How to Overcome a Midlife Crisis

WebMD Blog:

How to Overcome a Midlife Crisis

By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD


Midlife – a time when you’ve faced enough challenges and struggles that you may feel exhausted by them. Along the way, you may have harbored regrets that now weigh heavily on you, perhaps leaving you at your unhappiest.

While this pattern doesn’t fit everyone, a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research has found that “midlife crisis” is far from a myth. They looked at 1.3 million people across 51 countries and found that their happiness has a U-shape over their lifetime. It is generally high in their early 20s, but it declines after that and continues to do so through their early 50s. Fortunately, their happiness then increases again until about their late 80s. Although this information is interesting, the cause for these changes is not clear.

One piece of this puzzle may be that mounting pressures leave people feeling less happy. In addition, many in midlife may find that they have difficulty letting go of regrets – either paths not pursued or failures to achieve life goals. If you relate to this, you don’t need to wait until you age out of your distress. You can choose to let go of your regrets now by doing the following:

Consider the situation that you regret. Think about what lead you to make particular decisions and follow those paths.  Put yourself back into that mindset so that you can really understand that old self.

Take the time to empathize with your old self. If your decisions have caused you problems, be open to a sense of compassion for the pain you have had to endure. Rather than turning to self-blame, choose to remain aware of what caused you to make your decisions. Consider that you may have done the best you could with what you knew or with who you were at the time. Focus on and stay with the self-compassion.

When your self-criticism and regret re-impose themselves (and they will), choose to return to the perspective of really understanding and having compassion for yourself.

Re-focus on your current life situation. As you know, you cannot change the past. So, work to let it go and focus on the present. Make the best choices you can to find happiness in your current life, and set yourself up for happiness in the days to come.

Letting go of regrets and embracing a more accepting view of yourself takes effort and practice. But it can be done. Also remember that as time passes, the natural process of aging may help you to let go of regret.


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