Are you unhappy or just in your 40s?

During our recent relocation to Israel I have been fortunate enough to come across the work of Tal Ben-Shahar, a thought leader on positive psychology and the art of happiness. Tal's work is truly transformational on so many levels. It has inspired me to write this piece on being in our 40s.

Are you unhappy or just in your 40s?

I wish someone had told me in advance what entering your 40s meant.

To be honest I don’t know if I would have listened.

I have an inherent nature to want to help people. Others may not see this reflected in the work I chose to do, HR, as that is inherently a business-oriented role. However, they may have seen me demonstrate some of these behaviours when I ran my own sleep consultancy business when my first child was born.

But it’s true, I get the most comfort when I am helping someone to be better, to make their life easier, to teach them something. This is also evident in the way that I parent. When I feel as though I am making a valuable contribution to the house or to my children’s lives I feel the highest sense of happiness. Some may call this purpose.

What do you do though when the profession you were urged to pursue doesn’t provide you the same level of happiness? Is this a result of turning 40 and having a mid-life crisis? Is this due to the fact that until a certain age we are all living in survival mode, and all of a sudden this programming doesn’t work for us anymore?

We are starting to feel so much more than we ever did. Often we are struggling.

We say that we can’t cope anymore, with the never ending washing basket and house cleaning.

Even bedtime is a struggle. Where it was once joyful, it’s now mundane and we are counting the minutes until the fun relaxing part of the evening can start. Then we beat ourselves up for thinking this way and ask ourselves, ‘if we feel this way, why did we choose to have children’?

We are told to think that a career crisis, or a marriage crisis or even a friends crisis is our ‘mid life crisis’. That something is wrong with us, that we suffer anxiety, depression and that this can all be magically fixed with pills, or going to a therapist. And in severe cases of course this helps.

But if you’e in your 40s; Why can’t we just say that life is f…g hard, without it being labelled something? When we label it a crisis, it puts pressure on us to fix it. Why can’t we say that as soon as we start to allow ourselves to feel, that obviously it will be hard to process to work through these emotions? This is not a crisis, this is important start to a transformational journey of becoming more self aware and authentic. Once we can be honest with ourselves, we can live by our values with a greater sense of joy and fulfilment. I disagree that this is a crisis. This is a path to a happier life.

If we have continuously been in survival mode, rushing from project to project, never allowing ourselves time to feel, of course this is going to be a painful process.

When your children fight non stop, of course you’re going to feel overwhelm, anxiety, and despair. This does not mean you’re depressed, it means you’re human.

When at 42 your career no longer provides the same level of joy it once did because you start to care more about community and outreach rather than corporate and money, this does not mean you’re depressed, this means you’re evolving as a human.

I want us to talk more about mental health.

I don’t think we talk about mental health enough.

I want us to talk about career ‘crises’ and give it a different name.

I want us to talk about what we are struggling with and call it normal.

I want us to learn better coping strategies rather than strive for something perfect that doesn’t exist. Rather, find the small joys in the day and grab hold of them.

If we can adopt this mindset, we can also help to foster a happier and healthier workplace.

If you are feeling these emotions and are in your 40s, you are ok. What you are going through is such a shared experience.

The only difference being that we need to speak about it more openly. True transformation can take place when you start being honest with yourself and those around you. When we start to be honest, we normalise what we feel, and normalising things, gives us comfort rather than fear.

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