What were you doing ten years ago? If you were like a lot of post or almost-post grads, you were likely in the midst of some forward motion in your life. Big things were happening, and you were changing for the better. Now, imagine you’re going to ask Yourself From Ten Years ago a few questions. What did you think you’d be doing at this moment? Would you have the career you do? The family you do? The social interactions you do? The accolades and expertise you do? The possessions you do? Or don’t, in some cases. Life has a funny habit of not turning out the way you plan.
For some between the ages of 25-35 — clustering around the age of 30 — their expectations of their lives haven’t materialized, and the uncertainty surrounding their futures is weighing them down. Many feel career or personal pressure to commit because they wonder if they’re running out of time to make adjustments. These individuals may feel insecure, lonely, disappointed, or even depressed.
The good news is that having a quarter-life crisis is more common than you may think, so both the warning signs for identification and the recommendations for navigation are readily available.
If you can relate to any of the following characteristics, you are at a higher risk of experiencing a quarter-life crisis:
- You like to plan out your personal or professional goals, complete with the age at which you should reach them.
- You have a strong idealism about your life.
- You have a desire for conventional success.
- You fear failure.
- You think fitting in is important.
If you’re in the throes of a quarter-life crisis, you may:
- Feel frustrated and out of place.
- Lose confidence in both your personal and professional life.
- Struggle to plan for the future.
- Feel as though you’re going through the motions and be angry about it.
- Experience depression.
All hope is not lost if you decide you’re in a quarter-life crisis. In fact, some researchers even feel this can turn out to be a positive time in your life (in hindsight, of course). In a 2011 study, Dr. Oliver Robinson, from the University of Greenwich and Birkbeck College in the UK, found that quarter-life crises tended to take about two years until resolution and have four phases:
- Feeling locked in or trapped
- Experiencing a rising sense that change is possible
- Rebuilding a new life
- Developing new aspiration and value-driven commitments
What exactly happens between step one and step two, though? How do you go from feeling trapped to believing change is possible? Besides therapy — which should in no way be discounted if your depression is severe — here are a few strategies:
- Be accepting of challenges.
- Practice self-patience.
- Find or reevaluate your purpose and goals.
- Do things that matter to you rather than what you think should matter.
Having a quarter-life crisis is not something you should be ashamed of. Many struggle with trying to define purpose and direction in their lives, and that seems to come to a head for those in this particular age group. The good news is that there are signs you can look for to help you identify whether or not you’re actually in quarter-life crisis mode. And, if you are, there are steps you can take to help pull yourself up. Most importantly, remember that you’re not alone and this is a common issue for millennials.