A Quarter of Life Crisis (How To Understand & Overcome it)

Most of us have been there. We reach that point in life where we rethink our choices and look back to see where life has taken us — perhaps, after college or when we are a few years older. 

We’d often find ourselves in a hellhole of not knowing what to do next regarding our career and life plans. If you had to go through this, you’re most likely dealing with a quarter-of-life crisis. 

introverted girl going through quarter life crisis

What is a Quarter-Life Crisis?

It’s not unusual for young adults to go through a “quarter-life crisis,” which is comparable to “midlife crises” that typically strike middle-aged people down the line. It’s a stage in a person’s life when they’re trying to figure out who they are and what they want, and throughout this process, they frequently experience a sensation of worry and uncertainty.

A quarter-life crisis in popular psychology is anxiety concerning the direction and quality of one’s life. It is a time in a young adult’s life that usually occurs between the mid-twenties and the early-to-mid thirties.

One of the main problems with the quarter-life crisis is that people going through it feel like they shouldn’t be having problems because these years are supposed to be fun and easy. So, they or other people in their lives may try to brush off the issues they are going through.

Like the more well-known midlife crisis, the quarter-life situation is a time of doubt and questioning that usually happens between the mid-20s and early 30s, when people feel stuck, uninspired, and disappointed. People may feel stuck in a dead-end job while all their friends move up in their careers. They may also wonder why they can’t keep a relationship while others in their social circle are getting married and having kids.

Most of the time, a quarter-life crisis happens in four stages. First, a person feels stuck in some way, either in their personal or professional lives. Then, there is some kind of separation or loneliness, like moving to a new city or ending a romantic relationship. During this time of isolation, they will think about where they are in life and maybe change their plans; then, when the crisis is over, they will try out new activities, social groups, or job opportunities.

For some people, this may be the happiest time of their lives. But to others, there is a lot of strain at this age and problems that are unique to this time of life.

What Causes a Quarter-Life Crisis?

Some of the most common stressors in our lives are:

  • Too much job hunting, planning for a career or going to interviews.
  • Having trouble with being alone for the first time.
  • Figuring out how to handle a new or severe relationship.
  • Having to make long-term decisions for yourself or your job or overthinking those decisions.
  • Being afraid of significant life changes or not having enough of them.

During this period of their lives, many people go through significant upheaval, change, and disappointment, all of which can cause them to feel overwhelmed, unsure of themselves, and have a lot of other negative emotions.

A quarter-life crisis and what caused it will look a little different depending on the person, but for many, it comes down to the disappointment of young adulthood. After a while in the “real world,” people can feel lost, whether in their careers, personal lives, or communities.

Finding out that the reality of a career is substantially different from what you expected it to be maybe a heartbreaking experience. Especially if someone had a strong vision of who they wanted to be or what they wanted to do for a career, only to get there and realize it wasn’t right for them.

Comparing yourself to your friends can also be a significant cause of quarter-life crises, like when you see your friends get promoted at work or get married. You may wonder, “Why isn’t that happening to me? “Or “What am I doing wrong?”

The pressure of a quarter-life crisis is to find out how to get to the midlife point in a way that works for you, as opposed to the “running out of time” focus of a midlife crisis.

Signs of a Quarter-Life Crisis

A quarter-life crisis is a personal or work-related issue that may manifest in the early to mid-twenties. These events might include depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. A quarter-life crisis can be stressful and overwhelming, but the good news is that there are steps you can take to address these feelings.

Impulsive Behavior 

People going through a quarter-life crisis can sometimes be impulsive, but not always. If someone realizes they hate the job they’ve been dreaming about, they might quit on the spot and go backpacking somewhere for a month without giving it much thought. 

Having a desire for change 

The need for change will feel urgent. A strong feeling that something has to give is a sign of a quarter-life crisis. It’s this need for change but not knowing what that change needs to look like to be fulfilled.

Fluctuating Relationship 

Relationships can sometimes be affected depending on what made you have a quarter-life crisis. For example, if you’re on a new spiritual path, you might want to break up with your partner or create a new group of friends. This happens often, but you should handle it carefully if you don’t want to break up healthy friendships just because you want something different.

 Trouble deciding what to do 

The pressure to choose a quarter-life crisis can make it even harder to determine. A person may be thinking about many different things they could do in the future, like what city to move to or what job to get, and they may overthink the pros and cons of each choice to the point where they have a hard time moving forward.

Feelings of isolation 

Having a quarter-life crisis can make you feel really alone, mainly if you carry it on by comparing yourself to other people. You might feel like you’re the only one having trouble and that everyone else has their life figured out.

Feeling directionless 

In the same way that it’s common to have trouble making decisions during a quarter-life crisis, it’s also common to feel like you don’t know where you’re going. People often feel confused, uncertain, and stuck during this time in life. A quarter-life crisis is when you feel empty, like something is missing, unmotivated, and don’t know what to do with your life.

