I always thought that having a life crisis was reserved for those who are much older than me. Affecting the people who have somehow let life pass them by and are unable to cope with the enormity of their shortcomings. And to fix this, they make wild and reckless decisions that seem odd to those around them. Yet, when I started feeling overly anxious, depressed and incredibly insecure about my future at the tender age of 23, I knew that a life crisis wasn’t beyond me.
And this seems to be the case for many young people. Quarter life crises are being felt a lot more compared to the past, causing many of us to evaluate our existence and direction much earlier. In fact, a study carried out by First Direct bank and psychologist Dr Oliver Robinson, found that six in 10 millennials claim to be going through a “quarter-life” crisis. His research also showed that many 25–35 year olds struggling to cope with financial, career and personal pressures, as well as feeling at rock bottom for more than six months before trying to “sort their life out”. This seems unbelievable when we have so much growing and life experiences to do. How can the feeling of inadequacy and frustration catch us so young?
Though, I can’t help but feel like us living in the social media era, plays a big part in all of this. Where everyone wants to be seen as doing or being more, it isn’t particularly surprising that so many of us feel like we aren’t good enough. This was corroborated when a study found that 62% percent of people say social media sites make them feel inadequate about their own life or achievements. We are so hyper-visible to each other that every success or win is in your face and you can do little to avoid it. So, when you’re feeling low, just being online can lead you into a vicious cycle of comparing yourself, making you feel ten times worse. You begin to question who you are and your purpose in life, which for many is already challenging to figure out.
But how does one overcome this or even avoid it altogether?
Well, it’s important to understand exactly how a quarter life crisis works. Dr. Oliver Robinson at the University of Greenwich, found five main stages:
- Phase One: You feel trapped by your life choices, like your job, relationship, or both. You’re living on “autopilot.”
- Phase Two: You get a sense of “I’ve got to get out of this” and feel a growing sense that change is possible if you just take a leap.
- Phase Three: You quit the job, end the relationship, or break the commitment that’s making you feel trapped. Then you detach and enter a “time out” period where try to rediscover who you are and who you want to be.
- Phase Four: You begin rebuilding your life slowly but surely.
- Phase Five: You develop new commitments that are more in line with your interests and aspirations.
I remember being in Phase One, always wondering when life would get better and dreaming of time when I would reach Phase five, feeling settled and of sound mind. But, everything constantly felt out of my reach and all the worry of fulfilling my goals caused my stress levels to rise.
But, that’s exactly the challenge of dealing with a life crisis. By staying in Phase One, I was allowing my problems to consume me, therefore isolating myself from those that can help. It wasn’t until I fully realised the commonality of a quarter life crisis, that I began to feel better about life. So many of my friends felt the same way and perhaps were just better at dealing it. They too have felt unhappy or depressed with their situation but didn’t allow it to stop them.
And this is extremely important when trying to power through a life crisis. Clinical psychologist, Jeffrey DeGroat, thinks that working on your emotional intelligence is one of the key factors when dealing with such a difficult time. One way being, ridding yourself of any self-pity and developing a healthy perspective on life. Of course, this seems generic, but it’s been proven that being mindful of your emotions and how you deal with them is the key to success. I personally love Pick Me Up Inc — an Instagram profile dedicated to making you see the good in life. It helps me to stay focused and remain positive in times of real stress.
But after you’ve done this and crossed over to Phase Two, ready for real change how do you actually make your life better? Okay here it goes…you address the problem head on. For me, it was about figuring out what I loved to do, which was to write. Realising this helped me to quickly slip into Phase Three and take steps forwards into my purpose. This is especially important for those trying to change career or start a side hustle. Career hub, The Muse, state this is a simple way of bringing happiness into your life, helping you feel more fulfilled.
I finally landed in Phase 5 when I got the job I wanted. But achieving this was simply the outcome of doing all the necessary work beforehand. I had taken the time to build up self-help techniques that made me more resistant to stress. It also helped to build up a network of friends and mentors where I could find solidarity and advice. Nathan Gehlert, Ph.D., a Washington D.C. psychologist, says, “It’s really important to have someone who you can be completely honest with.” They help you to keep a cleared mind and pinpoint areas where you may be going wrong.
Though, I want to be honest with you guys, the phases of a quarter life crisis often repeat themselves. It took me a long time before I was able to fully take control of my life. The emotional wreckage a crisis caused was monumental. But just as I did, anyone going through a quarter life crisis will overcome. It’s a long arduous journey of adulting and really working on yourself. Though, as long as you stay focused and push through the mental angst, seeking help along the way, you’ll make it. And as my favourite Pick Me Up Inc quote goes, “Winter always turns to spring.”
by Sosa Sharon