Most people spend their early twenties talking about and following the material world, i.e., things they possess, things they once possessed, or the thing they want to possess. The spectrum of these material wants for a youngster ranges from meaningless friendships to first love, from the newly launched gadget to a sea view apartment. But as they age a little, the reality of life starts weighing in on them. The daydreams turn into anxiety; the thought of magically earning enough money to spend a comfortable life seems a little far-fetched. They start asking important questions, what are they doing with their lives? What do they do to achieve the things they need and want? And how to support their needs? A lot of freelancers feel this type of anxiety.
What is a Quarter Life Crisis?
Quarter Life Crisis is a crisis that usually occurs between the twenties and mid-thirties, which involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life. Usually, this is a period of uncertainty, questioning, and intense soul searching.
Most folks quit their nine to five jobs to follow their passion and escape the system, and some don’t. Those who do skip the daily mundane routine usually state usual reasons such as; corporate culture took too much of their time, leaving so little for them to work on their real calling. The conventional career options become an obstacle to their creative convictions. Their childhood dream jobs are a let-down and don’t match their expectations because of the prevalent sexism that came in the way of them getting a pay-raise and promotions and schedules that leave no space for side projects. The quarter-life crisis strikes in to find answers for escaping the system and still manages to get regular pay-checks.
Quarter Life Crisis what to do?
Since you’re here, let me tell you that this phenomenon is not limited to your or your friend’s life. There are plenty of people who have been through a quarter-life crisis. Many people have taken to social media to find out how pervasive this problem is. To their surprise, the results showed that almost 9 out of 10 individuals were going through some personal or work-related quarter-life crisis. Many people have spoken of it through their posts and messages that they experience it daily on some level.
Some accounts of these crises show a bleak picture. For instance, a woman who was going through a quarter-life crisis said she felt drained beyond her capacity after showing up at multiple jobs and constantly trying to pay up installments for student loans, cars, houses, and credit payments. Will there be a time when she will be able to get past these bills and pursue her dreams?
Several others have found themselves questions that make them question their reality. They often find themselves wondering if they have anything that makes them feel accomplished or anything that will bring passion to the work they do if they should stop chasing their dreams, if they still have enough time left to achieve what they have dreamed of, do they deserve what they want, Do they even have what it takes to make it.
Some people have experienced a quarter-life crisis and never fully recovered from it. In her frustration, a middle-aged woman explained that there is a myth around it, that things fall into place magically, and when they don’t, it gets worse for a person emotionally. The most common problem people faced was that they were working jobs they couldn’t go for jobs they wanted simply because of the lack of the required experience.
Another surprising trend is that many women go through these crises even before they take up a job. College going girls start feeling the pressure of building a reputable career for themselves. The early twenties’ pressure is immense; you have to go from being a clueless student to someone you’ve always idolized. Soon after graduating, the pursuit of a job becomes a priority, along with eating healthy, staying fit, being smart, funny, and likable. Among these expectations, we forget to live our life for our self.
A law student found herself asking the same questions, how will she be able to pay for all things she wants? Why did she join law school at all? How will she fulfill her dreams of getting married, having a house, and kids? How will she find enough time to keep a balance between her life and career?
A young woman, an expatriate and in her early twenties, explained that the issue isn’t exclusive to the Americans. She said she has no idea about what is she going to do with her life? She couldn’t make sense out of things even after thinking a lot about it. She feels she has no purpose in life and often feels lost. She feels like giving it all up and find an escape.
Is Quarter-Life Crises a new phenomenon, or the people before having gone through the same, and they too felt lost in the early years of their twenties?
Behavioral psychologists say that research has shown that quarter-life crises have been increasing. The factors contributing to it are; More options to choose from, increased accessibility, and more support (with the lack of autonomy). The short answer being, ‘Yes, it’s us.’.
Psychologists believe that it happens because this generation of millennials is the educated generation yet, there exist fewer barriers that restrict one’s entry into many professions and occupations. Moreover, we have been raised to believe that nothing is beyond reach, meaning even the worst can happen. This causes the pressure to increase, the abundance of choices makes them miserable, and emotions overcome their senses.
The problem is further escalated by easy access to social media, where everybody can see other people’s successes. The natural tendency of comparing our achievements with others further increases anxiety. In the 90s did all they could to help their children thrive; this might have been that has done the damage. Recent research has found that when parents become over engaged in their children’s lives while trying to be supportive, the same children in adulthood report more mental health issues like anxiety, lack of self-confidence, and depression. Sometimes even the best intentions may hinder the children’s growth opportunities and make them more prone to failures.
So, if you wish to blame the parents next time, researchers have got your back.
This certainly, very accurately, on some level, explains why many suffer from anxiety coupled with boredom in their day to day lives. Quarter-life crises of two people are not the same, but some signs may be common to all, like uncertainty, doubt, and insecurity about your profession, finances, and relationships.
