If you’ve achieved all your goals by your mid-20s, congratulations. For everyone else, it’s normal to have some anxiety about the first quarter of life and to wonder what’s in store for the future. I remember that when I was in my 20s, I was striving to get a foothold in corporate America and never imagined I’d end up running my own organization with clients around the globe.
The quarter-life crisis has become almost inevitable, but the good news is that it’s also very survivable. Among people between the ages of 25 and 33, 75 percent report experiencing a quarter-life crisis, defined broadly as a feeling of uncertainty about current jobs, relationships, or financial or living situations. In addition, according to research from LinkedIn, the average quarter-life crisis lasts at least 11 months. That’s an average, which means yours could very well last longer.
Maybe you’ve spent the last few years working a job that makes it hard to save money, and you’re wondering if all of that sweat equity has been a waste. Maybe you can barely pay the rent from month to month, and you find the prospect of property ownership ridiculously out of reach. Maybe you can’t hold down a long-term relationship or don’t want to — despite all the save-the-dates stuck on your fridge featuring happy couples who look like they have it all.
No matter what form your own quarter-life crisis takes, these strategies can help you overcome it and even grow from it.
1. Talk to a 40-year-old you trust.
Whether it’s a trusted mentor or a therapist, telling someone about your struggles will almost always help you put things in perspective, especially if that person has made it through the first quarter of life. “Chances are good that you’re not the only person in your life who has gone through a quarter-life crisis or something like it,” says Mike Monroe, digital strategy manager at Vector Marketing. “Talk to someone you can trust, because a third-party perspective can give you new resources and better ideas on how to navigate your biggest uncertainties.” You never know until you ask, and if you can ask someone who actually made it through to the other side, you’ll not only have hope; you’ll also have a role model.
2. Try a side hustle.
A side hustle is a great way to shake things up and experiment with work that might make you happier. Whether you’re knitting sweaters to sell on Etsy or honing your photography skills by doing engagement shoots on the weekends, a side hustle can be both fun and rewarding. It teaches you valuable skills that you can only learn by running your own business (no matter how small), and the experience you gain could even help you perform better in your day job. An extra paycheck never hurt anyone, either. A side hustle can be a positive outlet for your passions outside of work and even help you test drive that new career path you’re thinking about.
3. Fix your finances.
Financial woes are the driving force behind a quarter-life crisis for 60 percent of individuals aged 25 to 35. Unfortunately, financial issues can be rooted in problems that will not be solved overnight, but there are important steps you can take immediately to improve your financial position in the future. Perform a financial audit on yourself and reduce monthly costs wherever possible. Pay down high-interest credit cards. Consider getting on Spotify’s family plan or splitting a Netflix account with your roommates. These changes save small monthly amounts, but you may be surprised at how they add up over the course of a year or more. Of course, while you’re reducing your expenses, work on increasing your income by negotiating a raise, applying for a promotion, or landing a higher-paying job.
4. Treat your body better.
Our mid-20s and 30s are a time when we’re very social, and that often comes in the form of late nights and big bar tabs. Under these circumstances, it’s easy to forget the connection between physical health and mental health. Also, when you’re under a time crunch (and what Millennial isn’t?), a healthy diet and exercise are the first things to go out the window. Try to keep healthy foods on hand so you aren’t tempted by fast foods after a long day at work, and make quick exercise (like a short jog) a part of your routine. It won’t take long for you to feel happier and more fulfilled — after all, exercise releases dopamine, the happy chemical, into your brain.
5. Take an internet break.
There are two destructive ways that the internet contributes to an emerging quarter-life crisis. The first is with stress-inducing headlines about the current state of the world that are enough to make even the most well-situated individuals doubtful about the future. The second is with social media, which allows us to constantly (and inaccurately) compare ourselves with our peers. Spend a night away from the internet, especially social media, with a good book and your favorite beverage in hand. Or better yet, get together for a face-to-face visit with a friend. When you get home from work on a Friday evening, set your phone to airplane mode. If your friends are out there living it up and Snapchatting without you, don’t fret. You need to recharge, and unplugging yourself from technology is the best way to make that happen.
If you’re feeling a quarter-life crisis coming on, take a deep breath and tell yourself you’re going to work through it. It’s OK that you’re not exactly sure how, but these five strategies are a great place to start.