Quarter-life crisis is defined as “a period of intense soul-searching and stress occurring in your mid-20s to early 30s.”

What does it feel like to be in quarter-life crisis? It feels like I am not only doubtful but also lost, even frightened at times and indifferent to an extent.I feel like I “float” through life, every day I just “float” like I live in my own mind and my own bubble.

Sometimes I find myself sitting in my room alone, staring into blank space. Sometimes I catch myself reminiscing about the past, my journey, what I have been through, whom I’ve met; and it is like watching an old melancholy nostalgic movie.

Many times I find a silence inside me, regardless of where I am, what I am doing or whom I am with, all the sounds, images get blurry, just me in complete silence. I feel lost and disconnected with everything and everyone.

Apparently, I am not alone.

It is estimated that around 86% of millennials are experiencing this feeling of insecurity, doubt, and depression in a quarter-life crisis. The reasons can be anything, from the pressure to pay debts, climb the career ladder to expectations from family to get married, have children etc..

However, I believe the main reason is that at these early formative years of life, people have doubts about themselves and their own decisions. Every day they question themselves: “Should I change my job?”, “Am I with the right partner?”, “How can I make more money?”, “Am I good/competent/successful enough?” etc.

Not long ago, there was this article explaining why Gen Y is unhappy and how delusional and taunted they are, how they have ambitions and such high expectations and opinions of themselves that they end up being disappointed at their reality.

Not to mention their habit of comparing themselves to their peers and the polished exaggerated images everyone paints themselves on social media, it all contributes to a culture of narcissism and false security.

But let’s not discuss the reasons behind this phenomenon. I want to write about the phenomenon itself and how to overcome it.

According to the Guardian, there are 4 phases in a quarter-life crisis:

  1. Phase 1: You feel trapped, stuck and helpless.
  2. Phase 2: After a lot of struggles, sleepless nights, breakdowns, and tears, you gradually see a way out: You have to change.
  3. Phase 3: You take the lead and start rebuilding your life.
  4. Phase 4: You feel more confident, fulfilled and happy with your life that is now more in line with your values and aspirations.

Phase 1

Needless to say, it is terrible. You can’t sleep, you can’t eat; you are tired, depressed, emotional, irritable, exhausted, etc. and the list goes on. You feel like you don’t know what to do with your life and like you are wasting it but you are lost and you don’t know what you should do.

First of all, you should keep yourself healthy. Now this is very important in difficult times as you can’t fight the struggle without a healthy body. The sleepless nights, tears and emotions, skipped meals, caffeine or alcohol won’t help in the long run, it will destroy your body and mind. So eat well and sleep well. Go for a walk to get some fresh air, exercise, get in the sun, etc.

Stay positive. There is this one little exercise that I do whenever I go into a depressed mood. I repeat positive affirmations to myself, like “All is well.”, “It will be alright.”, “Everything is temporary.”, “This too shall pass.” There is a lot of information on this one simple exercise that you can find on the internet.

Be grateful. Focus on the good things in your life now, the things that you appreciate. Every day, note down three things that you feel grateful for, that are meaningful to you. If you have a house, access to food, clean water, you are already more fortunate than millions of people.

Phase 2

In this phase, one day you wake up and you realize you just can’t live like this anymore. YOU HAVE TO CHANGE. But where to start?

Reflection. Take some time to reflect and contemplate on your values and priorities. Think about what is meaningful to you; researches have proved that meaning, mindset, and circumstance are the 3 factors for a happy life, in which meaning accounts for 50%. You need to feel whatever you do, how you live is meaningful to you.

What are your core values? What is important to you? Write down your values and priorities and think about in what way your life right now is not in alignment with your values.

Share your feelings. Talk to someone that you can trust. I am sure whoever it is, your friends, partners, parents, etc., they will understand and they will be able to give you sound advice, comfort and support you. They might just share the same feelings as yours and they might also be able to tell you their opinions. Sometimes you need the perspective of an outsider, to look at your problem from a different angle.

WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacles, Plan). My boss, who happens to be a coach, recommended WOOP to me. WOOP helps motivate you in life, encourages you to change and keeps you focused on your goals. It is a 4-step process with questions to help you understand yourself and your goals better. The 4 basic questions are: What is your wish? What is the best outcome? What is your main inner obstacle?  What is your plan?

Phase 3

This is the phase where you take actions and put your plan into practice. You start to explore, have new experiences, expand your comfort zone. It is exciting and thrilling but it can be difficult and scary as well because as you are rebuilding your life, you are letting go of the old and it is not easy sometimes. Your family might not be happy that you are quitting your jobs, or your friends might think you are wasting your time and money to travel around the world, etc. What should you do?

Stand your ground. Stick to your plan. It might be hard, even emotional for you to overcome family’s expectations, peer pressure, etc. but remember this is your life and no one can lead it for you. Go your own path and whoever that is disapproved of your decisions will eventually understand.

Trust yourself. There will be moments of doubts and you start asking yourself if you are doing the right thing. Believe in yourself and your instinct. Follow your call. It might sound really cliche but it is true. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Enjoy the journey. The journey to find yourself and your path is never easy. But remember to enjoy it, immerse in it, experience it to the fullest, the ups and the downs. I believe it is this time that will shape your life and your identity.

Phase 4

Now that you have reached this far and achieved your goals, continue on building the life that you want and never stop learning, exploring and experiencing life.

Quarter-life crisis can be a really scary thing as you are going through it. But I believe it is the foundation that young people need to build as it defines them, challenges them and urges them to carve their own path.

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Posted by:Hanh Lam

I am a young Vietnamese woman with a passion for development work and social change, a desire to explore the world and a love for storytelling.

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