If you’re feeling down, stop doing and start being

RESEARCH published by Relate last week said that men are getting their mid-life crisis earlier than ever, and that men aged 35-44 are the least happy people. The numbers are chilling. Twenty-one per cent say they feel lonely a lot of the time; 22 per cent wanted a better relationship with their family; 30 per cent believed shorter working hours would help them get on better with relatives; 22 per cent said they had suffered depression because of a bad relationship; 40 per cent had been cheated on by a partner; and 28 per cent had quit a job after falling out with a colleague.

Dr Michael Sinclair of City Psychology, who is based in Liverpool Street, agrees that the mid-life crisis – feeling being part of a machine and feeling there is no meaning or reason to life – is striking ever younger. “People are under tremendous pressure at an early age,” he says. “Society has these expectations, and it can be easy to lose touch with the other things that give life value.”

In the City this is exacerbated by long hours and the imperative to be contactable at all hours of the day. The recession just made things worse. For women, there is the added pressure of having a family. Dr Sinclair says he often has women in floods of tears in his office.

So if you are feeling depressed, how do you cope? Firstly, says Sinclair, remember that it is not just you that feels this way – and there are people out there who can help.

Secondly, get off the internet. If you are emailing friends rather than speaking to them, and socialising on social networking sites, then you need to get out and have some real social contact. A night in the pub can do wonders for the mental health.

Technology can also enable short-termist thrill-seeking behaviour – dating sites have made affairs far easier. Which leads us to point three: concentrate on the long-term, and avoid short-term fixes. Booze, drugs or sex might make you feel better right now, but can become bigger problems than the one they were meant to fix. Take a step back and recognise when your behaviour is self-destructive.

And fourthly, prioritise. There’ll never be a moment when everything is done and you can relax, so put some time in the diary to spend doing something you enjoy, whether it’s just reading a book, watching a film, doing yoga or going to the gym. As Sinclair puts it: “Spend some time being, and not doing.”