Christian Woman: Are You Having a Midlife Crisis?

(Revision of post Written in 2011)

I found myself awake at 3 or 4 am, unable to sleep and feeling troubled. It led me to do a web search on Midlife Crisis.



I've discovered that countless midlife women have similar insomnia issues. Alongside them may be feelings of midlife crisis that might be described as a bit of grieving or melancholy combined with an urgency to know what lies ahead on the road--to hope there is something meaningful yet to come.

Midlife crisis feelings are as prevalent in Christian women as they are in women of other faiths. Women everywhere tend to experience similar feelings--some as early as in their 30s, but more often in the mid- to late 40s and beyond.

Even when a woman thinks she's over the hump of uncomfortable "lost" type feelings, the feelings may creep back. She may be triggered hormonally, but there are probably several other causes at play.

It can be helpful for a midlife woman to understand the causes for her feelings so she can put coping strategies into place.

POSSIBLE REASONS FOR A MIDLIFE CRISIS

Here are but a few reasons a woman may have a midlife crisis:

  • grieving the growth stages of her children and grieving her own role changing
  • grieving not having had children
  • entering the empty nest or fearing an impending empty nest
  • recognizing that many goals have been achieved--education, career, marriage, children, home ownership...and experiencing a plateau (almost bored) feeling
  • experiencing marriage difficulties or disappointments
  • ongoing singleness
  • dealing with recent separation or divorce
  • experiencing job loss or inability to find work
  • trying to restore a sputtering business and having financial fears
  • parenting but having trouble with teens
  • experiencing pain, illness and general body aging issues
  • dealing with unwanted weight gain
  • coping with chronic stiff and sore muscles
  • working through perimenopause; menopause and other hormonal imbalances that cause hot flashes, headaches and more
  • feeling unhappy with her life evaluation
  • feeling disappointed with life or people
  • failing to have reached goals by a certain age
  • facing ongoing fatigue

Here are but a few reasons Christian women have a crisis:
  • All the above, plus...
  • Disappointment with God for not granting desires
  • Difficulty hearing from God
  • Difficulty accepting what God seems to allow
  • Feelings they have some how spiritually failed their family
  • Unanswered prayers, especially concerning spouse or children, hopes or dreams
  • Lack of financial prosperity they expected from God
  • Unfulfilled ministry dreams
  • Unanswered prayers regarding personal fulfillment
  • Disillusionment with the church or other believers
  • Spiritual attack--the devil's temptations of dissatisfaction and "greener grass" syndrome

WOMEN'S MID-LIFE CRISIS: The Good and the Bad

It may help a woman to talk with another woman about her struggles--preferably with one who can relate. (It's tough, though, to fess up to a woman who has no clue what you're talking about.)

Try joining a Facebook group with women in a similar phase, or join a Christian chat such as Power to Change. Buy and read books that will help walk you through your struggles.

The good is, midlife crisis feelings can cause a woman to draw closer to God.  The feelings drive her on a quest for answers. The bad is if a woman gets stuck in thought patterns that lead her to spiral downward into depression. The bad is also when those thoughts lead a woman to make drastic life changes she may regret later.

It is important to wage constant war on your moods and thoughts. Check out everything, and count the cost before taking drastic steps.

A woman can battle troubling thoughts and feelings by gaining professional help and/or by challenging her thoughts on a regular basis. Categorizing thoughts correctly as to what is true and what is irrelevant is vitally helpful.


How to categorize your thoughts or moods:

Sometimes thoughts are driven by overwhelm, tiredness, or pain. You may not have the energy you used to have, and sometimes chronic health issues cause problems. What you need to do in these instances is to nurture yourself. Sometimes you do need to just go to bed for a rest. Order-in dinner. Rest until your energy returns.

Sometimes thoughts are associated with a process of grieving. Grieving is a normal part of letting go. Small spurts of grief are healthy. All women face change and grief now and then.

Some feelings are driven by melancholy. This might include focusing on the good days, the old friends, your children's preschool years...whatever. Sometimes a movie, music or possessions trigger sad feelings. Getting stuck in the past or in melancholy can become a major problem.

Feelings aren't bad.  They're part of the human condition.  It will help a woman to learn how to feel feelings and process her feelings, and then move back into the present quickly. That is, to learn to cherish good memories, but to not cling to them as though that's all life holds (a theory of author Susan Miller).

Sometimes women are bored, not in crisis.

Other times women are lonely.

Other times women fail to meet their own lofty expectations. Dropping high expectations may help a woman not only survive, but enjoy life again.

Assigning the most accurate label to the feelings may help a woman find the right solution.


MIDLIFE AND CHRISTIANITY

Christian woman are often told "all you need is Jesus". But even Jesus needed physical friends. Jesus liked serving people and talking to them. He attended parties, dinners and tea times in homes. He liked fishing and public speaking. He moved around the countryside. He didn't isolate himself.  He was on a mission with a purpose to fulfill.  We are to model Jesus.

