All Posts Tagged: midlife anxiety

Midlife Anxiety

Midlife Anxiety

A 2014 study by the British government found that while most people of all age levels are generally content with their lives, those in the middle age years – between the ages of 45 and 59 – are the least happy. These respondents reported low ratings of overall happiness and life satisfaction and a sharp increase in midlife anxiety. Interestingly, even adults aged 90 and older reported being happier and more satisfied than the middle aged group.

What Causes Anxiety in Middle Age?

The U. K. study, done by the Office of National Statistics, analyzed data from more than 300,000 respondents during a three-year period from 2012 to 2015. It generated average scores for specific areas including happiness, life satisfaction, anxiety, and the feelings of being worthwhile. The scores showed that anxiety levels were highest for people between the ages of 40 and 60. The peak anxiety levels were noted in those in the 50 – 54 age group.

Many things can cause midlife anxiety, ranging from underlying health problems to financial concerns. In women, even the fluctuating hormones of menopause and perimenopause can change the chemistry in their brain and bring on anxiety and panic attacks.

For men, while many are aware that anxiety disorders exist, very few realize how often anxiety affects them. Men often refuse to admit to themselves or others that they might have a mental health issue and may seek out unhealthy ways to cope (example: alcohol use) rather than admit to the concern.

There is no one specific trigger that causes midlife anxiety. Instead, people who experience anxiety in middle age are often burdened with simultaneous stressors that other generations aren’t facing: the raising of children, while at the same time trying to hold down jobs and care for elderly parents. Top this off with the financial pressures of putting children through college, empty nest syndrome, and facing worries of possibly not having saved enough for a retirement that is drawing ever closer, and stress rises even higher.

Midlife Anxiety Treatment

Self-help:

One of the best ways to manage anxiety is to reduce your stress. There are several things you can do to accomplish this and a side benefit is that they are also good for your overall health:

  • Get daily exercise. The newest research recommends that we all do some type of aerobic exercise at least 30 minutes a day, a total of 5 days per week. Regular physical exercise causes the brain to release serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. Serotonin helps to reduce stress, improve your mood, and gives you more energy. Low-impact exercise, such as swimming, yoga or walking are great examples of workouts that will help raise your serotonin levels.
  • Make time for relaxation. When your days are filled with rush, rush, rush – getting the kids to school, getting yourself to work, finishing projects, taking the kids to after-school activities – relaxation time can be hard to come by. Yet, relaxing is crucial to reducing anxiety and stress levels. Try to set aside time every day, just for yourself. Relaxation can come from simple activities that you look forward to, such as soaking in a warm bath at the end of your day or taking a few minutes to read, meditate or listen to some soothing music.
  • Silence your phone and put away your laptop or tablet (or at least turn off all but the most important alerts). Limit your use of social media and reduce the amount of time you spend reading the news. We’re so used to having our electronics with us at all times, but getting constant notifications and reading endless news reports about crime, wars, and world problems can keep you from truly relaxing. Give yourself an electronic break every day.
  • Visualize yourself in a peaceful setting. Your brain can’t distinguish between a real setting and one you visualize, so reduce your stress by imagining yourself on a tranquil beach or in a beautiful forest. Smell the salt air at the beach or the pine trees in the woods, imagine the sound of the waves on the sand or the birds singing in the forest. Being as specific as you can and really trying to imagine all the aspects of the setting can take you away from your stressors and help you unwind.

Professional help:

When you have anxiety, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by your emotions. When that happens, people tend to react to certain aspects of their lives in a more negative way. It is common to begin to avoid the situations or experience that make you anxious, but that avoidance can actually increase anxiety.

If self-help to reduce your midlife anxiety isn’t working any longer, consider seeing a mental health professional, particularly if your anxiety is causing you extreme distress or disrupting your daily life. Anxiety is treatable and the majority of people who seek help are able to improve, reduce or eliminate their anxiety symptoms after working with a psychologist to address their own, specific concerns.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that is very effective for treating anxiety in middle age. CBT helps you understand how your own negative thoughts contribute to your anxiety symptoms. By learning to recognize these negative thought patterns, you can change them, which allows you to manage your symptoms. Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you skills and techniques for coping with your midlife anxiety.

CBT is often used in conjunction with exposure therapy. Exposure therapy allows you to gradually confront your fears in a safe environment and in a way that gives you control. When you face your fears without harm, you reduce your anxiety by learning that the outcome you feared is unlikely to happen.

