In my last two blogs I wrote about the challenges of 2020 – the year has only just begun and already we feel that we are facing a plethora of problems including out-of-control bushfires, an unstable Middle-East and even a royal family beset by family problems.
Some people have told me that the fire crisis has prompted a personal or existential crisis. They suddenly find themselves asking: what is the meaning of life, why am I here, and does this world have a future? Those are good questions to think about, but unfortunately existential crises are usually also accompanied by a crisis of identity and confidence, and that is not so good.
Often people find themselves in crisis when they are going through periods of change. Maybe you feel things are changing, but men and women can also suffer a crisis when they become painfully aware their youth is gone. That’s a mid-life crisis. Other times, you may find yourself in crisis when a job or relationship ends. But how do you really know when you are in a time of “crisis”? I want to go through some of the signs and I am going to do this over two blogs, but first I want to say that it is not the end of the world (truly) to enter a time of deep reflection and reassess what is important to you. You just have to trust that the storm will pass. Have faith in yourself and the universe. You will find your way home, I promise.
Signs of an existential crisis:
1. Fluctuating weight
Losing or gaining a lot of weight (without effort) can indicate that you are having an emotional crisis. You may celebrate the kilograms disappearing even though you are not trying, but please be aware that perhaps you are under more stress than you should be. Anyone who notes a big weight change and is questioning their life needs to be kind to them-self. That means do not put more pressure on you. Give yourself time to think and meditate.
2. A loss of drive and enthusiasm
If you have always been a motivated, busy person and you suddenly discover you want to sleep or watch TV all the time, then you have obviously entered a time of crisis. A lack of enthusiasm also means you’re less likely to reach out for help. I have always encouraged people to see a psychologist or counsellor if they don’t feel they are coping with day-to-day demands. Remember seeking help and talking it out with good friends is a sign of strength not weakness.
If you are really feeling flat, spend time remembering about all the good things you have in your life. Also do things you like. Go on walks with good friends, instead of challenging gym classes. Treat yourself with a delicious salad at your favourite café, instead of eating last night’s leftovers. Be kind to yourself, if you suddenly find yourself asking ‘what does it all mean?’ and ‘why am I here?’. Remember, these are normal questions to ask at times of crisis and they lead to personal growth.
3. You are resentful and jealous of other people
In times of crisis, we may find ourselves feeling jealousy and resentment towards other people. Sometimes we just hit a point in our lives of disappointment. We wish the world was in a better place, and we wish that we were richer, more successful and had better relationships. We look at other people with seemingly perfect lives. I will remind you that you don’t know what is really happening in other people’s lives and also people have different experiences. People start from positions of advantage and get lucky breaks. Don’t be hard on yourself when you are questioning who you are and what it’s all about. And don’t waste too much time analysing other people’s pasts when you could be planning your own future.
4. You are experiencing pain and sickness
Sometimes an emotional crisis takes on physical manifestations. Headaches and upset stomachs are often linked to stress. If medication is giving you no relief, I would instead be trying relaxation exercises and some counselling. Sometimes when in crisis, we begin to wonder if we are living a life ‘right’ for who we are. I say don’t be afraid of change – don’t be afraid to change your job, your address, even your relationship, but proceed slowly and with care. Spend time planning your future, talk it through with friends, family and a good counsellor. This is your life. Don’t just do what your parents or spouse or children want you to do. Find your own way, listen to your soul – but think and plan before you act. Periods of self-reflection are very beneficial if you come up with the right plan to lead you forward.
5. You are tempted to make crazy, radical changes
A crisis can prompt you to make rash, radical changes. You may find yourself resenting your life and desperately want to change it. Maybe you are no longer satisfied with your job or marriage, but before pulling the plug on either, think seriously what can be done to make improvements. It is okay to feel dissatisfied, but please put some thought into finding the right way forward. Look for creative solutions that lead to happiness. Don’t make rash, knee-jerk decisions. If you are beset by feelings of frustration, promise yourself you will make changes, but first start making notes of what you want and how you are going to get there. Again I encourage you to get good advice from people you trust, and listen to them. Don’t just ask people to tell you what you want to hear. Acting without thinking can lead to regrets later.
6. You feel unloved and unappreciated
Middle-aged people caring for teenagers and elderly relatives often feel stressed. Be careful that you are not suffering from depression. You may feel that the people around you don’t truly love and appreciate you, but it may be YOU who is feeling down and suffering from depression, which of course can result in a change of chemicals in the brain. If you find yourself feeling flat or angry, talk to your doctor. For women, the onset of menopause and a drop in estrogen can also cause you to feel blue or suffer mood swings. Again, be brave, and see your GP.
I will continue looking at signs of personal crisis in my next blog, but I will finish today by saying it is not a bad thing to think about who you are, what you want and where you are going. I can’t give you answers to these questions but I will say that examining your life and asking yourself if you are on the right track, leads to growth and exciting new chapters in life. Have courage if you are in a time of questioning and crisis. Remember if you are going through hell, keep going! Now is not a good time for a pit-stop!
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