The quarter-life crisis is a period of uncertainty and questioning that typically occurs during people’s mid-20s to early 30s. People experiencing it feel trapped, uninspired, disillusioned and stuck while their peers advance in their careers and relationships. They feel lost and confused about what they should be doing with their lives. Here are some symptoms of a quarter-life crisis and ways to deal with it.
Signs and symptoms of a quarter-life crisis
Here are some signs you’re going through a quarter-life crisis. You:
- Feel lost about what to do with your life and are trying to figure out what is missing
- Have difficulty making decisions and feel paralyzed when presented with choices
- Lack motivation (fatigue and increased sleep are often a part of this)
- Experience mood changes or mood swings
- Are neglecting your personal hygiene and appearance
- Feel tension between choosing a life of adventure (YOLO) and settling down (“adulting”)
- Worry that your peers have it all figured out and that you’re getting left behind
- Are struggling with fatigue, stress, depression, or anxiety
- Are becoming cynical and full of regrets
The cause of a quarter-life crisis varies from person to person. There are however common life stressors that may trigger it such as:
- Excessive job hunting, career planning, or interviews
- Struggling with being on your own for the first time
- Navigating a new and/or serious relationship
- Having to make long-term personal or professional decisions or dwelling on those decisions
- Being scared of major life changes or experiencing a lack of them
Phases of a quarter-life crisis
People going through a quarter-life crisis typically go through these four phases:
- Phase 1: Locked in – You feel trapped and unhappy in at least one major area of your life. This is commonly a job/career or relationship.
- Phase 2: Separation and breakout – You decide to leave your commitment or make a change.
- Phase 3: Exploration – You take time out to experiment, explore other options and gain perspective on what alternatives are out there.
- Phase 4: Resolution and sense of growth – You no longer feel like you are in your crisis and can see what you discovered about yourself.
How to handle a quarter-life crisis
It’s not just you
Realize that you’re not the only one dealing with a quarter-life crisis. It’s common and many people your age, maybe even some of your friends and family are dealing with it. Accept that you’re struggling.
Identify areas you need to focus on
Begin by pinpointing the stressors and triggers of a quarter-life crisis for you. You can then focus on working on these areas to create momentum. Is it a general sense of purposelessness and not knowing what you want to do with your life? Are you dissatisfied with your job or relationship status? Is it a combination of multiple things? What’s within your control and what isn’t? If you can identify the potential causes, you can begin to address them effectively. Decide what’s important to you and just focus on that.
Set goals and take action
Once you’ve figured out what’s important to you and what may be triggering your quarter-life crisis, set goals and act on them. Write down what you want and set some achievable goals and an action plan that you can work on incrementally.
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Detach from your default direction
There’s an impulse to keep heading in the expected direction and doing what you think is required of you even when you’re feeling lost. Instead of admitting we’re lost, we sometimes just go ahead and follow the track set ahead of us by our parents and society in general even when our depression, anger, and anxiety indicate that it’s not working. Resist the pressure to live your life according to some should-idea and make your own path even if it’s scary. The unknown is scary and very few people instinctively know what they want to do with their lives. Try and let go of all the shoulds and ideas about what is normal and expected when dealing with a quarter-life crisis.
As difficult as it is, try and avoid comparing yourself to others. Create a habit where you stop yourself whenever you find yourself comparing your life to others. This will go a long way in helping you deal with a quarter-life crisis.
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Fear and paralysis when it comes to decision-making are some of the key indicators of a quarter-life crisis. Stop making excuses and be courageous in pursuing what you want. Yes, you may have a lot of factors arrayed against you like economic factors outside your control. Yes, failure is possible but that’s life. People fail all time. You will fail too but that’s no reason not to try. Just try, maybe you fail, maybe you don’t. Embrace the uncertainty of it all.
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