Aging can be difficult and the perception of responsibility during adulthood throughout the years, or decades, can make us question our hopes, regrets, and future. When we get older, we have to realize that our life is half over and that our younger days are behind us. This can be hard to cope with for many people.
This phase is known as a midlife crisis and can cause someone to change their lifestyle or strive to feel or act younger. While a midlife crisis is often referred to as something negative, there can also be positive outcomes associated with the phase. However, sometimes our living situation also influences our adaptations that occur as part of a midlife crisis as well.
What Causes a Midlife Crisis?
Midlife or middle age is usually considered to be around 45 years, but a midlife crisis can happen before or after that point in a person’s life. In addition, not everyone experiences a midlife crisis. In fact, some studies show that less than 15% of people undergo a midlife crisis, and even though other research suggests higher rates of a self-reported midlife crisis, the number remains below 30%.
Causes of a midlife crisis can vary from one person to the next, but some common factors play a role. Physical aging is one of the most cited causes of a midlife crisis. As we get older and start to notice that our body does not perform like it used to or that we have worsened hearing, strength, eyesight, or other signs of normal aging, that can be a catalyst for midlife woes.
A major event or change in situation can also spring a midlife crisis to life. A lot of people find that a change in career or job is a contributor, particularly with unwelcome changes. Things like a lack of promotion, work that is not fulfilling, or retirement planning are all potential causes of a predicament during middle-aged years.
Other common causes include relationship changes including separation or divorce, the loss of a loved one, moving to a new geographic location, or health problems even when not related to aging. Many people who undergo a midlife crisis do not have any clearly identifiable causes and instead will cite vague reasons like increased stress or feeling of regret.
How to Recognize a Midlife Crisis
Some common signs can help you determine whether you are involved in a midlife crisis. The signs will be different from person to person but may help you examine your thoughts and behaviors so that you can address any negative problems associated with the experience.
Fear of death or a desire to be youthful again are some of the primary signs of midlife crises. You may feel like life is short and that your younger years were wasted. Bittersweet feelings of nostalgia may creep into your consciousness throughout the day. Some people grasp at the things that make them feel young or allow them to project a youthful personality to others. In addition, thoughts about life and mortality as well as other ruminations about life can race through the mind.
Mood swings are also a common symptom of a midlife crisis. A middle-aged person encountering a crisis may be more irritable, sad, and anxious. A midlife crisis can even correlate with depression and anxiety in some cases.
Changes in sleep and eating habits can also coincide with a midlife crisis. Sometimes this could be experienced as insomnia and other times as fatigue or excessive sleeping. Changes in diet can contribute to weight loss or gain.
Another sign to keep in mind is withdrawal from routine, responsibilities, or relationships. A lot of times, people experiencing a midlife crisis will feel stuck in a rut, which can lead to these types of changes. The person may feel they are trapped in a marriage or career, which can contribute to a loss of motivation, changes in ambition, or feelings of regret.
Finally, a lot of people undergoing a midlife crisis will have higher impulsivity. They may make sudden decisions like buying expensive items, quitting a job, ending a relationship, or going on vacation. This may also coincide with risk-taking behavior like driving fast, gambling, or consuming drugs and alcohol.
While most of these signs appear to be negative, research does indicate that there may be positive aspects of a midlife crisis as well. The experience can cause us to better opportunities, helpful changes, and wider perspectives that can improve well-being.
How to Navigate a Midlife Crisis in a Smart City
Navigating a midlife crisis can be difficult, but there are some things that you can do to help you along. It is a good idea to talk to someone you trust. This could be a partner, friend, doctor, therapist, or anyone else with whom you can discuss your feelings and experiences. Ignoring some of the signs like losing interest in things you used to enjoy or feeling hopeless about the future can be symptoms of depression and talking to someone can help to provide an objective view of the situation.
A lot of times, the way that we are looking at our current situation and the event of the past makes the midlife crisis worse. Living in an urban area may cause us to desire rural environments and vice versa. However, a smart city or one that encourages public engagement can allow you to put your hopes and desires into something meaningful and helpful to others.
A smart city also has opportunities for transportation that go beyond normal travel, which can allow you to spread your wings, explore new areas, and try new things. Instead of being stuck in a neighborhood, you can ride a bus or take a train to pursue travel or other hobbies. In addition, a smart city can promote engagement with neighbors and allow you to grow a support system and build new relationships instead of being solely lost and consumed with the past.
Most people will look back at their youth with positivity and happy memories, but not remember the challenges of those years. In addition, we tend to view our current, older self with a negative lens. Try to discover the positive aspects of being older like more security, wisdom, and maturity. You may even find it helpful to keep a gratitude journal and write down a thing that you are grateful for every day.
A city may not seem like a great place to enjoy the natural environment, but as cities become more progressive and innovations become commonplace in smart cities, you will find that there are natural areas to escape to when you are experiencing midlife woes. There are parks, bike riding trails, and other opportunities to experience life to its fullest on your own or with others.
Getting exercise can be a healthy habit that can help you adjust to the second half of your life. You can choose to walk around the neighborhood, learn a new sport, or discover new attractions in the city like a wildlife park or museum. Just walking around these places can be good and learning a new skill can also help you adapt and become comfortable with your age and the changes that you are undergoing.
Setting new goals can be helpful as well. When we are young, we often have clear goals like meeting our life partner, pursuing a career option, or having a family. These goals may no longer be relevant, but that does not mean that you cannot have new goals that are equally as important. Look at your life and what you want out of it and align your beliefs, goals, and values.
You may want to volunteer with a charity, start a new hobby, or learn a new skill. This will help change your outlook so that you can reframe the midlife crisis as something to push toward positive change. Larger areas have more volunteer opportunities as well and you may even find that you like to help with the community or the development of the urban area. You could even find a part-time job or help with aspects of city life that need to be addressed like crime, security, transportation, or infrastructure.
Mindfulness is another option that can help you reduce some of the negative symptoms associated with worry or dissatisfaction. It doesn’t require a ton of time and just being mindful and undisturbed for 10 minutes a day can help you become more aware of your thoughts and yourself. Try to focus on your breathing and let thoughts pass through your mind without addressing them, following them, or judging them.
Sometimes a midlife crisis makes you desire change and that is okay. As long as you do not make sudden changes impulsively and the changes will improve your quality of life or happiness, then it is okay to make choices based on your needs and wants.
Finally, while a lot of adults find it hard to make new friends, it can be beneficial to do so. Interacting with people that have similar interests can help us build connections that can help you bring positive influence on your life and current situation, regardless of your age.
A midlife crisis can be distressing and cause negative emotions, worry, and in-depth ruminations about mortality. However, it can also be a springboard toward positive change, new experiences, and a better perspective on life. Navigating a midlife crisis can be difficult, but living in a large smart city can provide you with unique opportunities and experiences that can help you adjust comfortably and come to terms with your aging.