Have you de­vel­oped mid­dle-age manx­i­ety?

YOUR MID­DLE YEARS CAN BE A HIGH PRES­SURE AND CON­FUS­ING TIME, SAYS CLAIRE HIGNEY, BUT DON’T BOT­TLE UP YOUR FEEL­INGS (OR GET A TAT­TOO THAT YOU’LL RE­GRET)

Ruislip & Eastcote & Northwood Gazette - - Health & Lifestyle -

WE ALL know the clichés of the midlife cri­sis – the sports car, the wardrobe over­haul, the de­sire to chuck your­self around at Arc­tic Mon­keys gigs and, um, the af­fairs.

But there are rea­sons be­hind the stereo­type. There’s a wake-up mo­ment in mid­dle age when you re­alise most of your life is prob­a­bly be­hind you. Plus the stress of car­ing for a young fam­ily as well as age­ing par­ents, while shoul­der­ing job pres­sure can take its toll on your men­tal health and re­la­tion­ships.

In fact, a re­port from the Of­fice for Na­tional Statis­tics found mid­dleaged peo­ple are the least happy, have the low­est lev­els of life sat­is­fac­tion and suf­fer the most anx­i­ety.

And men are more vul­ner­a­ble than women, who re­ported feel­ing more sat­is­fied over­all.

“There’s al­ways been a clear cor­re­la­tion be­tween how the econ­omy is do­ing and the men­tal health of mid­dle-aged men,” says Dr Rafael Euba, con­sul­tant psy­chi­a­trist at The Lon­don Psy­chi­a­try Cen­tre (psy­chi­a­trycen­tre.co.uk). “There’s pres­sure to achieve, which isn’t al­ways easy, es­pe­cially in times of eco­nomic hard­ship, and that can pro­voke a deep sense of fail­ure.”

While women tend to deal with psy­cho­log­i­cal dis­tress by talk­ing to each other, Dr Euba says men are re­luc­tant: “Most men still think ac­knowl­edg­ing they’re suf­fer­ing is a sign of weak­ness, and so put up with stress which is more likely to come out in other ways, such as drink­ing.”

Have you reached a cri­sis point? Our Q&A could help you learn how to nav­i­gate those rocky years...

Do you fail to em­brace new things and feel the best is be­hind you?

MID­DLE age can ac­tu­ally be a great time to try new things, says Dr Euba: “When you’re young there are many pos­si­bil­i­ties in the fu­ture, but by mid­dle age it’s com­mon to think, ‘this is my life’, and dwell on things you haven’t achieved.

“But you could ar­gue you’re in the peak of life. Yes, if you watch films and read nov­els you’d think that peak time is the 20s, but peo­ple in their 20s make huge mis­takes.

“By now, you’re ex­pe­ri­enced, you know what you like and what you don’t, you will prob­a­bly have more money and free­dom, so po­ten­tial to en­joy life is huge. You may also look at life in a bal­anced way.”

Do you feel over­whelmed by stress, but keep it bot­tled up?

PLAN­NING your goals and reach­ing out to friends for sup­port are key, says Dr Euba. He says: “Stress of­ten comes down to eco­nomic pres­sure and deal­ing with the sys­tem – pro­vid­ing for your fam­ily’s fu­ture and deal­ing with author­i­ties over schools and care pro­vided for el­derly par­ents.

“You need to be able to del­e­gate if you can, to com­pro­mise where nec­es­sary, to ne­go­ti­ate and to plan.

“If you’re feel­ing over­whelmed, it’s cru­cial to make use of your so­cial net­work and don’t re­gard stress as a sign of weak­ness, but as a sign you have to plan things and get sup­port from the other peo­ple in your life.”

Do you feel trapped or dis­sat­is­fied at work?

THIS is a tough one to sort out, ad­mits Dr Euba: “Most of us can’t just walk out of a job if we have de­pen­dents.

“But it can help to re­mind our­selves of the norm – that it’s a mi­nor­ity of priv­i­leged peo­ple who gen­uinely love their job and earn good money from it. They are the ex­cep­tion to the rule – not you.

“Don’t com­pare your­self to oth­ers. These days, largely thanks to so­cial me­dia, if your life isn’t amaz­ing it’s tempt­ing to be­lieve you’re fail­ing. But it’s nor­mal to have dif­fi­cult days.

“Set your­self smaller, achiev­able goals and cel­e­brate those wins and, if pos­si­ble, try to carve out ar­eas of your work that you’re in con­trol of.

“It’s also im­por­tant to un­der­stand there’s much more to be­ing a man than how big your salary is and how far you go in the hi­er­ar­chy.”

Are you anx­ious about your phys­i­cal health?

OUR bod­ies be­gin to de­cline in mid­dle age and it can be a painful glimpse of what’s to come.

Dr Euba says: “The knowl­edge there’s less ahead, com­bined with the on­set of phys­i­cal ail­ments can cause If you’re un­happy with your body or bored with your rou­tine, take pos­i­tive steps like join­ing a gym or set­ting new and achiev­able goals to fo­cus on anx­i­ety. Get­ting fit­ter is good for the mind and there’s grow­ing med­i­cal ev­i­dence that ex­er­cise can help peo­ple beat de­pres­sion. The key is, don’t overdo it.

“Pay more at­ten­tion to life­style – don’t smoke and don’t drink too much – and just be aware of your body. Tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for your health will help you feel in con­trol.”

Do you feel your sex life and re­la­tion­ship are dull? Do you want to cheat?

IF YOU’VE been in a re­la­tion­ship a long time, along with a sense of sta­bil­ity can come a sense that life is, well, just a bit bor­ing.

Dr Euba says: “Men’s sex­ual po­tency does start to de­cline in mid­dle age, and although it’s more sub­tle than it is for women, it can af­fect self-im­age for some men.

“If that’s com­bined with a lack of sex­ual in­ter­est from their cur­rent part­ner, many guys take that as a per­sonal fail­ure. These things can make cou­ples more vul­ner­a­ble to af­fairs.

“It helps to know these is­sues are nor­mal and seek­ing help in ther­apy doesn’t mean you’re less of a man.”

If you’re feel­ing over­whelmed, it’s cru­cial to make use of your so­cial net­work and don’t re­gard stress as a sign of weak­ness, but as a sign you have to plan things and get sup­port from the other peo­ple in your life. Dr Rafael Euba, con­sul­tant psy­chi­a­trist at The Lon­don Psy­chi­a­try Cen­tre

Men of­ten con­sider ad­mit­ting they are suf­fer­ing from stress as a sign of weak­ness

Left: Feel­ing un­sat­is­fied in your re­la­tion­ship can lead to af­fairs. Right: Talk­ing to friends can help you re­lieve your stresses and anx­i­ety

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