Some breeze through mid life with barely a backward glance, whilst others experience symptoms painful enough to turn their lives upside-down. But how do you know if what you’re feeling is a mid life crisis? And if it is one, then what? Well, read on and by the end of the article you’ll be familiar with some of the main crisis symptoms and more importantly, what to do about it.

1. No longer ‘knowing’ the person staring back at you in the mirror.

This is a pretty sure sign that somewhere along the line you have lost connection with the essence of who you are. Getting back into alignment with your true, authentic self requires some honest soul searching, to find the answers to fundamental questions about what is important to you and what really matters.

2. Worrying about where your life is going.

You may well feel you’re in no-man’s land – you realize there is definitely no going back but there is no clear way forward. If you don’t know where you’re headed, any road will take you there – so, consult your inner map and make decisions about where you WANT to go. That way, you’ll arrive at your destination of choice, rather than simply ending up ‘somewhere’.

3. Feeling frustrated with just about everything.

When that nagging voice of dissatisfaction simply refuses to be silenced, then maybe it’s time to listen to it! Don’t just hope it will eventually go away, but ask yourself instead, ‘What am I NOT doing that is causing this frustration?’

4. Experiencing feelings of regret.

Dwelling on what can’t be undone keeps you locked into the past rather than focusing on the future. Learning from painful regrets and using them as a catalyst for change will help you move on and put the past where it belongs – behind you.

5. Focussing on what you are losing.

It feels as though you are standing on shifting sands, that your best years are behind you and that everything is changing – but not for the better. Things are changing certainly, but not ending. Remind yourself of what you have now and be open to all possibilities in readiness for the next new chapter in your life.

6. Feeling almost ‘invisible’.

You may feel stripped of your identity and purpose and find it increasingly difficult to be ‘seen’ when you no longer attract instant admiration. Finding a new identity and a new visibility comes through learning what YOU value in yourself, what you have to offer others and feeling comfortable with the person underneath the facade.

7. Thinking that time is running out.

Midlife is that time when you metaphorically turn a corner and see the finishing post for the first time! Use your new awareness of time as a precious and limited commodity, to bring a sense of urgency to your dreams and provide the impetus to make them happen.

8. Questioning the meaning of life.

Midlife has been defined as the time when you reach the top of the ladder only to find it’s leaning against the wrong wall. If you keep asking yourself ‘Is this it?’, then chances are your ladder is indeed against the wrong wall. Finding the right wall comes through redefining success in your own terms, so you make choices that activate and focus your life force.

9. Feeling trapped.

Somewhere along the way, various dreams and goals may have been silently shelved and before you know it, you feel hemmed in by thoughts of what life ‘could have been’. What’s the first thing we do when we feel trapped? We look for ways to escape! If you feel the urge to do a ‘Reggie Perrin’ or a ‘Shirley Valentine’ remember, Reggie and Shirley ultimately realized that what they were looking for wasn’t escape – it was change.

10. Wanting to make some changes but not know where to begin.

Feeling overwhelmed saps your power and keeps you stuck, helpless and fearful of making the ‘wrong’ choices. The way to move out of the paralysis is to stop ‘getting ready’ and start ‘doing’. Take responsibility for making change happen, no matter how small and remind yourself how good it feels to be in control.

If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, then you could be forgiven for thinking you were indeed in some sort of crisis. What may feel like a crisis, is in fact, an inevitable and natural life stage characterized by internal change and reorientation.

Change is always difficult and yes, you may well experience vulnerability, uncertainty and discomfort, but each symptom also offers an opportunity for challenge, excitement and growth in preparation for the next new chapter in your life.

© Karen Knott Midlife Matters 2008

Karen Knott is a life coach who works with midlife women who are eager to reconnect with their sense of purpose and enthusiasm and make lasting changes that have a positive impact on their lives. Register for her free e-Program ‘Turning Midlife into the Time of Your Life’ at

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