Mid-life crisis, or what to do when the tide turns

It is not uncommon to come to a point in life where the certainties of the past no longer seem to work for us. It can be an unsettling and disorienting experience. Suddenly, for whatever set of reasons, perhaps a redundancy, divorce, bereavement, accident, sheer bad luck or surprising Brexit vote, we go from knowing who we are and how we like to live, work and relate to others to finding ourselves adrift and without our familiar bearings. The tide of our lives has changed.

It is important to recognise such a change. Naturally at first such change is unsettling and may make us feel deskilled. Where before you felt confident and familiar, now life has lost that comfortable rhythm and tempo. Where we had focus, and everything felt shipshape, now we seem to have a more scatter gun approach. We recognise we are using up energy without getting anywhere. If things continue like this we risk burning ourselves out.

However, if we can engage with this sense of change, recognise and learn more about the differences, then we may start to experience an unusual opportunity to reflect on who we are, what we have done so far, and what our relationships are like. With this information we may start to think about what happens next, and find our way into a more meaningful and renewed way of living, working, and relating to others.

For each of us this change will be a unique story. To call it a mid-life crisis is to throw a rather unhelpful, overused and generalised term over what is in fact a unique experience of change and development for each of us. But whatever we call it, it is better to work with the sense of change that we are picking up than ignore it. Tuning into the personal sense of change may take time, but as we work with it, like a sailor trimming his sails to a change in the wind, tide and weather, we find energy. So our sails start to fill again and provide the energy for the next phase of our lives. Tuning into the change in the conditions, and learning to use them to navigate and progress with, instead of ignoring them or fighting them is necessary work.