge to have an extramarital affair, get a younger spouse, or drive a sexy sports car. What’s behind such behavior is an underlying fear that there is more time behind you than ahead of you. While you might still be many, many years away from old age, just knowing that you’ve passed your midway mark can generate anxious unease in some. If the average American life expectancy is approximately 85 years, then midlife begins sometime around ages 40 to 46 and continues for approximately 10 more years.
Adding to the general unease of knowing that time is limited, midlife is also a time of tremendous responsibilities such as:
- Caregiver: People in their midlife years are often called the "sandwich generation" because they find themselves having to care for their children as well as their elderly parents. This type of familial responsibility can definitely take a toll and cause anxiety.
- Financial stress: At midlife, the expense of saving for children's education while also saving for retirement can create financial worry. These years may be peak earning years, but the loss of a job can lead to significant earnings erosion if a career gets off track. Add in everyday expenses, such as a mortgage and car payment to a job change or loss, and the financial stress can be overwhelming.
- Health concerns: Health problems may arise during these midlife years, which can be stressful both physically and mentally. Concerted efforts to prevent disease and live a healthy lifestyle might be in order, but that requires effort and determination, which might feel overwhelming to someone already feeling anxious.
Clearly, the midlife years are not a time of worry-free happiness. However, by setting boundaries and following the below tips, such pressures can be managed:
Put Your Savings First
If you cannot comfortably afford to pay for your children’s college education or lavish wedding, especially if it impacts your retirement savings, then don’t. You, the middle age parent, do not have time to replenish the savings you will expend to fund college, weddings, and first houses. You may feel bad about saying no to your children, but think about how much worse you’ll feel when you can’t retire. Take care of your own financial portfolio by seeing an investment advisor you trust.
Be Mindfully Healthy
Relaxation, meditation and exercise have profound health benefits. Not only will you reap these benefits today, you will enjoy better health in the future, and you may avoid expensive health complications. The time you spend relaxing and exercising are an investment in your future well-being. Both exercise and relaxation protect against anxiety, and sharing those activities in a social setting will further reduce tension.
Develop Strong Social Ties
Having a sense of community—with lots of family, friends, and acquaintances—is an excellent way to fill your life with positive energy. The more time spent with people you enjoy is less time available for worry or brooding. Volunteer your time in something you really love to do. At midlife, the demands are tiring; give yourself the opportunities to engage in nourishing, positive activities that leave you feeling fulfilled rather than drained.
Make Your Life Meaningful
If you experience midlife anxiety as a general insecurity about your life and what you’ve accomplished in it, your anxiety may reflect a deeper and more philosophical concern. You may wish to take time to reflect on how to create a meaningful life and what would help your life feel more fulfilling. Consider consulting with a spiritual leader or therapist to delve into such discussions. Midlife is an excellent time to correct your life course to one that is more authentic and satisfying.