Empty nest syndrome is a term which is often used to describe emotions of the parents, whose children have grown up and left home. Midlife crisis is a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in middle-aged individuals, typically 45 to 65 years old (Wikipedia).
For most parents, empty nest is a synonym for loneliness. Your home becomes dead and lifeless. All of a sudden you have to adjust your routine, which was designed around other people’s needs. You start having more free time, cook less food. You don’t know what to do with yourself.
In a lot of cases, empty nest syndrome and midlife crisis go hand-in-hand. In some cases this difficult time is also accompanied by divorce, especially, if the couple stay together for the sake of their kids.
One day it hit me that my child is going to leave our home and that we will not be able to see each other so much anymore. So I made a conscious decision to prepare myself and my life for this in advance.
This does not mean that when the day came, I was ready for it 🙂.
How much of your time is consumed by thoughts and taking care of other people?
When all this time suddenly becomes available to you, it may not be easy to know what to do with it. When we are left alone with our thoughts, everything we have pushed aside starts creeping back in.
- Why did I choose this career?
- Who is this person I am I living with? Does my husband really see me?
- Why did I quit playing piano when I was younger?
- Who am I?
These questions can prompt the beginning of a so-called midlife crisis.
On top of this you can start to feel lonely and anxious.
When you don’t know how to deal with anxiety, the only way to deal with it is to turn to something else. Some people dive into the world of Netflix and internet (Instragram, Facebook or Tik-Tok). Some people start numbing their pain with drugs, alcohol or overeating.
My favourite book used to be “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell. I picked up on Scarlett’s coping mechanism and carried it with me throughout my life. When I was younger and was hit by sudden grief, I repeated Scarlett’s legendary phrase “I will think about that tomorrow” daily.
So as soon as I was left alone in my empty nest, all the “tomorrows” of my life started shooting up in front of me.
I consider myself very lucky, because I have been in therapy for a few years now. As I am writing this, I am still going through my mid-life crisis.
I am someone who lives with constant anxiety. But, thanks to life coaching I have a different skill set to help me manage my anxiety and this is what I teach my clients.
Emotional management is the most important tool you can learn in life. When we are not in control of our emotions, we avoid feeling them, at all costs. When you don’t want to face fear or anxiety, it is like resisting a current. You can do it but it is a matter of time before your arms are tired and you have to give in. That is what a midlife crisis is.
How do you survive through an empty nest syndrome?
Most important thing is to anticipate it. If you have kids, its a matter of time before they decide they want to move out and live their life. So who do you want to be when this happens? How do you want to be acting and reacting in the ugly face of a crisis?
Below is a visualisation exercise that we do with my clients, which will help you survive empty nest syndrome and midlife crisis. 🙂
- Allocate a few quiet hours in your schedule with no interruptions. Turn off your phone. Take a pen and a piece of paper.
- Close your eyes and picture yourself in 10 years time.
- Who is this woman? Where does she live, who are her friends, how does she spend her free time? What kind of partner does she have?
- Where does she work? Does she have a business? Employees?
- If she has kids, what kind of relationship does she have with them?
- What makes her happy, brings her joy?
- How does she look and what does she eat? How is her health (physical and mental?)
- Try and think of as much detail as possible.
- Keep writing everything down, every little detail. Draw her, if you can draw.
- Now think in what way is this woman is different to you? What have you been doing/not doing to become her? Which direction should you be going instead?
- It is also important to think, what will you need to start saying “NO” to.
- Now schedule time in your life to practice being this woman on purpose.
P.S. Word of caution. This may seem like a simple exercise and you may want to skip the writing. Do it in your head. You need to allocate time and do this on purpose. Your future self will thank you. Самое главное – сесть и записать все. Выделить время на эту визуализацию. Будущая ты скажешь себе спасибо!
For example, I realised that I don’t want to be the kind of parent who is needy. I want to be an example that you can change your life at any point and it is never too late. That you can love your job. That any mistakes you make are there to get you to your goals. You can always start over, if you choose to.
I think about my future self all the time. About what I want to gift myself. For example, I want my future self to thank me for my physical and mental health. This is why I exercise, eat well, do annual checkups and generally take care of myself. I have my therapist and my life coach for my mental health, too.
Empty nest syndrome and the midlife crisis that accompanies it is like a second chance in life.
And by the way, I prefer to call it “Awakening”. 😉
My mission is to help women make the second half of their life remarkable and full of joy. If you would like to know more about how we can work together or need help with some of the concepts in the article, send me a message on email@example.com.