Surviving a Midyear Crisis
According to psychologist and writer Oliver Robinson, a life crisis is defined as a period characterized by unstable mental and emotional health, altering the course of their lives and affecting them for a year or longer. A midlife crisis, coined by Elliott Jaques, refers to a critical phase in human development during the forties to early sixties, based on the character of change points, or periods of transition. I would like to officially coin the phrase, “Midyear Crisis.” Like a life crisis, a midyear crisis comes with unstable emotional health and similarly like a midlife crisis comes with periods of transition.
What is different is the cause of the midyear crisis. The midyear crisis I speak of is caused by the blasted heat and humidity in our beloved south! We feel like champions as we pile on more layers and battle “the cold” mornings of Winter. We rejoice in the cool Spring temperatures and feel like we can conquer any boot-camp and break every PR. Then May arrives.
We can’t catch our breath long enough to run up the State House steps. “Wait, didn’t I use to take these two at a time?” We cramp up and suffer through an “easy” 4 mile run. “Wait, last week I ran 8 miles and felt great.” We begin to think we are “losing it.” We think, “Well, I am a year older, I must just be getting slower” or “I guess I’ll have to settle with girl push-ups.” It doesn’t help that the Fall and Spring are full of races to train for and keep us motivated and the summer months are barren. Again, because it’s too blazin’ hot for races! And so after a few miserable weeks of feeling inadequate and defeated by the sun we think, “I’ll just wait until the weather gets better.” This is where we cheat ourselves.
Just like other life crisis, we let the emotions of “I’m not good enough,” “so and so is better than I am” or “it will never get any better” take over. I’m seeing it happen and I’ve been there. In my 11 years of being a runner, I would say the first six I gave up during the summer. I couldn’t take it. My mind couldn’t take it is what it really was. I would focus on the fact that I was a full minute slower than usual. I would focus on the fact that I couldn’t go out for a long run and enjoy it anymore. I thought I had lost “it.” Then the cool evenings would return, my jeans would’t fit (because I gave up regular exercise for 3 months) and I would get back out on the road. Then I would spend a good 4- 6 weeks getting my legs and clothing size back. It was seriously a constant cycle I would go through every year. Then one summer when the heat returned and I was older, grayer and wiser I told myself, “It doesn’t matter if you are slow, you are out here.” “It doesn’t matter that people pull over and ask if you need help when they see you running (that really happened), this is what you need to do to feel better and stay healthy” and so I ran. And I conquered the midyear crisis…that year. The thing about the midyear crisis is that it returns every year! And every year I have make to the choice to stay out there and push through.
One of the affects of a life crisis is stagnation. “Stagnation is the lack of psychological movement or growth. Those who experience stagnation do not invest in the growth of themselves or others.”* That is true for the midyear crisis as well. When we are stagnate in our physical health it seeps into other parts of our lives.
So what do we do? Well, psychologists offer steps to get through a life crisis, and I thought I would add to them.
- Acknowledge the crisis. Summer in Columbia stinks!
- Think before you make radical changes. DON’T give up your workouts/runs!
- Crises are not inherently a bad thing. Conquering the midyear crisis will make you stronger and give you a sense of accomplishment.
- Move outside your comfort zone. Accept being slower, and believe that it doesn’t mean you have one foot in the grave.
- Volunteer more. Sign up to Q workouts. (I promise this is a real suggestion. It is not a ploy to get more Qs.)
- Talk about the crisis with loved ones. Show up and be around other FiAs who are feeling the same way (and they are, I promise).
These tips also apply to any “slump” you might go through. Remember that “older, grayer, wiser” part? I’ve learned that a crisis can happen other times of the year, too. Sorry, but it’s true. You can get injured. You have young babies and think you will never sleep again. You have teenagers and think you will never sleep again. You get older and aren’t as fast as you once were. When these seasons arise, the best thing to remember is that it is not over. It’s never over until you meet your maker. And then it will be all PRs and one handed push-ups all the time! But that’s for another blog, another day.
It’s not over AND you have FiA. You have a group that supports you fast or slow, weak or strong. It is much easier to survive the midyear crisis when you don’t go it alone. And remember that part about volunteering? That means YOU are the inspiration for a FiA sister going through the same thing. You don’t want to let her down, right? Call her now and say, “This summer has stunk, but I’m ready to get back out there and I want you to come with me. Let’s do this together.”
You owe it yourself to beat the midyear crisis. Think how good it will feel when those cool temperatures return and there is a pep in your step, or you throw in one more push-up during the AMRAP and you say to yourself, “I made it.”
“About half the people studied found results of their crises to be positive.”** Make this the year that you have positive results from your midyear crisis and get #BetterTogether.
*Development Through Life. Wadsworth. 2012. pp. 512–15
**Wikipedia, Midlife Crisis