Tired? Grumpy? Not interested in sex anymore? You are into a committed relationship for the past 25 years and yet you are forever arguing. You want to buy a sportier car, she does not, she has put on weight and you too are getting older with hair thinning and waist thickening. You want ‘space’. You can’t handle it! What now?
Perhaps there is a midlife crisis brewing. It can happen with both men and women and hormones are partly to be blamed. The more dramatic plunge occurs in women than in men as they approach their menopause and a gradual drop occurs in men as they approach andropause. But is this transition really a cause of concern?
Research reports suggest that almost 80 per cent of people in the ages of 40-60 undergo midlife changes such as depression, anxiety, freedom, relief or guilt. However, these are not necessarily perceived as crises but are normal developmental changes occurring because of environmental demands. The ageing brain is resilient and adaptable. Several activities practiced regularly therefore can boost the power, clarity and excite the ageing brain.
Time for a change
The term midlife crisis was first identified by the psychologist Carl Jung and is a normal part of the maturing process. You have reached the ‘half time’ of your life. Ageing, hormonal changes, changes in the family and social life and sometimes drastic events such as divorce or death of a parent or children leaving home giving you an ‘empty nest’ syndrome – all can set off major feelings of disaster or crisis in your life. Re-evaluating future goals too may put you in an emotional turmoil.
Says Seema Hingorrany, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, “Most men and women do experience some form of emotional transition during this time of life. A transition that might cause you to take stock of where you are in life and make some needed adjustments to the way you live your life.”
“Psychologically”, she says, “You might experience a wide range of feelings, such as discontent with life or the lifestyle that may have provided happiness for many years. For instance, boredom with things or people that have hitherto held great interest in your life, wanting to do something completely different, questioning the meaning of life and the validity of decisions clearly and easily made years before and confusion about where your life is going.”
Most people today do not perceive mid-life changes as crisis, especially in India. Because of different social and cultural values, there is less isolation, fewer divorces and older parents and children living together as a family. The process of ageing is accepted with ease. According to a study carried out by the Dr John D and Dr Catherine T MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Midlife Development (MIDMAC), USA, mid-life is smooth sailing for most people with financial security, stable relationships and good health.
Studies indicate that middle-age women show varied reactions to menopause in different cultures. Opines Dr Rishma Pai, leading gynaecologist attached to Jaslok and Lilavati hospitals, Mumbai, “The peri-menopausal and menopausal period in a woman’s life, when the hormones are declining, is definitely a difficult time for many women. This is usually in the mid forties and onward, the woman experiences physical and mental changes such as hot flushes, mood swings, depression, anxiety, forgetfulness, insomnia, loss of sexual drive, vaginal dryness, skin and hair changes.”
“In later years there is osteoporosis, loss of urinary control, increased risk of heart disease etc. These can be quite severe in some women and she may be unable to cope with the changes. And the stress of changes around her, may push her into a midlife crisis”, she adds.
For men, says Dr Pai, “This is a part of ageing and is accompanied by decline in sexuality mood and overall energy. There may be loss of muscle strength, emotional and behavioural changes, increased upper central body fat, osteoporosis and increased cardiovascular risk. The condition may be more severe in men who undergo psychological stress, drink alcohol, are obese or have some illness during this period.” This is the time when you may develop blood pressure problems, diabetes, heart ailments and joint ailments.
Making life interesting
Try and make a healthy ‘half-time’ transition. Middle age is a period of adjustment between the potentialities of the past and perhaps the limitations of the future. Get rid of that emotional rebellion. Go shop for clothes, jewellery or go window-shopping to soothe your midlife upheaval. Snappy cars, exotic getaway vacations and social gatherings can bring back that zing into your life. Learn to cope with the ‘new’ you. Get past that rocky beginning and the mid-life journey will be rewarding.
Dealing with midlife
- Communicate more often with your partner
- Add spice to your intimate relationships
- Socialise, meet with friends
- Find yourself a hobby, do things which you enjoy the most
- Take a break from your work
- Exercise – aerobics, jog, walk, swim, go to the gym or practice yoga
- Indulge in mental exercises – neurobics – brain exercises, solving crossword puzzles, reading
- Eat nutritious food, if need be take vitamin, iron or calcium supplements with your doctor’s advise
- Take regular diagnostic tests to check on your health
- Be positive