Managing Your Quarter Life Crisis

Like the midlife crisis, the quarter life crisis brings on questions about life and our purpose in it. Whether you are facing life after college or have chosen to jump right into the workforce, transitioning to an independent lifestyle requires adjustments. Very few people find success with their first job, and securing a fulfilling career while simultaneously managing a meaningful personal life can feel like an impossible task. It seems almost inevitable that at some point, most of us will face the stress of our mid-twenties.

The emergence of the quarter life crisis is due largely to our having more options than the generations that came before us. Not so long ago, gender, race and socioeconomic status locked people into a particular destiny. While our generation faces many challenges of it’s own (some similar to previous generations), we do have and increased sense of freedom to seek new opportunities as barriers get broken down. However, with increased opportunities come increased choices and pressure to make the “right” decisions.

Given the pressures and self-questioning we face, it is easy to see how all of this can be quite overwhelming, creating anxiety, hopelessness, fear, confusion and feelings of inadequacy. As overwhelming as it may be, however, it can be managed.

Managing the Crisis

Acceptance: So how do you shake the quarter life funk? Accept this period in your life as both temporary and transitional. Keep things in perspective. Even if you find a job in a career field you enjoy, it is likely that you will put in long and grueling hours. Dull, entry-level positions are part of the dues we pay to earn the promotions to the jobs we really want. Grunt work isn’t glamorous but unless the CEO is somewhere in your family tree, you will have to prove your worth by climbing the ladder one step at a time.

Commiseration: Realize that you are not alone. Most people in their 20s face the same anxiety and stress. Talking about it can help. It is easier to accept when you know you are not alone and friends can shed some light as well as benefit from your perspective.

Health: Taking care of yourself is important when you are going through this transition. Many in the workforce find themselves sitting at a desk all day drinking too much caffeine — a big change from sleeping in and hanging out. Find time to exercise, eat healthy, take vitamins and drink plenty of water to help your body manage stress better. Also, despite what may be a meager starting salary, find ways to treat yourself, whether it be a massage, manicure or a good dinner once in a while.

Opportunity: With the negative aspects of this transitional period come positive aspects as well, presenting a valuable opportunity to change and grow. Despite your stress and anxiety, you’ll have countless opportunities at this point in your life. While the ground may feel shaky, you have greater opportunity to pick up and move, to change your career path and to pursue what you are passionate about. This is a great time to explore your options. You may hate your entry-level job or you may already be dreading graduation because you can’t find a job in your major, but remember that you are not doomed and you are not alone

If you manage the quarter life crisis effectively, it may help you cope when the midlife crisis arises. However, hair loss and wrinkles cannot be avoided entirely — so be prepared!

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