My Story

Once upon a time, anxiety would strike me about 3 to 4 times a year. The related emotions of anxiety – the panic attacks, the knots in my tummy and a feeling of dread in my heart – felt alien because the rest of the year I was a reasonably confident person.

When anxiety enveloped me, the triggering reasons were always clear – a life curveball such as a death in the family or sudden job insecurity. There were clear reasons for the knots in my stomach and panic attacks but not anymore.

As an example, on Friday I was out with a very good friend enjoying our time together and anxiety struck me out of nowhere. I mentioned this to my pal and she replied that this happens to her too everyday. Snap. My seasonal type anxiety disorder has become a daily occurrence.

I can almost pinpoint the time when things changed. In 2021 my daughter moved out leaving me with an empty nest. An unfamiliar new phase in life left me questioning my role and my purpose in life. Overnight I went from feeling useful to feeling useless. My daily mothering role had ended before I was ready for it. Actually, on reflection, I was never going to be ready for the transition from full-time mother to empty nest. Anxiety gripped me about 10 times a day. I lost my confidence but had to keep my self together because I was working on a very important project.

Looking back, I have no idea how I got through it but, I did, and with the help of a professional for some of the time. Fortunately my attacks are lesser in frequency but it still strikes at least once a day.

What Is Your Story?

Data from the Office for National Statistics have found that – despite most people being generally content with their lives – middle-aged adults between the ages of 45 and 59 are the least happy and report the highest levels of anxiety.

5 ways to cope with symptoms of midlife anxiety (yahoo.com)

According to this article, the midlife years bring many reasons to feel anxious.

Welcome to the club! Whether you’re in your 40s, 50s, or even creeping into your 60s, midlife is a unique phase filled with its own set of joys and challenges. One of the more daunting aspects can be the anxiety that seems to creep in, often when we least expect it. But don’t worry—you’re not alone, and there’s plenty we can do to manage and even embrace these feelings.

What Exactly is Midlife Anxiety?

Midlife anxiety is that gnawing feeling of worry or unease that often starts to surface as we navigate through the middle years of our lives. It can manifest in many ways, from a general sense of discontentment to specific fears about health, finances, or life purpose.

Why Does Midlife Anxiety Happen?

Several factors can contribute to heightened anxiety during this stage of life:

  1. Physical Changes: Our bodies are not what they used to be. Hormonal shifts, particularly in women going through menopause, can trigger anxiety. Even for men, changes in testosterone levels can play a role.
  2. Life Transitions: Midlife often coincides with significant life changes—children leaving home, ageing parents needing care, career shifts, or even retirement. These transitions can shake up our sense of identity and stability.
  3. Reflection on Achievements: As we reach the midpoint of life, it’s natural to look back and evaluate our achievements. This self-reflection can sometimes lead to feelings of regret or fear about the future.
  4. Health Concerns: With age comes an increased awareness of our health and mortality. Worries about developing chronic illnesses or facing physical decline can be a significant source of anxiety.
  5. Financial Pressures: Concerns about retirement savings, potential medical expenses, and supporting both ageing parents and growing children can add to the stress.

What Can We Do About It?

Now, let’s talk about some strategies to tackle midlife anxiety and find a sense of peace and balance.

  1. Stay Active: Physical activity is a fantastic way to reduce anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Whether it’s a brisk walk, yoga, or dancing, find something you enjoy and make it a regular part of your routine.
  2. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help you stay grounded and reduce anxious thoughts. Even a few minutes a day can make a big difference, as I have discovered. You could try Apps like Headspace or Calm that can guide you through simple practices.
  3. Seek Connection: Don’t isolate yourself. Spend time with friends and family, and don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings. Sometimes, just sharing what you’re going through can lighten the load.
  4. Pursue Hobbies and Interests: Engaging in activities that you love can be a great distraction from anxiety. Whether it’s gardening, painting, playing an instrument, or learning a new skill, find something that brings you joy. I enjoy gardening myself and can swear by its ability to help you stay grounded.
  5. Set Realistic Goals: Break down your tasks and goals into manageable steps. This can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and give you a sense of accomplishment as you tick things off your list.
  6. Professional Help: If anxiety becomes overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. I found therapy very helpful. Therapists can provide strategies and support.
  7. Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Eating well, getting enough sleep, and reducing alcohol and caffeine can have a profound impact on your anxiety levels. Your body and mind are deeply connected, and taking care of one can benefit the other.
  8. Focus on the Present: Try not to dwell too much on the past or worry excessively about the future. Easier said than done, I know. Do try to embrace the present moment and appreciate the good things in your life right now.
  9. Gratitude Practice: Regularly take time to acknowledge the things you’re grateful for. This simple practice can shift your focus from what’s missing to what you have, fostering a more positive outlook.

Remember, midlife is just another but significant chapter in the book of your life, filled with its own adventures and opportunities for growth. By understanding the causes of your anxiety and taking proactive steps to manage it, you can find your way to a calmer, more fulfilling life.

You’ve got this, midlifers! Embrace this time with curiosity and compassion for yourself.