5 Tips for Coping with your Quarter-life Crisis

How to make the most of this important milestone.

Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

It was midnight on a Tuesday at the LOL comedy club. The room was full of other comedians and a few stragglers from the movie theater next door. It was dark and silent in the lobby where the club held its open mic nights, not even a clearing of the throat. Faces in the audience were blank. The world was on pause, and all eyes were on stage, on me. People are usually surprised to know that they only give you three minutes to tell your jokes, but my three minutes lasted an eternity. This is how I spent my quarter-life crisis.

In 2019, The Harris Poll, on behalf of TD Ameritrade, published a study about young people’s financial future. About 2,053 young people ages 15–21 participated in this survey — questions revolved around financial readiness, current spending habits, and family bonds’ importance.

Participants rated how much they agreed to the statement “I experienced a quarter-life crisis.” When the results came back, the researchers found that 48% of the young Americans admitted that they had experienced a quarter-life crisis. However, this was only around 985 of the 2,053 of the young participants. So that couldn’t represent all young people, right?

In 2017, LinkedIn conducted a study of their own and found 72 percent of young people across the United States, U.K., India, and Australia experienced a quarter-life crisis. In 2011, The Guardian reported on a study that found 86% of young people felt under pressure to be a success. When talking to friends and family, others had admitted to having similar experiences.

This milestone of completing another decade of existence seems to have much pressure added to it. 2020–2021 has put some of us out of physical contact and feeling the worst case of “fear of missing out” (FOMO). So, what can you do to help keep that monster at bay or at least quell the beast?

“Embrace the void and have the courage to exist.” ― Dan Howell

Me at open mic night 2017

End the comparison game

Photo Lisa_A on Shutterstock

Going through a quarter-life crisis, you can not help but compare yourself to those around you. Social media is full of friends having these extravagant adventures without you taking FOMO to a whole new level. For me, I knew something was wrong when I started to say things like, “Ugh, Donald Glover is beating me at life.” This type of mindset is toxic and has no benefits for someone going through a crisis. So, what can you do?

If you find yourself in a negative mindset like this, try a social media detox. I understand this could be a struggle since you may use social media to connect to those around us and perhaps use it to help beat boredom. However, studies show a correlation between passive use of social media and emotions of envy and anxiety. If you need to ease into a digital detox, there are many detox challenges, such as one promoted by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, that you can accomplish in a week. You can also do what I did.

Monday: Unsubscribe, unfollow, or hide posts (if friends and family) that trigger negative thoughts.

Tuesday: No social media until after breakfast.

Wednesday: No social media until after lunch.

Thursday: No social media until after dinner.

Friday: Turn off notifications. Social media for only two hours.

Saturday: Only have one social media app on your phone. One hour use.

Sunday: Sperate entirely. No apps. No social media use.

A social media detox will help you focus on yourself and perhaps provide some extra time to figure out your next move. You may even feel ready to revisit social media and use it more intentionally, such as communicating with friends and family, sharing your milestones, and finding some helpful articles (Like this one. Cough. Cough. Ahem). If you feel those emotions start to come back, take another break.

Talk to someone

Photo by Trung Thanh on Unsplash

I honestly would not have made it without my friends or talking to anyone. It helps to have a confidant who is willing to listen to you vent or work things out. It would help if you got those thoughts out of your head. The key is to vent to the right person. Someone who actively listens to you without judgment and shows empathy would be considered a positive venting experience, rather than someone who does not validate your feelings and is just waiting for their turn to speak.

“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are” ―Bernard Meltzer

A positive listener will imagine being in your position instead of feeling sorry for you. Typically, you can tell if someone is hearing you talk or listening to you talk. An acronym used in the counseling field called SOLER can help you determine if your friend is actively listening.

S- They face you squarely.

O- They have an open posture. No arms crossed.

L- They lean a little toward you.

E- They make eye contact.

R- Overall, they are relaxed.

If you feel as though you don’t have anyone to turn to, seeking professional help is the best option. The great thing about this is that multiple counselors and therapists are willing to help you during your quarter-life crisis and most provide video chat options. There are even apps now that can get you connected to someone, such as Talkspace.

Find a hobby

Photo by Sena Aykut on Unsplash

Having a purposeful activity will break up your usual daily routine. Studies have shown that people who engage in a healthy activity are less likely to suffer from stress and feelings of depression. The key is that it must be enjoyable and meaningful to you. That could involve painting, volunteering, playing a sport, working out, playing music, the list goes on.

“Painting is just another way of keeping a diaryPablo Picasso

If you are no longer feeling fulfilled by your current hobby, it is okay to move on from it and explore new avenues. I wrote another article about five artists who move on from previous passions here. Find that passion project and enjoy the moment at your own pace. There is no need to rush.

Treat yourself

Photo by Yulissa Tagle on Unsplash

Going through your crisis will take a toll on your mental and physical wellbeing, which is why it is essential to take some “me time,” and you shouldn’t feel selfish about that. Helping yourself first is beneficial if you want to help others. Take some time to go out for a walk, journal, meditate, explore, or have a spa day. Spend time to get to know you and treat yourself with kindness.

Research shows self-care will help reduce low moods, anxiety, negative feelings, feeling burnt out, and more. I had spent my time journaling, meditating, and being in nature. Like most things on the internet nowadays, there are even self-care challenges that you can partake in if you don’t know where to start, such as the one here.

“Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world”Lucille Ball

Know this is normal

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

As you saw at the beginning of this article, you are not alone on your journey. I am now approaching my mid-30s, and I have to say that my mid to late 20s was a wild ride, but I am much wiser and resilient because of my experience. You should see this as a journey you are taking to figure things out entirely okay. Moreover, it is entirely okay if you don’t figure it out. Neither did I, and I am glad because I know there is still so much more to explore and learn from life and its milestones.

If this article does not reach you in time, I hope you could look back at your experience as I have with appreciation and acceptance. So here is to you, my fellow reader, as we make our way to the midlife crisis.

Me. A survivor of my quarter-life crisis.

San Antonio writer, a psychology undergrad student, and certified hypnotist. He specializes in mental health, psychology, and wellness.

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