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How to Get Out of a Midlife Crisis

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How to Spot a Midlife Crisis continued...

However, it's not inevitable to go through a midlife crisis when those things happen. 

You're making unusual choices. Men may go through a "teenage-like rebellion" at this point in their lives, says Boston psychologist Lynn Margolies, PhD. "A sure sign you may be in a midlife crisis is if you are feeling trapped and very tempted to act out in ways that will blow up your life," she says. These may include:

  • Drinking more.
  • Having an affair.
  • Leaving your family.
  • Feeling that your life no longer fits you.
  • You're more concerned about your appearance.
  • You feel more desire for excitement and thrills.

Navigating Your Midlife Issues

A midlife crisis can lead to "growth or destruction" for men, Margolies says. You can look for the causes of the unhappiness you feel, then make thoughtful decisions to address them. That's growth.

On the other hand, making impulsive decisions, like trading in your familiar life for a relationship with a younger partner that quickly ends or buying a car you can't afford, leads to destruction.

During this season of your life, be sure to:

  • Remember that your feelings aren't commands. Just because you feel like you have to escape your home, job, or marriage doesn't mean you have to actually do it, Margolies says. These feelings may indeed point to problems that need solving. But they may also fade or change over time.
  • Be thankful for the good things. Take time to be grateful for the parts of your life that make you happy, Margolies says. Ask yourself how you'd feel if you took an action that caused you to lose them.
  • Talk it over. Before you make major decisions, discuss them with someone whose advice you'll trust, Colarusso says. A friend, pastor, or mental health professional can give you another opinion on whether you're making wise choices.  
  • Ask whether your wishes are realistic. Men make plenty of successful changes in their 40s and beyond: Going back to college, traveling the world, or starting their own business. Just make sure your new goals are practical and within your grasp.    
  • Avoid jolting your loved ones. "Realize that you may not need to blow up your life to be happy," Margolies says. "But if it needs to be dismantled, then doing so thoughtfully will be less destructive to the people around you."
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Reviewed on November 30, 2012

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