Get Help for Midlife Anxiety

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and facing midlife anxiety, we can help. Talk to the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida today. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Midlife Anxiety

When someone goes through dissatisfaction with their job or marriage and they are in their forties or fifties, the first thing everyone says is that they must be having a midlife crisis. We hear about this phase of life as people transition from young adult to middle age so often that it almost feels like a crisis is a “given”. And, on some level, it may be. As people go from being the young, carefree person of their twenties who is just getting established in a career or marriage, to the responsible person who is expected to have gotten their lives together by the time they reach their forties, it is inevitable that people will look back and second guess decisions or wonder “what if.” For many people, this emotional jolt can bring on midlife anxiety.

Midlife Crisis Symptoms

Unlike a medical condition, midlife anxiety doesn’t have specific symptoms. Instead, it’s a mixture of emotions, feelings, and body changes that lead to the strong sense that something needs to change.  Among other things, it can be triggered by factors such as an event that reminds you that you are aging, the death of a parent, children leaving home for college, or a health scare of your own.

Things that might be signs of midlife crisis are:

  • Unexplained annoyance or anger
  • The desire to get in shape or surgically modify your body
  • Coveting that shiny new sports car or wanting to try something daring, such as skydiving
  • Feeling trapped – whether it’s financially, career-wise, or in your relationships
  • Becoming preoccupied with death
  • Constantly wondering where your life is heading or regretting your life choices
  • Losing sleep or changing your eating habits
  • Dissatisfaction with the things that used to make you happy

Additionally, keep in mind that the feelings of helplessness or worry aren’t just confined to midlife anxiety. These emotions can come up anytime during a period in which you are transitioning to a new phase of life. Leaving the teen years and becoming a college student, a parent’s empty-nest syndrome, or an elderly person who moves from a beloved home into a senior-care apartment are all examples of situations that can bring on the same symptoms as those of midlife anxiety. Even being diagnosed with a medical illness or condition can make you feel vulnerable and may bring up these symptoms.

How to Cope if You’re Having a Midlife Crisis

When you’re faced with midlife anxiety, the urge to do something – anything – can be very powerful, so the first thing to do is: nothing. Despite how you feel, this really isn’t the time to make major changes in your life that you may find yourself regretting when your anxiety has diminished.

Instead:

  • Mourn your losses, but don’t dwell on them. Try to reframe the negatives by looking at them in a different way.
  • Take some space away from your daily routine to pause and think about the next phase of your life. What new ambitions do you have? What would you like to accomplish over the next few years? Ignore the little voice in your head that tells you that you are being selfish or should stop daydreaming.
  • Count your blessings. Recognize and write down the things in your life for which you are grateful, then reread your list when you are feeling regretful about something.
  • Do something that will refocus your thoughts – volunteer, take a class, or get involved with a mentoring program.
  • Let go of the things that aren’t serving you and embrace the positives. Challenge your negative thinking (for example, make a list of the trials and pitfalls you went through to get where you are today to remind yourself that the “good old days” weren’t always carefree and wonderful).
  • Be gentle with yourself. Don’t try to stuff your emotions or judge yourself for having them.
  • Talk to someone. Psychotherapy for phase of life anxiety can help lessen or alleviate the ongoing symptoms that come with a midlife crisis before they get out of hand. For some, group therapy is a great way to interact with others who are going through the same issues so you can see that they have the same concerns and problems as you. If therapy isn’t an option, reach out to supportive friends, read books on how to help a midlife crisis, or turn to your clergy for support.

Can Midlife Anxiety Actually Help You?

Remember that midlife anxiety doesn’t have to be something that leads to a crisis! You can channel your concerns into new opportunities and bring greater meaning to your life. This can be a time to:

  • Set new goals to replace your outdated or less relevant objectives. For example, if you’re no longer aiming to climb the corporate ladder, try mentoring a younger colleague.
  • Start that hobby you’ve been thinking about pursuing. After all – if not now, when?
  • Learn a new language or acquire a new skill.
  • Give back through volunteering or community work, such as coaching a team sport or helping out at a soup kitchen.
  • Renew or consider beginning a spiritual life to help you find strength outside yourself.
  • Begin stress management strategies. Take up yoga or learn meditation. Practice mindfulness. Keep a gratitude journal. Start an exercise program.

Professional Help for Midlife Anxiety

If you or a loved one is experiencing midlife anxiety, the mental health professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida can help. For more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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