3 Tips To Empower Women Navigating Their Midlife Unraveling

Midlife is a challenging time of transition when many of us find ourselves at a place where one phase of life is ending, and the next part of the journey has yet to emerge.

Many folks I journey with feel lost, confused, and stuck without a map of how to proceed in creating a life that feels meaningful

Having gone through my midlife unraveling triggered by launching my children, leaving my beloved nursing career, feeling disconnected in my marriage, and aimlessly searching for a more profound sense of meaning and purpose, I know how challenging the journey can be.

It was the first time in my life that I felt a profound sense of what I came to call soul hunger,

We begin to sense that life is short and are increasingly hungry to live in alignment with our true selves.

Brené Brown wrote an article about midlife unraveling where she explained,

The truth is that the midlife unraveling is a series of painful nudges strung together by low-grade anxiety and depression, quiet desperation, and an insidious loss of control. By low-grade, quiet, and insidious, I mean it’s enough to make you crazy but seldom enough for people outside to validate the struggle or offer you help and respite. It’s the dangerous kind of suffering – the kind that allows you to pretend that everything is OK.

When I found myself on the other side of the midlife awakening storm, I looked back and asked, What happened to me? What was the root cause of my distress? What helped me get through it?

Midlife unraveling is the perfect storm for many of us, often forcing us to pause and examine ourselves and the lives we’ve created. There’s an inner sense that the future will require a map different from the one we used.

Creating meaning around your midlife awakening significantly reduces the stress and uncertainty accompanying this significant passage. I wrote the book Awakening a Woman’s Soul: The Power of Meditation and Mindfulness to Transform Your Life to share my story and the role meditation and mindfulness played in returning home to myself.

A midlife unraveling is not a crisis; it’s a transition between one phase of life and another. When we navigate change in a conscious and empowered way, some profound shifts result.

What are the shifts that happen in a midlife unraveling?

We shift from the primary focus on the outer aspects of our lives to expanding and integrating our inner world of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and personality structure.

We shift from doing and taking action on things that arise from satisfying our ego’s need for perfection, achievement, and success to action that arises from our soul and the life force flowing through us.

We shift from being triggered by unconscious and reactive habits to being conscious and responsive as we develop the capacity to connect with our deeper self below the turbulent surface.

How to navigate your midlife awakening and unraveling.

We shift in our relationships from fulfilling our roles to honouring and listening to our soul’s need for growth and expansion.

We shift from building a healthy personality (necessary for the first half) to evolving our personality to serve our soul’s plan.

We shift from over-identifying with either the masculine or feminine energy within each of us to living in a balanced and integrated way of being and contributing.

We shift from relationships that compensate for our wholeness to relationships that promote our growth, individuation, and completeness.

We shift from the first half of life, where we make the journey, to the second half of life, where the journey does us.

We shift from primarily identifying with the world of form to getting curious about the mysteries of life and spiritual matters.

A shift from doing life with a map to doing life and creating the map as we go along.

I wish I had known these 3 things about my midlife unraveling:

1. That the low-grade anxiety and depression that many of us experience are symptoms of spiritual awakening and have a purpose that doesn’t need to be medicalized or pathologized.

At one point, a family doctor gave me an antidepressant because I was weepy and in the “separation” phase and just needed to cocoon for a while. I knew that a pill would not fix my midlife awakening. My symptoms were sources of wisdom, and part of the journey was about learning to feel my feelings and not suppress or numb them. The article, 5 Tips To Befriend Your Fear And Anxiety For A More Peaceful Life explores this further.

My soul was beckoning me to begin the journey home to my true self and to live in alignment with who I was meant to become, not who I thought I was supposed to be.

2. Going into the journey with a few tools would have been helpful.

Knowing what it was about and having some tools to help me would have made the journey easier to navigate.

I learned that practices like meditation and self-compassion are invaluable throughout the journey. Meditation helps us calm our minds, regulate our nervous systems, and deal with the accumulation of years of stress. A self-compassion practice enables us to be kinder and gentler with ourselves. In Self-Compassion Practices For Times Of Stress And Struggle To Feel More Peaceful, I share a number of resources that may be helpful.

The Enneagram of personality map became a lifeline I wish I had known about as a young adult. It would have helped me better understand myself and provided a sense of who I was meant to be. I explain more about the Enneagram and provide a link to a free test in the article Meditation Enriched By The Enneagram Can Help You Flourish. 

3. We’re not alone, although, at times, it feels like we’re the only ones struggling with this phase of life.

This was probably the biggest thing I needed to know and hear.

I had heard about the midlife crises in men, but I had no idea what it entailed for women. Many navigate this middle passage, calling us to more profound meaning, purpose, and connection. What was previously called a mid-life crisis is a journey of transformation. In the article, I Had The Perfect Life, But My Soul Was Hungry For Meaning and Purpose I share about what triggered my midlife awakening.

It’s a journey that takes us deeper, not higher, and we awaken our true selves.

In the following interview, I speak with Dr. Donna McArthur about her experience with her midlife unraveling and what helped her get through it: