• Darrell & Robin MacLearn

3 Secrets to Successfully Coping With COVID-19 AND MidLife at the Same Time

It is one thing to have to deal with the onslaught of MidLife Muck. But add COVID-19 to that and the mental mess of the Coronavirus and it is a recipe for mental overload. MidLife often comes with circumstances that cause deep contemplation and questions of significance and identity. The stereotypical “MIDLIFE CRISIS” is defined as “An emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in the middle ages of life.” The reality is the “MIDLIFE CRISIS” is more about circumstances and thoughts than it is about the stage of life.

As we go through our life we have circumstances that trigger thoughts. In the younger years, these transitions in life and circumstances tend to focus forward with vision and excitement about life ahead. Going off to college, getting married, having children, careers, and professional advancement. However, when we enter midlife the circumstances and transitions cause us to start to question the past, present, and future, life, death, time left, value, significance, identity, confidence, meaning, and purpose. Unfortunately during the middle-age years, there seems to be an overwhelming amount of similar circumstances converging on the mind all at once overwhelming the process.

Circumstances like:

  • Caring for aging parents

  • Know more people personally who are dying

  • Kids in college

  • Empty nest

  • Career effectiveness and significance

  • Career value, purpose, and meaning

  • Changes in physical health and body

  • Retirement and inadequate bank account and savings

  • Marriage/relationship changes as it goes through life transitions

  • Become a grandparent

Again, it is not when these circumstances happen but how we respond to these circumstances that determine the level of crisis. One of the primary reasons the “crisis” happens during midlife is the overwhelm of so many thoughts. Add to this the ever-expanding list of new thoughts caused by COVID-19 and the impact of the Coronavirus and you have the perfect storm.

Circumstances like:

  • Caring for vulnerable aging parents/loved ones

  • Loss of job/career due to COVID-19

  • Financial stress

  • Loss of social contact

  • Loss of freedom to come and go at will

  • Can’t be with family in the hospital

  • Forced to become a homeschool teacher

  • Cabin fever

  • Constant children contact

  • Constant spousal contact

  • No freedom, no space

  • Essential worker fear of contact and getting the virus

  • Fear of the unknown, uncertain future

A recent Blog title caught my eye - “Early MidLife Crisis Hits Millennials” https://www.nextavenue.org/early-midlife-crisis-hits-millennials/

The premise is that COVID-19 is introducing many of the same kind of circumstances, thoughts, and questions that come during midlife to those of younger ages. The circumstance that produces thoughts and questions in the brain about certainty, fear of the unknown, life and death, purpose and meaning, community, change, and an unknown “new normal.”

Thoughts that are producing feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, fear, uncertainty, concern for loved ones, isolation and loneliness, depression, anxiety, and the list goes on. The same feelings attached to Midlife Crisis.

So what do you do when you combine the midlife overwhelm to the COVID overwhelm? How do you avoid the mental institution, the ulcer, laying in bed all day depressed, or adding the "COVID-20" to your waistline? How do you maintain your health, your mental capacity, and your ability to continue to love your spouse and children? How do you avoid murder and/or suicide?

In fact, did you know that white midlife males accounted for 69.67% of suicides in 2018? Add to that the increase in suicides due to COVID-19 and suicide is a very real concern.

So how do you cope with COVID-19 and Midlife?

When we combine these two sets of circumstances you can see the impact it has on the mind. For example, midlife often comes with caring for our aging parents. Add COVID-19 to this and now you add the thoughts about our aging parent's vulnerability. Add to that the added dynamic of them being in a nursing facility and the fact that you can’t even visit them and the rumination on this is more than some can bear.

Or another example may be the combination of our children graduating and going off to college. Coronavirus changed all that. Now what?

Or the already concerning issues of finances and careers during midlife. Add to that the loss of the job due to COVID-19 and the uncertainty of the future and you find people like the Weiland’s who said,

“Our landlord is unwilling to give us any leniency. We’re carrying the most debt in our lives, and there is no work for us in the foreseeable future. My wife is getting sicker and my mother has started showing symptoms. In the depths of the worst fever she’s had in years, my wife told me she cannot see a way we could possibly work through this. She hopes the virus kills her. And I can do nothing.”

