I can think of no more exciting time of life than one’s 20s and 30s. It can also be a daunting and disorienting period. What makes it exciting and what makes it daunting are the same: transitioning to adulthood. This “quarterlife period” involves making big decisions and navigating new experiences. Amid the many new experiences, like starting full-time work, moving to a new city, beginning or ending a relationship and becoming financially independent from family, the quarterlifer often is asking, “What am I going to do with my life?” As emerging adults go through transitions, it is common for them to experience a quarterlife crisis.
What is a quarterlife crisis? A quarterlife crisis is when someone in their 20s or 30s experiences overwhelming stress and anxiety regarding the transition into adulthood. It is commonly accompanied by fear of making the wrong choices and a feeling that everyone else has it all figured out.
I have been a therapist for quarterlife clients for more than 10 years and have seen consistent patterns that evolve with clients who are experiencing a quarterlife crisis. There are some common signs of a quarterlife crisis and some particularly helpful ways to deal with it that I would like to share.
These are four warning signs of a quarterlife crisis:
- Feeling lost in life
- Feelings of self-doubt
- Difficulty making decisions
- Lack of motivation
Here is what we need to remember: Many people struggle with these issues in their 20s and 30s, and recognizing a crisis in progress presents amazing opportunities for growth. Confront the quarterlife crisis as soon as possible, and seize the opportunity to be in control of learning how to be motivated, satisfied and intentional in life. There is no magic bullet — it takes significant work and the support of others. By recognizing the symptoms and taking action, one can create a solid foundation for long-term happiness and success.
I’ll share with you three steps that you can take to begin dealing with a quarterlife crisis.
- Take care of yourself. The quarterlife crisis is often marked by feelings of self-doubt and negative self-talk, which makes it hard to prioritize taking care of oneself (which leads to even worse feelings about oneself). So it is essential to get enough sleep at night, take naps, eat well, exercise, relax and have some fun (it’s OK to binge-watch TV or enjoy a large pizza from time to time).
- Get comfortable with yourself. No good comes from comparing yourself with peers. Minimize the use of social media if you find yourself getting down every time you look at what others are posting. Often people live on autopilot without stopping to figure out what they really value and how they want to live their life. Use this opportunity to accept who you are and what you’re about — the good and the bad. If you can get comfortable with yourself, a lifetime of happiness awaits you.
- Don’t go it alone. Lean on others. Countless studies have shown that our greatest satisfactions and some significant health benefits are associated with maintaining close, personal connections. This can be especially true during a quarterlife crisis. Lean on the support of caring people in your life. There are people who want to help: friends, family, mental health professionals.
Navigating a quarterlife crisis is challenging, but facing it now can lead to personal growth that can enrich the rest of your life.