A “quarter-life crisis” was coined by the UK psychologist Alex Fowke and denotes the period in one’s life – anywhere from 18 to your mid-30s – when you face “a period of insecurity, doubt and disappointment surrounding your career, relationships and financial situation.” It may come before or after you complete your college studies. Or if you aren’t entering academia, it can come sooner when you have to face the real world challenges of getting a job.
What triggers the quarter-life crisis?
You may face the quarter-life crisis when things don’t go according to the plan you have had since childhood. For example, if you don’t get into the school you wanted to attend. Or you don’t get the job you’ve wanted. Or your boyfriend dumps you instead of marrying you. Or you find yourself sinking in credit card debt rather than achieving the success you envisioned. Do you feel yourself pulled in too many directions?
So how can you overcome this crisis?
The first step is facing the reality of your situation. Don’t pretend to your friends and family that everything is fine when it isn’t. Be honest. Tell them about what has happened. Tell them how you are feeling. And if you think that talking to those close to you will only make you feel worse, talk to a therapist instead.
Maybe it is time to make a new plan based on more realistic goals and aspirations. Spend some time journaling about the small things that make you happy. Rather than thinking how a brilliant job, a new car or whatever would make you smile, thinks about smaller things. For example, which park do you like going for a walk in? Go outside at sunset or sunrise. Look at the colors in the sky. Have a bubble bath. Play your favorite music. Dance to it.
What are some small steps you can take to improve your situation?
Try and come up with something you can do. It doesn’t have to be a large step. It might be doing another shift at the cafe and putting that extra $10 towards your credit card debt. It might be free-writing whatever comes into your head.
Don’t make any major changes. Don’t sell everything and run overseas. Running away isn’t the answer. Instead stop and reflect on how you got into your current situation. Didn’t you make a few decisions that led you down the wrong path? For example, if you find yourself in a big city with no friends because you took what you thought would be a great job, call one of your old friends back home and have a chat. Think about ways to make new friends.
If you aren’t the success you thought you would be, stop looking at social media for a while. Comparing yourself to others will only bring you down. And remember that nobody makes posts or photos of their bad days. So they probably have just as many rough days as you do. Life is more like a rollercoaster than an album of happy snaps.
A quarter-life crisis doesn’t last forever
Treat it as a crisis. Even cities that have been flattened by tornados eventually rebuild themselves. There is time to change the course of your life. That’s not to say that what you are going through now isn’t major. But after you take some time for yourself and treat yourself with compassion, it may not look as bad as it looks now. Using one small change at a time, you will pull yourself out of this mess. You will eventually find a new direction that brings you more happiness and fulfilment.