Quarter-life crisis: what is it and what can you do against it?

By now you’ve likely heard of the quarter-life crisis — a period of insecurity and doubt that many people in their mid-20s to early 30s go through surrounding their career, relationships, and finances. 

Before diving into the actions you can take to get over your quarter-life crisis, let’s first see which crisis we go through.

Much more crisis before the quarter-life crisis

Life Scientists say that people have a personal crisis every 5 years. If people think about their own first conflicts often comes the teenage rebellion as first in mind. The teens get the desire to separate from their parents, get in conflict and develop their own individuality. But crises start much earlier. First with 8-12 months when babies realize they will be physically separated from their parents. Secondly at 3-4 years old when children try out the borders of freedom and test their parents. They mostly have to adapt to their parent’s behavior. Then starting from 7-9 years old in school when children start to think and learn from society. Lastly, before even the quarter-life crisis, the crisis of teenage years and first broken hearts. These are all conscious life-changing moments that all of us need to go through.

 

Personal crises are a continuous pattern in our lives

As seen previously, people encounter a crisis every 5 years. But in your 20s, the type of crisis varies. Young people have too much energy to realize the problems but for many, it is the change of context. Change from university to the first job, worries about salary, apartment, etc. The teenage years are definitely over and the carefree times too. 

On the positive side, humans develop dispositions and their main habits in those life periods. These crises also form the brain patterns and main neurological channels that we currently have. This time could be seen as a white paper where the decisions you make color it. The majority of the established neuroscience literature says it is hard to change behavior, values,  and orientation systems at later age. Indeed, neuroplasticity is decreasing and you develop your main neurological channels and habits within this time. It is like a runway for your thoughts. But there are also a few scientists like Joe Dispenza that show the latest research opportunities and techniques to restructure the brain again. These groundbreaking results are new and hard to believe but the scientific measurements say: It is possible!. Now back to the main topic, the crisis.

What is a quarter-life crisis?

Different perspectives:

“Quarter-life crisis” are words being thrown around more and more regularly. The female comedian Taylor Tomlinson, who is halfway through her 20s talked about it in her Netflix special show. She described a quarter-life crisis as the time when you’re “too old to party, too young to settle down.” In reality, this remains still quite a new topic for the majority. It is not a real spreader in the media and is not well discussed and publicly. It is a quite new phenomenon.

From a more research perspective, psychologist Oliver Robinson explains that “it’s essentially any transitional episode that young adult experiences that typically lasts a year or so, during which time they are emotionally unstable. Anything from changing social groups to breaking up with a partner comes with an overriding sense of grief which has to be dealt with in order for that person to move on.” He adds that the crisis often serves as a crucial turning point in a person’s life. This change in direction often includes a career move.

The professional and personal aspects:

The impact of professional life represents a big trunk of this quarter-life crisis, as discussed later in this article. The amount of people going through this crisis also keeps on growing. Chances are good you may experience your own. In fact, 75% of 25-33-year-olds have experienced a quarter-life crisis, often related to feeling like they are at a crossroads in their career, family, or life situations. You also feel these emotions on a personal level. The crossroad of love relationships in particular impacts young people and gives them a feeling of uncertainty.

Who is at risk?

Age as a common denominator

More women than men in their 20s experience a crisis episode, at 49 percent and 39 percent respectively, Robinson found in a separate study. Triggers for men are more work-related. For women, it was more common to experience crises due to relationship and family matters. Still, it’s is individual but the age and its life phase, with its individual problems is the common denominator.

But should you panic?

Psychology instructor and career coach Rebecca Fraser-Thill tells Bloomberg that a quarter-life career crisis actually makes sense. “In early adulthood, we tend to gravitate toward careers modeled on the people closest to us: what adult family members do for a living or what our friends plan to do. Our 20s take us through a process of ‘individuation,’ where we gain a better sense of our own values and talents. That’s when the itch sets in.” Quarter-life crises also represent a difficult moment in life where decisions have to be made. It is not always a sign of negativity!

The decade between childhood and adulthood is confusing at best. Psychologists and experts say people today are suffering more than previous generations did. Life coach Ran Zilca writes: “For instance, the average age for the onset of depression has dropped from the late 40s or early 50s, where it was 30 years ago, to mid-20s, and it’s expected to drop further.” This can be explained by the faster pace at which young people enter a hectic environment. This hectic lifestyle cannot be dissociated from the omnipresent presence of social media platforms.

The impact of the professional Life:

As stated above, many quarter-life crises appear due to problems in professional life.  A Linkedin study has explored where these issues came from. The main observation shows that finding a job that they’re passionate about is the top concern.

While most people have experienced a quarter-life crisis, what exactly is causing this anxiety? Sixty-one percent say finding a job or career they’re passionate about is the number one cause. Another top reason is comparing themselves to their more successful friends. Nearly half (48%) say this has caused them anxiety, with women feeling this even more than men (51% vs. 41%).

People in this age range feel a lot of uncertainty and frustration around their careers, even more so than pressure around their relationships and personal life goals.

However, there are ways to overcome these challenges.

How to overcome a Quarter-Life Crisis

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” —Gail Sheehy

It is professional: How to make smart career moves during a quarter-life crisis

In order to move through and beyond a quarter-life crisis, you may need a little objective advice. In his book, The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: Invent Your Own Path, Find Meaningful Work, and Build a Life That Matters, Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky, says he felt trapped in his perfect job at the Peace Corps in Washington, DC. Promoted often, he traveled, he had health insurance and job security, and was making $70,000 at the age of 28. He was miserable.

It took him a year before he did anything about it, and in his book, he tells other young people that it’s okay to leave a job everyone else thinks is awesome and that it’s okay to not know exactly what you want and to invent your own path. His 10-step workbook is a valuable (free) guide to how you can turn your crisis into a breakthrough.

If it is personal: change environment and explore yourself

Not only do careers have an impact on crises that young people go through. In our personal lives, we are subject to a lot of stress that impacts us negatively such as tech. Clinical psychologist Lara Fielding says “technology as a constant source of reassurance may also be paradoxically contributing to reductions in a necessary amount of tolerance of uncertainty.” We’re a generation of instant gratification Googlers, searching online for immediate answers. The problem is that when you’re entering adulthood, with its new realities and uncertainties, there is no dependable source of absolute information. Consequently, our intolerance of uncertainty causes fear.

And if you’re at a complete loss as to what you want to do with your life and what you’re actually interested in, career change coach Alice Stapleton says to take action anyway. Explore everything. Take courses and go to conferences, read job profiles, interview people about their careers, think about why you read the books you read, why you watch the shows you watch and listen to the music you do to determine your interests. You may just find the spark necessary to change your life. 

All these actions and activities that you can do to overcome your quarter-life crisis evolve around the concept of self-reflection. Accepting yourself for who you are and living with the decisions you make. Self-reflection and its developments are one of the keys to go through life and its crisis. 

If you are curious about self-reflection and how to exercise it, read our next blog article here