Depression and anxiety

 As you may have guessed, quarter-life crises are challenging. As a result, they are often accompanied by depression and anxiety, which go hand in hand with feeling lonely and alone. It can look like the person is burned out at work, even though they may not have been working for that long and that someone doesn’t want to do their work or isn’t doing their job the way they used to.

Feeling Insecurity 

Insecurity is another vital part of a quarter-life crisis because this is about young adults trying to figure out where they belong in the world and who they want to be. It can be scary, embarrassing, and make you feel many other bad things, especially if part of the problem comes from comparing yourself to others. This could look like a lack of confidence or even impostor syndrome.

Phases of a Quarter-Life Crisis

  1. The initial crisis. A quarter-life crisis can start slowly or quickly, depending on what makes it start. In the first stage, you realize that you’re stuck, have no direction, don’t know who you are, etc. You feel like you’re completely stuck in a relationship, a job, or just negative energy.
  2. The battle. You can think of the second part of a quarter-life crisis as the most challenging part, when you’ll struggle, question everything, and probably feel very alone. The feeling of being lost can get worse, and it can be terrifying to take steps forward. You’ll have good days in which you feel that getting through this will be possible and start envisioning what it is you want for your life.
  3. You are making progress. As you work through a quarter-life crisis, things will improve when you realize what needs to change and start making those changes. You’ll begin to see the results of your hard work when you’re finally able to make those changes toward the life you want. In this phase, your life is more in sync.
  4. Resolution. And finally, the quarter-life crisis ends with a solution that gets better and better after the third phase. At some point, the person pulls together their resources and finds a way to move on. In the resolution phase, you’re more sure of how you use your energy, you’re able to take care of yourself, and your life, in general, feels more satisfying.

How to Overcome a Quarter-Life Crisis

  • Get support

Regarding support, it’s important to remember that you must figure out what’s best for you, not your parents, friends, or society. It’s also essential to have your support system, whether it’s friends or family members you can talk to. People should ask for help, but they shouldn’t let other people tell them how to live their lives.

  • Reflect

Figuring out who you are and where you want to go in life is a big part of a quarter-life crisis, so taking time to think about it can be very helpful. Even if you don’t like to write in a journal, you could talk out loud into the voice memo app on your phone or write quick thoughts in your notes. You can ask yourself, “Who am I, and what do I want?” and “How can I make a plan to get that for myself?”

  • Be patient with yourself.

Even though it may be hard to accept, you don’t have to know everything. What you want is likely to change over time, which is fine. The whole process can feel easier now if you’re just kind and give yourself time.

  • Let go of all the should’s

Now that you know this, you’ll be surprised at how often you use this language. If you say, “I should be” or “I have to,” you are trying to live your life by other people’s standards. Living by others’ standards won’t bring you happiness or fulfillment. Even utilizing this phrase causes self-judgment and stress without any action.

  • Practice Responding Rather Than Reacting

Most of the time, when we speak or act, it’s because of something we just heard or saw. When we respond, we give ourselves a little time between what someone says or does and what we say or do in response. It doesn’t have to be a long, dramatic pause. Just enough time to think about what we do and say is enough.

  • Get Clear on What Is Important to You

Most of the time, you live your life unconsciously and don’t know what’s important to you, just like most people. This means it will be hard for you to make decisions that make you feel good on the inside. As you start to let go of what you think should be necessary, you make room to figure out what matters to you.

  • Try something new

Last but not least, this is a time to discover more about yourself and explore so that you can come out of your quarter-life crisis with a stronger sense of who you are. Permit yourself to try things, test the waters with who you’re dating or with different careers, and take this one step at a time and treat it like an experiment. You’ll find out what works and what doesn’t this way.

  • Keep Everything in Check

In this case, balance doesn’t mean juggling all of your roles and responsibilities every day. Instead, finding a balance between your physical body, mind, and guiding spirit lets you fit into your parts. Balance also doesn’t mean giving each thing the same amount of time but being aware of each item and recognizing its role in your life.

Final Thoughts

As a culture, we all think that age 25 is the best time of our lives. These people are happy, doing everything they want, and it’s a great time to be alive. 

Try to look at your life as a whole and remember that you don’t have to figure everything out when you’re 25, 32, or 35. You don’t have to know precisely how your life will go from here on out.

You will feel this crisis point end and gain clarity on precisely what will light up your life if you are patient and kind with yourself as you go through what may be your most exciting life-changing period.

Remember that you are not the only one going through a quarter-life crisis. You will get through this, and help is always available. Even though it may take time, patience, and work, the lessons you learn during a quarter-life crisis will give you a stronger sense of who you are as you move into the next phase of your adult life.

In the end, only what is essential to you and what you truly want will bring you happiness and fulfillment; no one else’s life, desires, or dreams can achieve that.

Garo Kotchounian

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