Quarter-Life Crisis: Etiology, Symptoms, and Management
Are you between 18-35 years of age? Do you feel confused about who you are? Do you have everything you wanted at your age and still feel discontent? Do you find it difficult to make choices and feel overwhelmed by what you might miss out on? Do you worry about not being able to live up to your and others’ expectations? Even though on paper your life seems fine, do you feel there is a ginormous void? You tried filling this void with serial dating, all Groupon hobbies, fitness classes, six-pack of beer, or Buddhism, but something still feels amiss?
A Quarter Life Crisis is a serious issue that this generation faces. Thousands of young adults between 18-35 years of age struggle or experience this every single day. I am not going to poke fun or to attempt a comical blog or by any means going to marginalize the demographic as it has been by all forms of popular media in the recent times. On the contrary, I strongly believe that these issues are misunderstood, swept under the rug, tagged as “issues of the entitled generation,” and simply ignored, when in reality, they need dire attention. A lot of young adults are struggling with their identity and making attempts to find their place in the world. I believe people should really try to understand the origin, triggers and factors that exacerbate these issues, as a first step towards remediating them.
Each generation has had their share of struggles. The traditionalists aka the forgotten generation were influenced by the great wars, the Great Depression, the New Deal, Rise on Corporations, the Industrial Revolution and the rise of Communism. The next generation of Baby Boomers, were influenced by Civil Rights, Vietnam War, Sexual Revolution, Cold War, the Space Race, the beginning of the fall of Communism and they were also the first generation to see Highest divorce rate and 2nd marriages in history. They invented 50 hour work weeks and pursued the American dream that was promised to them. And then followed by them the Post-Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and now Generation Z or Linksters. The current generation is exposed to more technology, innovation, adventure, and networking than ever before.
While the view “less is more” was apt in internet-free generations, more and more is starting to feel less lately. More travelling, more money, more reading, more knowledge, more Facebook friends, more dating experience, more sex, more “living”. Since the world became a smaller place technologically, the current generation did not have a choice but to stay connected with the rest of the world. The desire to learn, explore, and accept different values is rampant in this generation. Sure, there are exceptions but most young adults continue to accept, learn, accommodate and assimilate in terms of their values, morals, religious beliefs, traditions, and work-ethic, linksters continue to. As glamorous as this sounds, it comes at a significant mental cost.
It is very hard to “unknow” what you already know. The more you know, the more you question, and the more you question, the more you learn. Quarter-Life Crisis is an attempt to slow down, make sense of your values and priorities, grieve the loss of what you are choosing to leave behind, strengthen your sense of self and move on. Here is my attempt at symptoms of Quarter-Life Crisis:
One or more of the following symptoms have been present during the same 1-month period and represent a change from previous functioning.
Diminished satisfaction about accomplished life goals.
Regret, guilt or shame about life-decisions
“FOMO” – Fear of Missing out
Feelings of emptiness
Feelings of confusion about who you are, incongruence between who you are and who you wanted to be.
2. The symptoms cause clinical impairment or distress in social, occupational, spiritual, and other areas of functioning.
3. The episode is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or to another medical condition.
It is advisable to pay attention and understand what your quarter-life crisis might be trying to tell you.
Factors that contribute and exacerbate this crisis:
Over stimulation: I am not trying to make this about me but I get very stressed out about the number of TV shows and movies I need to watch on Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime to keep up with the conversations sometimes. To add to that, I recently started a Twitter account to keep up with the toilet tweets of our president. I am also on LinkedIn now, because isn’t that what you do? I try to watch the news or to read the news because it is important I keep up with the global current events. It is important as a health care provider that I read most articles on the executive order that the president signed about health care. I also must be the first one to forward cyanide and happiness comics to people. I keep up with the new songs because that is what you do. I have been blessed to have Whatsapp, a way of keeping in touch with my extended family in India or else my relatives will start discussing how moving to US has affected my values. I am grateful for everything technology has endowed upon this generation, but there are times that this overstimulation feels tiring, and the choice to not be overstimulated seems even more difficult.Internet/Global Networking has brought the world much closer at a pace that can be very difficult for our minds to keep up with. May be some people do a better job of compartmentalizing technology from their lives, but overstimulation makes it difficult to catch up.
High expectations from this generation: You need to have a good 6-figure job, a good relationship, a reliable set of friends, positive approach to life, a yearn to learn, and a liberal approach to politics and policies. In fact wait, let me go back a little. It starts with education from private kindergarten, elementary, middle and high-schools with gifted/special/post-baccalaureate/genius classes with at least 3-4 curricular activities, a push to get in to an Ivy-League school, and a mindset to conquer the world. I am not disagreeing with the high-expectations nor do I blame the parents but making a case for the lack of time to reflect on one’s own ambitions/hobbies/interests or to learn about who you are in the absence of it all.
Cultural stressors/expectations: Everyone needs to feel like they belong – to their family, their friends, their loved ones, and their community. A sense of belonging comes from your own culture- age group, pop culture, religion, ethnicity, nationality, same migratory status, gender, sexual preference, and so on and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the celebration of diversity and liberal thinking. As far as someone does not impose their views on me repeatedly, I am always up for a conversation about pretty much anything cultural in nature. I still strongly believe that the current generation is exposed to a lot more culture through technology. Not every person is good at holding their own cultural views, and the more you know about other cultures, you may experience a discrepancy in your beliefs and actions. With our liberal views of including everyone, it has become harder to recognize our own cultural values.
Steps to understand and manage your unique crisis.
Slow down, take a mental break from everything (at least for an hour everyday) at least for 2 weeks. Do not add any activities, chores, obligations to your calendar. Do not be hard on yourself for the missed birthday party, missed book club meeting, the morning you slept in instead of working out, the missed podcast, or for being unmotivated/lazy or disinterested in something.
Write down a list of everything you like and dislike about your current life state.
For 2-4 weeks, stay mindful of everything you enjoy in your life – relationships, values, culture, family, relationships, friendships, activities, tv shows, sleep, food, and anything else. Make attempts to immerse yourself in what you enjoy without distractions.
Make a list of what could change in your current life circumstances and your long-term goals. Reflect on whether it is a requirement from work or a relationship. It has to be your own. It is important that you pay t is heed to your gut, your ambitions, your dreams, your spiritual fuel, and your own culture.
For one hour every week for 6 months, engage in an intentional activity that will contribute to the desired meaningful change in your life.
For one hour every week for 6 months, purposefully do not engage in an activity that has seemed mandatory all your life, cut yourself slack, learn to forgive yourself, and practice how to be okay with yourself even when you are not doing anything to earn it.
Accept and encourage your unique self by giving it an opportunity to grow, not grow or do nothing.