Life can seem challenging at any point, but its the worst in midlife. Heres how you can find your way through the confusion and lack of control over your life.
We all come across times where we don't know what is going to happen in immediate future. In such times, when we feel that we have no say or effect on the outcome of our present, how often do you recall suffering or being anxious or confused, while wondering when did you lose control.
Having a sense of control is quite integral to one's well-being, at almost any given age. However, come midlife, the sense of control in many individuals tends to drop.
A study conducted by Robinson and Lachman from Brandeis University reveals how having a sense of control leads to better cognition and mental health; and how the deficit of the same can cause anxiety and stress.
The above-mentioned researchers call this sense of control as 'Perceived Control' - referring to one's perception of their ability to produce the desired outcome; influence their environments, and the ability to avoid unwanted circumstances.
For example, if an employee thinks that he/she is going to be demoted or fired although they have been working hard, and they may not get a fresh job soon is indicative of a lower perceived control (or sense of control), when compared to a person who thinks that they are going to get promoted since they have been working very hard, which speaks of higher perceived control.
According to studies, levels of perceived control are related to one's cognitive functions such as remembering crucial events, plan and calculate for future, and their goal-directed behavior. However, a lower perceived control leads to lower cognitive performance, stress, anxiety; this causality is cyclic in nature.
Moreover, people with higher perceived control tend to have less depression and anxiety, more wisdom and better health and higher functioning. However, individuals who tend to struggle with their economic and social positions are likely to have less perceived control over their lives and things that happen to them, who then subsequently might incur problems in health and cognition.
Taking the earlier mentioned example further, the person who believes that they might get fired soon, and can do little to control it will most likely report having problems remembering crucial things and have higher stress levels.
This can invariably go on to affect their performance on multiple fronts such as motivation and focus and openness to new ideas. Ultimately building up to greater chances of being questioned or being fired.
What Robinson and Lachman arrived at was that altering the perceived control could bring about a change in the cognitive performance of individuals, and physical activity could be the key to bridging the gap.
They had used the data taken from the Midlife in United States Study (MIDUS). MIDUS was conducted in three waves (1995-1996; 2004-2005; and 2013-2014), and gathered data from several thousand Americans on numerous psychological and behavioral health-related factors.
Robinson and Lachman found that throughout the span of 20 years, people who had a higher sense of perceived control and had regular physical activity were significantly less likely to suffer from problems in cognition and worklife. Moreover, they also did not have issues with their episodic memory (ability to remember important events) 20 years later.
Life continues to throw challenges and things can seem pretty bleak when we find ourselves lacking control. Anxiety, feelings of loneliness, dread, confusion are prominent issues we can face when our perceived control fades a bit during our midlife battles.
1. Work out
Physical exercise can be instrumental in increasing individuals' cognition. As the authors of the above-mentioned study also highlight: people who feel they have greater control over their lives are more likely to exercise - and this tendency could be the possible link between perceived control and cognition.
One of the ways to reaffirm our sense of control could be writing things down. Having tangible representation of our thoughts can help in supporting our bid to know where we are going and what we need to do. Simplest of exercies could be to maintin a calendar or a planner you can write on with a pen. This also helps in managing time.
Connect with someone close to you, someone who you know will not judge you. Sharing is a great way to release stress and burst anxiety. When we find someone listening to us, it helps in purging the feelings of loneliness. And a familiar face giving us alternatives can be a welcome change as opposed to doing things alone.