Midlife crisis (sometimes mid-life crisis or mid life crisis) is a well-covered subject. Experts have written articles and discussed it on talk shows. It is also the basis for many movies and tv shows.
The concept of midlife crisis was invented in 1957 by Canadian social scientist Elliott Jaques. Midlife crisis typically happens to individuals in their 40s and 50s — who are forced to face the realities brought on by aging, both internally and externally.
A Crisis in Quarter-Life
Life in your mid-20s to early 30s is supposed to be fun and exciting. Unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky. Some of us experience a period of anxiety, insecurities, and even depression. If that’s what you’re experiencing, you could be having a quarter-life crisis.
Quarter-life crisis is a sign that whatever it is that you’re doing now, it’s not impacting you in a strong, positive way that would make you want to continue the path you’ve chosen. It may be the lack of direction, not knowing where you’re headed, the anxiety of not getting there. Or it may be the lack of meaning behind what you’re doing, the feeling you’re not contributing enough to society.
So how do you know you’re having a quarter-life crisis? Or you’re just bored? Unfortunately, there are no scientific tests to give you a definite answer. However, you may want to pay closer attention if you experience one or more of the following symptoms.
- Mood changes. You used to be happy and cheerful, now you’re sad and gloomy most of the time.
- Mood swings. You go from feeling zero to hulk in 3 seconds. Easily irritated.
- Weight gain or weight loss.
- Changes in sleep patterns. Is insomnia becoming more frequent? Or are you sleeping way more than you normally do?
- Becoming cynical.
- Becoming anti-social. There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert per se. But if you’re going from extrovert from hating to meet people that could indicate something is wrong.
- Unkept appearance
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Regrets are becoming more frequent
How to Deal with Quarter-Life Crisis
So you’re pretty sure that you’re going through a rough patch in life. How do you deal with it? What are some of the things to do to get out of this valley? Here are some suggestions:-
1. Be Honest
Have you been honest with yourself?
Honesty is a good virtue. Telling lies are frown upon in our society. But do you know what’s worse than lying to other people? Lying to yourself.
There are times when lying to yourself can be helpful. For example, if you’re anxious about a presentation and you lie to yourself that you’re the best in the world at what you do, that you’re charismatic, and you’re the greatest looking person ever. White lies like these are fine.
But you should never lie to yourself about what you truly want. Do you really want to move to the city for a better paying job? There’s more money to be made, but you’re really liking it here. Do you really want to virtually live at the office just to get that promotion?
People say you have to get out of your comfort zone. But is outside the comfort zone where you want to be? Sometimes going out of our comfort zone is a great way for us to grow. Other times, it’s just a lame excuse for us to not follow our hearts.
The first step in overcoming this crisis is to open up a communication channel to your true self. Be truthful to yourself. If you lie to yourself, nothing will fix your problems ever. Because you won’t be able to identify the real problem, to begin with.
2. Find Purpose
What is your true purpose in life? What are your goals?
A life crisis may be caused by the lack of well-defined goals. It prompts the search for meaning of life. So ask yourself what animates you? What makes you smile? What makes you feel alive? What do you do best? What makes you happy and fulfilled? What do you really want?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it’s perfectly fine. Those are deep questions that require you to think hard. You just have to find time and space for yourself to do some soul searching. Sometimes your purpose is discovered. More often, it is decided — you have to decide what is your purpose in life. Once you have a purpose or objective, make SMART goals for yourself. SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-oriented.
Yes, sometimes your goals can be materialistic. People sometimes joke about buying a shiny new car is the biggest symptom of a midlife crisis. But guess what, if you’re really being honest with yourself and you decide that a new car will make you truly happy… by all means go for it. But don’t do it just to ease your pain, because that solution is only temporary but the financial impact is permanent.
3. Support Group
Build a support group
Try to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Find good listeners who are willing to listen to your problems and aspirations. Ideally, that’s how your support group should look like.
Here’s a cold harsh truth. Most people are not interested in your problems. They have their own crisis to manage. You’re lucky if you have a supportive friend who listens to all your problems. Promise me you’ll keep them for life. Because a good friend like this is few and far between.
Does that mean building a support group is impossible after all? No! You just have to be more flexible with your approach. Instead of a rigid, compact group, your support system should be flexible and extensive. You can confide in your parents, your best friends, your sponsor, your priest, your therapist, and anyone who means something to you. You may be surprised to hear they went through similar situations. And I am sure they’d be happy to share what worked for them.
Chances are they won’t care about all your problems. But you don’t need them to anyway. Each of them only has to care about some of your problems.
These are also the people who care about you. This means they will check in from time to time and ask you about your progress, what have you done to overcome a certain roadblock.
4. Don’t Compare
Stop comparing yourself to your peers
What is meaningful for others may not be meaningful for you.
Other people have different starts in life. They also have vastly different backgrounds and different chances of becoming successful.
Speaking of success. Not everyone defines success in the same way. Success may mean money, but also very long hours in the office and no time for family or friends. Think long and hard before sacrificing relationships and time to get money. Because that may not be the kind of success you’re looking for.
Remember what we talked about earlier in this article? You gotta be honest with yourself. Just because you’re feeling envious of someone’s achievements doesn’t mean that you actually want to achieve them yourself. Perhaps you’ve mistakened about what you’re feeling inside. Perhaps you’re simply feeling happy for your friends.
And you know what. It’s possible that those are the achievements that you want to achieve. But you feel like they are out of reach. That’s fine, too! Someday you’ll get there for sure! And even if you don’t, at least you tried. Nothing is shameful about that. Just remember that as long as you love yourself, you will always feel loved.
Social media is both a blessing and a curse. If you’re finding you’re constantly comparing yourself with others, it might be a good idea to take a break from social media.
5. Refuse to Settle
Observe. Analyze your current status.
Find out why you’re not happy with your life. If it’s something you can change, you’re lucky.
If what’s upsetting you is something you can’t fix. Then adjust your attitude towards that aspect and find ways to compensates for what’s missing.
Be mindful of how you’re feeling. Each morning when you wake up, ask yourself: am I happy with what I am doing? If the answer is “No” for ten consecutive days, that’s a sign that you need some change.
Believe in yourself and rely on your instinct because no one knows you better than you do, and find the energy to make that painful change. In two months you will be happy you have started going to the gym in two months ago. You will be happy you’ve had that difficult conversation with your boss asking for a raise. Sometimes we have to make a difficult decision so that our future self can have a better life.
If you refuse to settle, you will challenge yourself constantly to find alternative ways to improve your life. There is no guarantee that if you try, you will succeed. At the end of the day, you will only regret the chances you’ve missed. But even a failure can be meaningful, and you can learn from it.
5. Love Yourself
Find time to relax and unwind
Take it easy. Don’t beat yourself up.
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Finding time to rest is crucial.
You need to recharge your batteries to continue this amazing self-discovery journey.
Make time for friends. Go out and meet with people who bring value to your life.
Make time for activities that bring meaning to others’ lives. You will be impressed by how meaningful your life becomes by giving.
This too shall pass
You should absolutely try your very best to overcome this crisis, but sometimes in life, the best thing to do could be just to accept your true self.
Understand that you may be trying best to overcome your crisis in life and still fail. And that’s OK. Maybe the goals you set are too ambitious after all. Not everyone can become Taylor Swift or Oprah or Bill Gates.
Perhaps the solution to your quarter-life crisis is in you all the while. And the solution is to give yourself the love you deserve.