If we understand that it is not the age and it is not the pandemic that is the problem then we can not only cope but in fact thrive.

Solutions start when we understand the problem. The problem is not the age and not the virus. The problem is the thoughts that these circumstances produce and the overwhelming reality of those thoughts.

As I have said many times and in many different contexts, “Master your mind and you master your life.”

Below are 3 secrets to Coping with COVID-19 AND MidLife. However, before I give you these three let me warn you to avoid the already too common midlife/COVID buffering/coping strategies that simply add to the already growing problem.

  • No! More food will not solve your problem. Emotional eating simply adds to the problem several more circumstances you will have to deal with. Think diabetes, heart issues, etc on top of COVID and MIDLIFE.

  • NO! More alcohol will not solve your problem. Burying your midlife and COVID-19 thoughts and feelings in more “Corona” will not "find you your beach.” It will simply dull the pain for a moment but at some point, you will still have to deal with the circumstances. Unfortunately for too many, the increase in alcohol is adding additional relational, emotional, and financial circumstances to the pile.

Instead, try these secrets to COVID AND MIDLIFE Success…

1. Success begins with AWARENESS

Simply understanding and being aware of what is happening is the beginning of successfully navigating COVID-19 and MIDLIFE. When you understand that circumstances are neutral and that your thoughts about the circumstance generate your feelings you are well on your way to success. Our circumstances don’t produce our feelings. Our thoughts about our circumstances produce our feelings. So being aware of what I am feeling will help me identify my thoughts and I have the power to choose my thoughts.

There is something freeing and powerful about becoming aware. The more aware I become of what is happening in me the more power I have to make changes.

2. Success requires ACCEPTANCE

The quicker you are to accept your circumstances the quicker the mind can go to work on options, alternatives, and opportunities. Acceptance doesn’t mean you like it. It just means that you accept its reality in your life and instead of arguing about it, or ruminating on it, or stewing about it you begin to work with what you have and create alternatives. For example, you had a picnic planned and you were all excited and now it is raining and your plans have been ruined. You can complain about it raining, and how your plans have been ruined and you can mope about it but none of that is going to stop the rain and give you your plans back. So the quicker you accept the fact that it is raining and that the picnic won’t be what you expected, the quicker you can get on with new and maybe even better plans that hadn’t been looked at before because all you were thinking about was the picnic.

There is SO MUCH mental and emotional energy being wasted right now complaining about and ruminating on things that can’t be changed. If that same energy was put to finding alternatives and other options we would be healthier and find opportunities that are just under the surface. Remember, “where your focus goes your energy flows.” ~Tony Robbins

3. Success invites ASSISTANCE

One of the greatest mistakes MidLifers make during midlife is going it alone. This is especially challenging for men who traditionally “don’t need anybody” and think getting help is a “sign of weakness." The reality is unraveling the mental mess is not easy when you are stuck in the mental fog and can’t see what you are doing. It is overwhelming and we need someone who can help us unravel it. This is not a sign of weakness, this is a sign of maturity and strength. The truth is we ALL could benefit from coaching and someone helping us. “As iron sharpens iron one man sharpens another.” I want to be my best and for me to be my best I need others helping me process and unravel my thoughts so that I can make wise decisions for my family, especially during this time. When we don’t do this we tend to be reactive vs. proactive and we make bad decisions. Just think stereotypical MidLife Crisis. These are reactive decisions to thoughts that haven’t been processed properly.

Studies are clear that depression and trauma are disconnective disorders. They do not improve in isolation. To fix them, you have to be connected to others. COVID-19 seems to be messing with this as well. How do we connect in a pandemic that forces us apart? Now more than ever connection requires intentionality and creativity which is hard to do when you are feeling overwhelmed and feel like isolating. Coaching assists you in unpacking and processing to come up with solutions and strategies.

So if you are feeling…

  • Overwhelmed

  • Anxious

  • Stir-Crazy

  • Depressed

  • Fearful

  • Uncertain

It is time to take control of your mind and not allow the circumstances of MidLife and/or COVID-19 to own you. There is hope! Let’s connect.

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