3 tools to get you through your mid-life crisis

Photo by Genevieve Dallaire on Unsplash

Maybe it’s my age, or my friends’ ages, but I run into a lot of people that just feel “uneasy” about where they’re at in life. They can’t quite put their finger on what is bothering them: their lives are “good” and “complete” and yet they feel discontent about it.

There might be different flavors of it, but essentially, my friends, it’s a mid-life crisis.

I’m definitely in this camp. The whole “what is my purpose?” question is enough to send me into a full on anxiety attack. “I don’t know what my purpose is! I’ve tried to find it and I still don’t KNOW.”

I think I’ve been suffering a mid-life crisis for at least the past year, probably longer. Fumbling along, trying to make whatever it is in my soul that is not happy, happy and complete.

I’ve read books and blogs on happiness, habits, purpose, and fulfillment. I’ve tried to be more reflective. I’ve tried making lifestyle changes. I’ve tried ignoring it. And although I didn’t buy a sports car, I did buy a house in the woods, so…

It hasn’t gone away, but it has gotten better. Significantly better. And I think these tools are the reason why.

Tool 1: Meditation

I know, this meditation thing is all over the self-improvement arena and you’re probably sick of hearing it, but seriously, nothing can calm my shit down more than 10 minutes focused on my breath.

When you’re in mid-life crisis, you spend a lot of time feeling “off”, like you’re supposed to be doing something really important, but you don’t know what it is. It’s kind of like a perpetual state of that nightmare where you have to take a test you didn’t study for. Gah!

Meditation calms you by letting you get some distance from your thoughts. It’s like pulling in a friend that can point out where you’re not seeing things so clearly or where your inner-voice is needlessly leading you to Dramaland. Perspective like that is invaluable when you need to figure out what you need to do to feel better.

So, even if you’re sick of hearing about meditation or if you’re doubtful it will work for you or not, try it anyway. And, keep trying it because the practice of meditation is where “the magic” happens.

Tool 2: Journal

Get to know thyself, friend. You’re in mid-life crisis because your brain and heart are trying to tell you something.

Meditation will help you shut up. Journaling will help you listen.

Feeling bugged about something and can’t quite put your finger on it? Write it out. Want to start working on some goal to see if that helps? Journal it. Want to find your purpose? Journal it.

Writing things down helps crystallize your understanding of yourself, which is key when you’re trying to figure out what the hell you need. So give it a go.

And don’t put a bunch of rules and baggage around this. Just do it when you feel the urge. No more guilt about not journaling every night before bed. This is not that habit. This is about healing yourself and using this tool when you need it.

And don’t get hung up on what to journal with. Pen and paper. An app. Whatever. Just let it all out.

Tool 3: Playtime

Remember when you were a kid and you did whatever you loved doing as soon as you had time for it? Maybe it was a game you liked to play. Maybe it was coloring or jumping rope. Whatever it was, bring that back. Do it. Make time for it.

Adults suck at playing. We’re taught that we have so much to do and don’t have time to play. Bullshit.

I’ve learned that if I don’t make time for play, my inner-self, or whatever in the hell it is, gets all upset and tries to bring me down. If I’m playing, I’m happier.

Make time for it. Make it a priority.

That’s it?

No. These tools may help you with your crisis, but if you’re not taking care of your health, it all falls apart.

Your health is the most important tool in this kit, but I didn’t list it as one because we all know we’re supposed to take care of ourselves. I didn’t want to give you a tool you already have because you would feel cheated.

However, if you’re not getting the nutrients, sleep, and exercise you need, you’re not going to feel right and all the meditation in the world won’t help you. So take care of yourself and see if that crisis you’re in doesn’t improve.

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Tidbit Tuesday: Journaling

Journal

 

 

This is a Tidbit Tuesday post. These are meant to be quick wins for you to try out for the next week. Usually they’re little habits that can have a little impact, but today’s is a little habit with a HUGE impact. You ready?

Journaling

I have read from many different sources over the years (and you probably have too) about how important journaling is for your mental health, clarity, productivity, personal growth, and creativity, to name a few.

Don’t believe me? Google “benefits of journaling” and be prepared to be buried in anecdotal evidence and scientific studies.

For example, here’s an article from the Huffington post at the top of that Google search result, a post I got today from Ryan Holiday, and a link to one of the best examples of using journaling for self improvement from good, ole Ben Franklin. (I’ll do a deeper dive on that autobiography soon because holy personal growth, Batman!)

There are many different types of journaling, so don’t think that it’s only writing about what happened to you today, especially if that bores the snot out of you. It also doesn’t have to take a lot of time or be difficult. It can be as simple as a to-do list.

For example, here are my top 3 forms of journaling from my own personal stash…

Bullet journal

If you are interested at all in productivity, you have likely heard about Ryder Carroll’s Bullet Journal and if you haven’t heard about it, you’ve likely seen them around. It’s all the rage in the productivity circles and they are everywhere.

A bullet journal can be many things to many people, but for me, it’s pretty much a notebook I turn to when I need to note something about a project, brainstorm, or get some tasks out of my head. I heavily use the “daily logs” where I write down whatever comes into my head during the day in the order it comes to me. No rules other than to get it down on paper (or on your phone) before it disappears.

Sometimes I try to get fancy and add some habit trackers, but eventually those fall to the wayside and I’m back again to my daily logs.

This is the best thing that has happened to my productivity. No joke.

Morning pages

Ever try to concentrate and your brain won’t shut up and focus? Try morning pages.

No, they do not need to be done in the morning. That’s what Julia Cameron named them because that’s when she uses them to get creative for her morning writing session, but you can use them whenever you want. Because you’re a damn adult.

Morning pages are a stream of consciousness for 3 pages straight. A braindump to the max! You write and write and write and when your brain falls silent, you write that your brain is quiet. The key is constant writing for 3 pages straight.

Talk about curing a wandering mind.

Insider tip: Julia says that you don’t need to review your morning pages, but I do because I often have to-do items that pop up in there and I don’t want to lose track of them! Guess where I put those to-do’s? That’s right! In my bullet journal.

Angst journal

Ok, this may be a name I just made up, but I don’t know what else to call it. This is my mental health journal. I usually only write in it when I am overwhelmed or pissed off about something or when I’m really struggling to come to terms with something and I just can’t get over it.

This journal is not for public consumption because when I’m pissed, I’m a really big a-hole that is often wallowing in selfish, childish thoughts and I don’t want anybody else to read them. It is the cheapest form of therapy I have found.

This is the most important tool for my mental health and one that I should use more often, if I’m honest.

More examples

If you’re looking for more examples of different ways to journal, check out this post from Ryan Holiday. He lists out his favorite way to journal and lists more examples that I didn’t cover here.

(By the way, if you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge fan of Ryan. If you’re not following him, you should.)

OK, ready for a challenge?

A challenge for me…

Even though I do those forms of journaling I’ve listed above when I need them, I still feel that I could benefit more if I journaled more, added some other forms or styles of it, and did it more consistently. So, I’m going to try Ryan’s method of journaling this week and will report back on how it goes.

And a challenge for you…

Try journaling if you haven’t yet and if you are a regular journaler, try a different form of it this week. Pay attention to any shifts that may be happening in your way of thinking, habits, or happiness and let me know how it went in the comments.

   

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