Yes, Jesus did go away to pray and spend time in solitude, but not wholly.

We need Jesus, but while on earth, women need a variety of other things included in their lives to give them healthy life balance--events, relationships, activities, ongoing learning, soul work.

THE GOOD IN MIDLIFE CRISIS FEELINGS

The good about midlife crisis feelings is that they can direct a woman to look life squarely in the face and make new positive choices for herself.  They may push her to seek God more intently.


Evaluation is often part of crisis feelings. A woman may evaluate what could be done better, what she'd rather be doing, who she'd like to see, what she needs more of, things she'd like to change, etc. These feelings guide a woman to see what areas of her life might need development.  Once identified, these can be taken to prayer, and steps can be put in place for working on them.  (Over-evaluation, however, can be detrimental to a woman's sense of well-being.)

The good about midlife crisis feelings is that they push a woman to search for answers. They may push her to reach out to new people, to get out of her comfort zone, to search for new interests to become involved in, to look for answers, and ultimately to fulfill her God-given life purpose.

ACTION STEPS - WHAT TO DO when in a Midlife Crisis
  1. Hopefully you have many things about your life you are proud of and enjoy. Always take time to enjoy your accomplishments. Pat yourself on the back more than look for what is missing.
  2. If your feelings are connected to tiredness, illness or pain, deal with them. See a professional (or two or three), take pain medication, lessen expectations, get rest, quit over-thinking, rest your brain.
  3. If you need a paradigm shift, go shopping, see a movie, take the family out for dinner, visit a poor area of town, help the sick. Basically, get out of the house and go somewhere new or different. Practice seeing the world in a new way. Read a thought-challenging book, listen to a thought-challenging audio, or watch a video.
  4. Capture your underlying thoughts and promise to work on them when you're feeling better.  For instance, if you're lonely, promise you will work on cultivating more relationships. If you're bored, look for a new course to take or an activity to become involved in, and so on.
  5. If your life has become too one-dimensional, plan to shut down the computer and get away from the house more often. If you miss time with your kids and husband, plan more regular outings with your family.
  6. If you're spiritually lacking, purchase a Bible study to work on, or join a study group.
  7. Call someone and have a talk when you need to.
  8. Keep moving and growing in who you are. Take some personal assessments.
  9. Continue to be available to your children and to celebrate with them. Be available to other people--nieces, nephews, other young people, church members.
  10. If you have time on our hands, it's important to add in helpful things: take courses, apply for jobs (some that may be in completely new areas), volunteer or help others.
  11. Refuse to become discouraged.
  12. Take the leap of braveness and sign up for therapy, counselling, or coaching. 
  13. Start your own business.
  14. Pray and Seek God's input and commit to obeying what you hear him saying.

ULTIMATELY: FOR THE CHRISTIAN

Ultimately, God has many purposes for you to fulfill: fellowship, discipleship, service, evangelism, worship, relationship with God, study, etc.  He also has more specific purposes that you're design for. These specific purposes are the "bloom where you're planted type".  They are made up of your skills put to good use.

If you find no new doors opening to help you move forward, look at all the things on your to-do list right where you are.  God has you there for reasons!

Bloom where you're planted.  That means do your best at whatever assignments are before you.  Use your imagination and creativity. Complete all things well until new doors open. Accept where you are as what is God's best for you right now, but do dabble in a variety of interests.

There is a Bible verse that suggests the importance of scattering a lot of seeds along various riverbanks for when the river rises the right seeds will be watered and bloom.  This can be a good way to look at life too.  Scatter the seeds of your God-given abilities here and there.  Investigate.  Plant seeds of possibility and love every where you go.  God will bloom the right ones.





3 comments:

  1. So helpful! Thank you! I am endeavoring to bloom until God shows me other things to do. It is an insecure thing though when your children grow up and that meaningful job is not as time consuming. Right now I am traveling with my husband and writing about it on a blog. I try to be an encouragement wherever I am. But recently a woman said to me, " I'm not judging, but I would have to do more than that so I felt like I was giving back to society."

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  2. Thanks for the feedback Janine. I agree, it is a shocker to face the idea of our children moving on and us being put out of a role we've become used to. There are many of us who find ourselves floundering at times. Some day's we feel directed and other days we can hardly believe God doesn't just spell out what we're to do next more simply. You're certainly not alone.

    I'm sure the woman's comment has tripped you up. There are many opposing voices to wade through for sure. What she may not be considering is the spiritual Kingdom world. I'll bet you pray for people during your journeys and are a spiritual influence in many other ways. That alone gives back to society in huge ways that aren't measurable in this lifetime.

    Keep close to God and follow what you know in your heart.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your encouragement! I have had many positive comments since that one negative remark. I think this world doesn't value being a wife like it should.

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