For centuries, we have known that people go through different stages as they progress in life. Often, the transition from one stage to another is bewildering and stressful.
Although psychologists have offered many ways of labeling these life stages, probably the most well-known is Erik Erikson’s theory. Erikson divided the human lifespan into 8 stages. Because the most dramatic changes happen as a person is growing up, his first 5 stages cover 0 to 18 years old.
But for most of us, life doesn’t flatline at 18. Rather, changes multiply as we embark on adulthood, progress into middle-age, and settle down in later life. In fact, life in your 30's is often the most challenging because this period is when most people marry, advance in their careers, and have children. And after the 30’s comes the infamous “mid-life crisis.”
If you are entering a new stage in life, you may be facing the stress of that now. But you don’t have to flounder in uncertainty. It is absolutely possible to adjust and live meaningfully in any stage of life.
The first step of adaptation is understanding the stage you have just entered into. Erikson categorized the period of 18 to 40 years with the phrase “intimacy vs. isolation”. These years are marked by forming loving relationships, so it is vital to look around and see what good relationships you are developing. If there aren’t any, consider taking up a hobby or activity that will engage you in a community.
40 to 65-year-olds are going through what Erikson called the “generativity vs. stagnation” stage. By caring for something that will last beyond yourself, you will feel useful. If you are successful at finding something you can contribute to, you will enter the last stage, “ego integrity vs. despair” with certainty that you have accomplished something meaningful.
Erikson’s theory actually only has three adult stages, while other psychologists recognize many more. In adulthood, development is rarely marked by very clear steps as it is in childhood and adolescence. Instead, all sorts of things can indicate that you are moving into a different life stage, from getting married to realizing that people treat you with a different level of respect. Being aware of this may help you adjust more quickly.
Moving into a new stage of life is often accompanied by major changes, such as having your first kid. These changes can be stressful, but this stress is manageable. Living a healthy lifestyle enables you to cope with new situations.
Sleeping regular hours every night, eating good food, and exercising every day are vital in a new stage of life. Doing these will decrease the chances of illness, and they will also provide a sense of normality. Of course, it is also important that you take time each week to rest and relax!
You probably know that elderly people can provide wise advice to younger people. But this doesn’t just apply to those over 70! Each stage of life is associated with different traits that are helpful to society. By figuring out what your stage is good at, you may feel more useful and helpful to the people around you.
For example, people in their 20’s and 30’s are often known for their enterprise. Young adults have energy, creativity, and excitement that lead them to do new things. They can contribute this enterprise to their businesses, their families, and further education.
The human lifespan is marked by many different stages. While adapting to a new stage can be difficult, there are things you can do to make it easier. Each stage has something valuable to contribute to society.