10 Tips To Help Alleviate Midlife Crisis Stress
Cheers, dear readers,
Last I left you on my chronological journey with infertility, I was headed straight into the eye of the storm of a mid-life crisis shortly after all of our IVF treatment failed. Eric and I were moving forward with our lives settling into a new home with the possibility of family creation in the form of adoption on the table. We were wrestling with many decisions and stresses at the time, and I was definitely starting to have a bit of an identify crisis. Was I ever going to be a mother? Was that the right path for me to pursue? What if I went against the norm and decided not to be a mother, and thus not to pursue adoption? Did that make me an evil person? What would my life look like potentially without children?
These questions were perplexing me. I often would simply opt not to think about these nagging, life-altering questions and instead focus on remaining very busy indeed. I had many projects I was working on both at home and in the office. We all know that sometimes keeping ourselves very productive helps stave off our fears and worries… at least for a time. I was also wrestling (and stuffing down) feelings of deep sadness, loneliness, massive confusion, shame and FEAR… fear of the unknown, fear of regret, fear of FEAR. How could I handle all of these overwhelming emotions and questions? I was going back and forth to appearing strong on the outside at times, and falling apart on the inside. Luckily Eric and I were always very supportive of each other, so at least having him to talk to about the ups and downs of this journey was such a great relief. However we can find a support system, even if it’s a support system of ONE, we all need to find that in our lives to help ease us through the worst of times.
Research shows that mid-life stress or crisis due to things like struggling through infertility can eventually lead to middle age depression. Think about it. Every day, adults in their late 30s, 40s and 50s deal with a range of difficult interwoven complex issues like relationship changes, health concerns, aging parents, loss of loved ones, financial hardship and of course infertility touches on several of these highly stressful situations. Sometimes it helps to know that you aren’t in this midlife stress party alone. 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.
Some hallmark signs of a midlife crisis are: desire to change career or job, exploring new religious experiences, 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. Next week, we will explore the warning signs of when a midlife crisis starts to turn into a middle age depression.
Luckily, we can decide to look at turning a midlife crisis into a midlife transformation. It can be an opportunity to take acton, revaluate priorities and transform life for the better. It can be marked by tremendous growth around achieving new goals or revisiting forgotten ones. It can also be about coming to terms with new life patterns and finding new meaning in one’s life. For some including many of our readers here, it might be channeling time and energy once reserved for raising children into new and fulfilling endeavors.
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 – Recognize when you need to take time off for yourself to help put events and challenges into perspective. Give yourself permission to “unplug” and do activities that soothe your soul.
2) Identify sources of stress – Realize that you can cut out over-commitments, and then organize your mind by writing down any goals or results that you want for your life so that you can look at it in black and white, and take action when ready.
3) Set up a support group – It can’t be stressed enough to enlist the help of family and friends to help you in your healing and navigating stressful times.
4) Exercise – Physical activity will relieve stress and elevate your mood, even if it’s just a quick 20-30 minute walk around the neighborhood.
5) Eat a healthy diet – Taking care of yourself includes eating right with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts. You’ll feel better and think clearer.
6) Get enough sleep – Just as the right diet is important, 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 – Remember that accepting help does not mean you’re a failure, it shows wisdom. Take it when needed and you’ll thank yourself later.
8) Say no – Over-committing can sap your energy and take you off track of your mental and emotional health. Accept that you can’t do everything. Say yes to the things that you want, and no to the things that you don’t.
9) Learn to release your frustrations – This is a period in your life to let go of expectations and frustrations. 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. Find effective ways to clear your mind.
10) Keep a sense of humor – Laugher actually reduces your level of stress hormones and can increase your immune system. Make laughing an exercise and practice daily.
Midlife can be one of the most stress-filled phases in this journey called life. Add infertility to the mix and it can be downright crisis-inducing. Keep your eyes and ears open to the signs in your own life when you might be headed for a meltdown, and then love yourself enough to take action to reduce the negative effects. Here at SS&FE, we are rooting for you and support you on your journey to mental and emotional health and wellness. You are never alone in your personal quest for happy.
Please join us next week to hear more about our personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.