“Barbara, I can’t seem to get out of this funk. I’m having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, and I’m wasting hour after hour scrolling through Facebook and binge watching Netflix shows,” said Tammy, a 53-year-old newish empty nester working a part-time job. “I know I’ve been in funks before, but I’ve always seemed to be able to get out of them. I’m not sure why I feeling so stuck this time.”
Tammy, you are not alone. In fact, this is a common theme that I hear from many of the midlife women I work with. It’s not at all uncommon to fall into a funk during a life transition. Getting married, starting a new job, or having a baby are all exciting, but these events can also be scary and overwhelming which can lead to a funk. Ultimately we settle in, get more confident and enjoy our new roles and our funk passes.
Like Tammy, you may be wondering why it is so much harder to get out of a Midlife Funk than a previous funks. Through my work with thousands of midlife women, I have identified the following as the top three reasons:
- Less Structure and Responsibility
We couldn’t stay in bed when we had kids to take care of and get off to school. We couldn’t spend hours on social media when we had to drive kids to soccer practice or ballet class and still get dinner on the table. We couldn’t binge watch Netflix when there was homework to be done, a PTC meeting to attend or backpacks to pack for the next day. We treated a funk like any other day and just kept going.
- Perception of Beginnings vs. Endings
Many of the transitions we experienced were expansive and felt like they were adding possibilities to our lives. Midlife transitions can feel like a lot of losses and endings instead of beginnings: Kids moving away, pets dying, parents needing care and passing away.
- Less Daily Connections to Others
While raising our families, we did not often need to seek out connections as we largely found them through our daily routines. Prior to the advent of texting, I regularly spoke with the other moms in my carpools on the phone. Quick scheduling calls often morphed into hour-long, soulful conversations. Those connections and conversations continued on the sidelines of sporting events, as well as at PTC meetings, dance recitals and school musicals. If you were sick, struggling or had suffered a loss; these women knew right away and were there to support you. As a midlifer, these connections are no longer built in, making it much easier to feel isolated and alone. You have to consciously reach out in order to maintain these relationships and feel connected to others. When you are sick, struggling or have suffered a loss, you have to let others know what is happening.
Now that you understand why this funk is harder to get out of, you can start thinking about how to overcome those challenges and fight off the “Midlife Funk”
Here is the seven-step process that Tammy and I went through to create her customized “Get Out Of Your Midlife Funk Plan”.
- Practice GRATITUDE
I credit most of my clients’ and my biggest positive shifts to regularly writing in our gratitude journals. To learn more, join my Midlife Reinvention Facebook Group and watch the “How to Create A Gratitude Journal That Works For You” video.
- Bring Self Development Into Your Life
Audible makes it so easy to become a self-development junkie. Instead of clicking on Facebook click on your latest book and listen as you drive, cook, clean and work. Here are some of my favorite reads: http://barbarawassermancoaching.com/the-store/
- Add Structure To Your Life
Try finding a walking buddy and scheduling a time early in the morning to ensure you get out of the house. When someone else is depending on you, it makes it much harder to hit the snooze button.
Try to determine the time of the day you struggle the most (for some women it is late afternoon when they previously were busy with their kids activities). Make plans to be out of the house at the time of the day (maybe take a class, make a weekly coffee date with a friend, start a book group).
- Get More Involved In Your House Of Worship
Most churches and temples have programs and groups for midlifers. It’s a great way to get reconnected and make new connections with others in the same stage of life. There are often interesting activities, lectures, trips and opportunities to give back.
- Give Back
Find an organization that interests you. Decide if you want to work on a committee and interact with other women, work directly with those in need, or a combination of the two. Read “Want to Make A Difference In The World, Do This” to learn my exact process for creating your just right making a difference plan.
- Tap Into Old Interests
Take a painting, dance or photography class. Start that book you always dreamed of writing. (Join a writers group to gain connection and accountability). Learn something new that you may have thought about but could never find the time to do: technology, crafting, cooking, writing,
- Reconnect With Your Partner
Schedule date nights, plan trips, reach out to other couples, develop new routines (e.g. daily walks), cultivate new interests (camping, museum memberships, fishing, golfing and hiking), or take a class together doing something that interests you both (such as cooking or dancing). My husband and I recently subscribed to a monthly speakers series. In addition to seeing great speakers on interesting topics we met other couples with subscriptions and now meet for dinner before the lecture each month. It’s been a great way to build these connections into our routine instead of searching for them. In fact, the group email keeps us up to date on engagements, births, retirements, deaths and illnesses. It’s feeling a bit like the old carpool days.
After going through this process you will notice a shift in how you feel and think about this next stage of your life. Instead of seeing what you have lost you will start focusing on what you are gaining. When you got married and then had children you could have focused on how many new responsibilities you had and the loss of flexibility and freedom. Instead, you focused on how wonderful it felt to feel loved and supported by someone who you loved and how exciting it was to build a family and life of new possibilities (most of the time!).
In this next chapter you may have been focusing on the loss of children at home and perhaps loved ones who have passed away. This process will help you shift your thinking (most of the time) to the excitement of having the time and flexibility to stretch yourself, learn new things and practice self care. , Take pride in having given your heart and soul to raising adult children, welcome your new roles and, share your wisdom, skills and superpowers with the world. Enjoy your third act. If you embrace, it you will have a long and beautiful ride.
For those of you who would like to make more connections with other midlife women, I invite you to join Barbara’s Midlife Reinvention Facebook Group. You will gain access to training and resources from me and connect to more than 300 like-minded midlife women who inspire and support one another as they navigate and create their most fulfilling next acts.