In my last blog, I looked at signs that may indicate personal crisis, ie weight gain, mood fluctuations, lethargy. Today I will look at a few more indicators of personal crisis. The bushfires in Australia have prompted many people to ask what is the meaning of it all, where are we going, and what does my life mean. Again, in times of change and crisis, it is common to question who we are and if we are living a life that is right for us, and I think it is healthy to think deeply about our choices and the paths we are on. However be aware that it is normal to have happiness dips in our life course. Only recently, a new study found most people suffer a slump in their happiness in their middle-age years.
Dartwood College, in the US, looked at 500,000 people’s happiness levels in 132 countries and found most people are unhappiest when aged 47.2 years – that is statistically the peak time to suffer a midlife crisis! At this point in their life, people realise they may not have achieved all they wanted. Also it’s the time, when you often are sandwiched between children growing into adults and leaving, and elderly parents facing death. It’s not an easy time, say the study authors. At 47.2 years, you may find yourself with a big mortgage, your kids behave like they hate you, your manager at work is a fool, and now your country is in crisis! According to the study author, David Blanchflower, these feelings of gloom are all too common in mid-life, however people’s life happiness levels follow a bell curve. By your fifties, things are looking up and by your sixties you are usually back to a strong happiness level. I’m not trivialising people’s unhappiness, just making you aware that some stages of life can be more challenging than others.
Let’s look at some more signs of crisis.
1. Poor sleeping
If you're waking up in the middle of the night, or struggling to get to sleep, you are probably suffering some form of stress. Our sleep is lightest in the early hours of the morning, and that is when it is most common to be interrupted by our ‘thoughts’.
If you are sleeping badly, then I encourage you to put aside some time in your day to pray, meditate and think about who you are and the path you are on. Don’t hide from your doubts or questions. Face them head on. Invest in some literature about the meaning of life. Is there an inspirational biography you can read? This may help you see a way forward.
2. You are pessimistic about the future
The TV news has been full of scenes of suffering this year. In a recent blog, I wrote that there is a fine line between staying informed and being overtaken by the world’s problems. Sometimes you need to switch off the bad news and just go out in the world and enjoy your life. That means time with friends and family, happy holidays and doing stuff you like. Life is sweet, even if there are problems in the world. Please remember to smell the flowers! And if you can’t shake off the blues, do see your doctor and get some help.
3. You are bored with life
If you don’t feel excited about the future, then it’s time to shake it up and do something new. It does not even have to be a big thing. Why not take your spouse along to a dancing class, or join a book club or a service club doing charity work. Helping others in need can give you a good jolt. I read about the most fantastic charity recently. The charity, Orange Sky, offers a free mobile laundry service to homeless people. It washes the clothes of the homeless. Now it is going to travel into bushfire communities to wash the clothes of people trying to get back on their feet after the fires. You may also be asked to sit and have a chat with people while their clothes are in the washing machine and make them a cup of tea. Orange Sky is looking for more volunteers and offers training. Think about it!
4. You feel something is missing or lost
During a time of personal crisis, we may be coming to terms with the loss of who you wanted to be, and who you actually are. It is confronting and can leave you feeling disappointed and unsettled, even grieving for your old self-image. Okay, so you are not a CEO or a celebrity, but you are older, wiser and you know who YOU are. So forget about the old goals and set some new ones! How about you promise to do some charity work this year, and make a meaningful contribution to someone else’s life?
5. You become preoccupied with your looks
It is okay to want to look presentable, it is not okay to spend hours in front of a mirror counting your wrinkles and pulling out grey hairs. You are no longer 20 and this may impact your sense of self, but I think you should also be grateful that you are alive and remember, you are so much more than your looks! Sadly studies show that single people mourn their looks as they age more than married people. Come on, stop looking in the mirror and get out of the house and enjoy life.
6. You stop caring about your looks
While some people become obsessed with their looks during a crisis, others give up on themselves. They wear drab clothes, do no personal grooming and fail to care for their health. Our bodies are the most precious gift we will ever receive. There are so many 50-plus people out there who look gorgeous – think George Clooney and Elle Macpherson. Age stops no one from looking good these days. Watch your diet, exercise and love the age you are. Think of yourself as a fine wine, you get better with age!
7. You think of yourself as an old person
Label yourself old, and you will age rapidly. A ten-year study at the University of Waterloo found that feeling older lowers a person’s psychological well-being and life satisfaction. You need to think of yourself young! Embrace where you are at.
Our country may be facing difficult times, but at other tough times people have rallied together and been stronger for it. Don’t hide from a challenge – role up your sleeves and look at how you can help.
And don’t start thinking that your happiest days are behind you. People often have the best times of their lives after 60 because happiness has little to do with age and more to do with how grateful you are and how good you feel about yourself and the people around you. Some people take 60 years to learn how to feel grateful!
Proceed with caution
Look, sometimes we face monumental changes and challenges and they prompt us to evaluate what is working in our lives. That is not a bad thing, but proceed with caution. It might be time to introduce new people, places, and jobs into our lives. It might be time to eliminate some of the old.
Read the crisis signs I outlined in this blog and my last. If you feel you are at a time of questioning, then give yourself TIME – time to think, pray and meditate, time to plan for a new future, time to talk with others about your ideas and then time to act and create a new future. I wish you all the best.
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