There’s a saying: You’re only as old as you feel. The idiom drives at the fundamental difference between chronological and psychological age. But it begs the question, How do you feel?
If you’re a woman who's just turned 40, you may find yourself standing at a critical juncture I call “the mid-life malaise." (Typically men face this a little later.) It’s a psychological crossroads characterized not by crisis, but by dim disquietude. It’s not depression so much as discontent or a vague sense of lack. As researcher Brené Brown quipped, “I called it a breakdown; my therapist called it a spiritual awakening.”
Spiritual awakening, spiritual renaissance — whatever you call it, the 40s are a time of reflection, contemplation and maybe even of change. Want to navigate that change like a champion? Here are some tips.
At about 40, I traded in a journalism career for life as a therapist. I have a client who celebrated her fortieth by ditching a medical career to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.
Now, those are extreme examples; your own renaissance may not be as dramatic. The point is that this is the time to plug into your feelings — plunge down into the depths of your soul and discover what lies beneath. What makes you happy now? Because it may not be the same as what made you happy then.
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Change is the order of the decade. And it’s not just your emotional state that is transforming. Your body's changing, too, as your hormonal highs and lows start to take you on a metabolic roller-coaster ride.
Because you and your partner are deeply embedded, any change you experience will also change the relationship. As therapists, we call this a “family systems approach” — a change in one changes all.
In past columns I’ve talked about adaptability being the most critical to a couple’s longevity. You’ve got to be able to ride change — especially now. So, saddle up.
Well, maybe “like” is too strong a word. How about, instead, you learn to live with limbo, at least temporarily? Finding your way from then to now, will take some patience. It will all become clear eventually, But for now you may need to embrace uncertainty about what it is you need and want. Float a question mark in your psychic sky, and keep revisiting it. And then...Photo: DNY59/iStockphoto
Put on your lab coat, and become a scientist. This is a time of experimentation. Try different ideas on for size until you see what fits. Is it time for a career transition? Or do you just need a new hobby? Live with an option — opening your own business, going back to school — for a time, acting as if it were real. How does it feel?Photo: Nicolas Hansen/iStockphoto
Take responsibility for your changing body. Book an appointment with your doctor or naturopathic doctor to discuss any physical changes you have observed (mood, weight, libido). Talk to the trainer at your gym about tweaking your workout routine. Join a running club. You may need to change it up as you enter your fourth decade.Photo: Eliza Snow/iStockphoto
Renew your courtship. Involve your partner in your metamorphosis — however large or small it may be. Transitioning from 30 to 40 is incredibly important in the evolution of You. If the 30s were all about raising your young flock, then the 40s become your time to fly. Just make sure you keep your partner acquainted with You 2.0.Photo: Goodluz/iStockphoto
Relationships: How to sail through this major milestone together.