While some anxiety is part and parcel of becoming an adult, Psychologists believe that uncertainty Intolerance might be emerging in adults, as suggested by some new evidence. R. Nicholas, research in UI, says that this generation may be experiencing difficulties with uncertainty, even more than the previous generations.
Knowing all we know, how does one shield oneself from a quarter-life crisis?
The proper way of getting through any life change is proper skills for outside and inside factors. Finances, relationships, and careers are the factors that exist outside while one’s values play an important role in making decisions about goals around this domain. The questions one can ask while making decisions are ‘what does he wish to become in a certain area of their life?’, ‘What is it that you really believe in?’. Only after finding answers to these questions, one should make commitments that fit those values.
Experts recommend settings milestones in such a way that it becomes easier for you to follow through. Like setting goals for yourself in blocks such as what is the best, you can do? What level of work is acceptable for you? What is the least you should do?
The tricky part of protecting oneself from a crisis is dealing with inner emotions like indecision, doubt, and insecurity. This bit is tricky as emotions can be counterintuitive, i.e., they may not follow the rules of common sense and logic. Science has revealed that emotions require special care, and it might not be what your mind is telling.
It can be done by following a step by step process, as suggested by experts, to validate, then check, and finally change.
You can start by labeling your emotions to validate them; it can help you regulate your emotions even better. After this, it is important to be gentle with yourself. Remind yourself constantly that you’re human and feel emotions, which bring comfort, and even those that bring discomfort are natural, and keep telling yourself that it’s okay to be and feel human.
Emotions cannot be ignored for too long; if you do, they will somehow show their effects on your mental health.
The next step is to check the accuracy of your thoughts. Be consistent with your efforts to be in the present moment. Stop yourself from diving into the deep abyss of worry and negative thoughts. Keep asking yourself whether your thoughts are accurate or not.
Lastly, bring a change through actions. You are totally responsible and in control of your actions. Be prompt in taking care of the body as a healthy mind resides in a healthy body. Your body can help you in taking great care of the mind. Engage in self-care that prevents stress and anxiety to make the body healthy through meditation, work-out, avoiding substances, getting nutritious food, and sleeping-well.
This directly helps in dealing with the threats and anxiety which build up and almost everyone experiences. But work-related exhaustion has been a major cause of triggering quarter-life crises in many. It’s the outside factor that is mixed-up with the inside. A teacher who left her job explained that she left her job because of burnout, a dominant factor because of which most of the teachers leave their job. She worked in a school and had to write the whole curriculum in two different languages, and was heavily overworked. She realized that she was depressed, did not get enough sleep, and paid no attention to self-care. She realized she needs to stop resisting.
Expert says it is important to build emotional self-care practices in our daily lives to avoid burnout in today’s busy and distracting environment. The times we live in offers us abundant opportunities to neglect our emotions, avoid, suppress, and control them. Motivation and life satisfaction, which is a driving force in our lives, are dependent on these emotions. Like little kids, if we ignore our emotions for long, they may try and get your attention and start screaming. Here, you have to act like a parent, a caring one, and try to understand what your emotions are trying to convey and don’t let them take control of your everyday life.
Experts’ last advice to deal with quarter-life crises is not to let your job title control your self-esteem.
When one says he is a professional, an artist, or a founder, he attaches a label to himself. It’s a way of communicating our concept of self in shorthand. Being attached to a label or a position in the hierarchy signifies that we are trying to defend ourselves from self-doubt or deep-rooted insecurity. This also becomes a problem when you have to undergo a change or some kind of transition; it makes us rigid and reduces our resilience to any stress that any change might bring. When the context changes, a person’s achievement and status symbol might mean nothing to another.
We may be more likely to face adverse effects of anxiety and stress when we keep ourselves limited to the external presentation and keep clinging to it. So, it is better to consider yourself a human and show yourself a little more self-compassion than relying on the perceived self-worth that comes with a job title to eliminate doubt and uncertainty. One has to acknowledge the messy internal state of mind and then take behavioral decisions that match your own values.
It is important to note that you must decide what your markers of ambition and success are; are these markers based on things that you consider to be important rather than what people close to you consider to be of value. It is also important to realize that being in doubt and uncertainty is perfectly fine, and if for some reason you are not experiencing it, you need to stop and give it a thought for a while.
Life has taught me that facing big and lofty questions about life and its purpose is inevitable, and there is no other experience more humane than this. The severity of these questions might scare you but remember there is no deadline to answer them; you need to figure out stuff at your own pace. Be ready to accept that your professional and personal life might take several turns throughout your life, and you need to block that negative thinking if your current job pays off your bills and you haven’t crossed any major boxes of things you wish to achieve. It’s time to let go of the pressure of having a perfect life and relax a little bit. In reality, nobody has figured it out; all we have just convinced ourselves that others have.