“What am I doing with my life?”
It’s a question many of us have asked ourselves, and, unfortunately, we don’t always have an answer. It seems that the college years tend to lend themselves to feelings of confusion and stress as we face the pressure to map out the rest of our lives. In recent years, a term has emerged to describe these anxieties of young adulthood: “The Quarter Life Crisis”
Bradley University defines a quarter life crisis as “a period of uncertainty and questioning that typically occurs when people feel trapped, uninspired and disillusioned during [one’s] mid-20s to early 30s”. It usually follows a characteristic pattern that involves four phases: feeling trapped into some kind of commitment or obligation, ending the commitment and feeling isolated, internal reflection and exploring new interests, and emerging from the crisis with a newfound sense of purpose. In the context of college, a quarter-life crisis can be spurred by changing majors, transferring schools, searching for career opportunities, and graduating, among a multitude of other possibilities.
If these feelings sound familiar, there’s still good news: when handled properly, a quarter life crisis is only temporary. Tess Brigham, a psychotherapist who specializes in young adults in the workplace, outlines three steps for how to overcome it:
- 1) Become more mindful of your thoughts and feelings towards important elements of your life. Notice your reactions to things such as your schoolwork, relationships, and career plans. Brigham even recommends carving out several minutes every day to write these feelings down in a journal. Over time, you will start to notice patterns that help you gain a better understanding of yourself and guide future decisions.
- 2) Start making decisions based on your wants and needs. Instead of imagining what could go wrong, imagine what could go right. Focus on the positive possibilities that could arise from any choice.
- 3) Trust your decision. Feeling sad or uneasy after difficult decisions is natural. Don’t beat yourself up for these feelings or think that you made the “wrong” choice, instead, practice self-compassion.
Our generation is unique in that we are much more experienced when it comes to mental illness than previous generations, and in turn, stigma surrounding mental health has decreased. While we may face more difficulties in finding suitable jobs, comparing ourselves to others via social media, etc., we are also more likely to identify and tackle the feelings that arise from these issues. Therefore, there’s no reason to remain hopeless when you realize that you’re going through a quarter life crisis. Through following the steps outlined by Tess Brigham and turning to peers or counselors for support, a crisis can be overcome.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and a purpose to be found in everything.