Written by: Mari Vasan, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Research data says midlife is our most stressful time, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are seven ways to make middle age your best age. A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) suggests that middle age (mid-forties to early fifties) may be the worst stage of life.
The report, titled “The Midlife Crisis,” ¹ details some disturbing facts. According to the authors, people in midlife are disproportionately likely to:
Take their own life
Have trouble sleeping
Feel life is not worth living
Feel overwhelmed at work
Find it difficult to concentrate
Become dependent on alcohol
Depression in midlife is shockingly high.
According to the study, people in midlife are twice as likely to be depressed as people in the 65-74 age group or the under-25 bracket. In addition, according to a 2015 Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience study, women are 1.7x as likely to be diagnosed with depression as men. ²
The long-term NBER study followed 500,000 people in multiple wealthy countries. Typically, income is peaking in midlife, and health is still good; therefore, we expect mental health to be robust, right? Unfortunately, no; the study findings are accurate.
And they don’t surprise me. As a women’s midlife transformation expert, I hear stories of midlife depressions, slumps, and frustrations daily. And often from women whose social media portrays a happy, sometimes seemingly ideal life. Their conversations with me frequently reflect the inner suffering beneath the surface.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why middle age is so challenging. Some reasons stem from a negative mindset or disempowering beliefs, while others are tied to real-world problems.
A disempowering mindset or belief can lead to depression in middle age.
While failing at something at any age is never fun, at least if someone has a career or relationship disappointment in their twenties or thirties, they typically believe they have time for another chance at success. In midlife, there’s often a belief that this may be their last chance to get it right. It’s essential to become aware of one’s disempowering beliefs and to challenge them. One of the things I focus on with my clients is helping them identify and annihilate disempowering beliefs. These programs are often wired into the brain in early childhood, and hypnosis is an effective way to de-program and install more empowering patterns or ideas.
Another mindset component that can lead to depression is expectations. If someone thought they would have achieved a specific outcome or goal by a certain age, and their real-world experience doesn’t match that expectation, disappointment can arise. In these situations, I work with my clients to change their language and mindset and the meaning they are attaching to the context.
Real-world issues also contribute to depression or overwhelm in middle age.
Increased responsibilities are a significant contributor to stress in middle age. There are many potential sources of stress and overwhelm ‒ from relationship issues, financial strain (often as kids go to college), problems with grown children, career issues, aging parents, and retirement concerns. These can often be daunting, resulting in severe energy drains if the person is not equipped with the right tools and is not in a resourceful state.
Mortality often becomes a greater focus in middle age, as one or both parents become ill or pass on. There can be a sense of, “Wow, I’m not going to live forever!” or “Is this all there is?”
And let’s not forget ageism, which can lead to feelings of insecurity such as, “Will a younger person replace me?” This is especially true for women, who often have this concern in their relationships and careers.
Female hormonal shifts can also wreak havoc on well-being. Night sweats can prevent a good night’s sleep, and lack of deep sleep can lead to anxiety, exhaustion, and depression.
There are also physical realities related to an aging body. Aging has aesthetic effects (“Do I really look like this?”). This can be particularly challenging for those who relied on their looks in their younger years. There’s also often increased difficulty in doing things we used to take for granted (What? I can’t do a half-marathon anymore?”), and a host of other issues can arise, including hearing loss, weight gain, etc. Suddenly, there can be a confluence of stress factors.
Lastly, let’s not forget the impact of divorce on mental health. While divorce rates are higher in younger age groups, it can often be easier to adjust to divorce when younger. Being new on the dating scene is not typically easy for a 50-plus-year-old. What’s more, adjusting to being single can be more difficult, because the habit of being coupled has become even more firmly established. All of a sudden, after many years of relying on a partner in certain areas or having habits of doing certain things together, being solo can be quite challenging. Financial pressures related to divorce can also be a stressor.
Is middle age the worst age? It doesn’t have to be. Follow these rules to make midlife your best stage of life yet.
While there certainly are a significant number of external stressors in middle age, if we can navigate through them with acceptance and use them as opportunities to grow, while remaining connected to our inner resources, armed with mindset tools, it can be the best stage. After all, in middle age, we typically still have good health and all the wisdom and resources we’ve gathered through life up to now.
And there’s often greater discernment for what matters. There’s insight that’s been garnered from experience.
7 ways to make your middle years your best years
Accept your age and make it the best it can be. Do everything you can to make your life as fulfilling as possible.
Set goals that will ensure you’re growing. If you’re not growing, you’re withering.
Let go of heavy emotional burdens. Forgive and move on. Release anger, resentments, and disappointments because these are significant energy drains.
Surround yourself with positive people who elevate and inspire you. Do you want to hang out with people who complain about their age, or those who are thriving despite their age? The people you surround yourself with greatly influence who you become.
Pay attention to your disempowering beliefs; challenge them and change them.
Exercise daily. It improves physical and mental health and helps prevent diseases, including dementia and Alzheimers.
Focus on what’s good, and be grateful. If we look for evidence of what’s negative, we’ll find it. If we focus on the good, we’ll also find plenty. Choose where you want to focus. And cultivate gratitude, which puts you in a higher frequency and can result in greater happiness, abundance, and success.
If you’re a woman in midlife who would like to reignite your life force, let go of emotional burdens, and supercharge your confidence so that you can make the second half of your life the best half, check out my website and watch my free 30-minute webinar.
Mari Vasan, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Mari Vasan is the founder of MV Coaching, a dynamic women's midlife personal development company, which specializes in a research-based transformation program that helps women worldwide live their best lives. Combining the "magic" of hypnosis with coaching, Mari also blends her research skills as a top-rated Wall Street analyst, with 30 years of intensively studying psychology and human behavior, with the wants and desires of the women she serves. The result is her 8-week course ‒ Supercharge Your Midlife Transformation. Mari is also the founder of MindGift.org, a nonprofit platform offering free mental health tools to anyone, anywhere.
National Bureau of Economic Research: “The Midlife Crisis,” by Osea Giuntella, Sally McManus, Redzo Mujcic, Andrew J. Oswald, Nattavudh Powdthavee, Ahmed Tohamy https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w30442/w30442.pdf
Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience: “Why is Depression More Prevalent in Women?” Paul R. Albert July 2015 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4478054/