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What is a quarter-life crisis? The signs you're having one

Upset redhead teen girl sitting by window looking at phone waiting call from boyfriend, feeling sad and depressed teenager quarter life crisis looking at smartphone wait for message. Social Media depression in teens
A mental health expert has revealed exactly how to overcome a quarter life crisis. (Getty Images)

From the cost of living, to a less-than-stable career, and little hope of ever finding yourself on the property ladder, it’s no wonder more young people than ever are facing a quarter life crisis.

In fact, one study found that 72% of young adults have had a quarter life crisis, with 32% stating that they are currently facing one.

"Quarter life crises do seem to be becoming more common.This could be due to several factors, including the pressures of modern life, the pervasive influence of social media, and the increasing complexity of career paths," Chloe Brotheridge, author of The Anxiety Solution and anxiety hypnotherapist, says.

"Social media can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy or underachievement by constantly showing us the highlight reels of others' lives. The current generation faces unique challenges such as an increasingly competitive job market, the gig economy, student debt and the high cost of living and house prices - all of which can contribute to the feeling of being in a crisis."

What is a quarter life crisis?

While a mid-life crisis is more likely to occur around the age of 48, a quarter life crisis happens when people feel disillusioned or trapped in their 20s and early 30s.

"A quarter-life crisis is a period of uncertainty, confusion or questioning that typically occurs in your 20s to early 30s," Brotheridge explains.

"It's a time when we face challenges in terms of our career path, relationships, and even our personal identity.

"Triggers can vary widely but often include the pressure to succeed in your career, money pressures like the stress of student loans or wanting to buy a house, the comparison with other people's achievements, especially on social media, and the realisation that life may not be going in the direction you expected it to."

A young woman is sitting on the sofa at home with her head in her hands. The concept of health problems , headache or stress
Quarter life crises can happen when you feel directionless. (Getty Images)

Signs you’re having a quarter life crisis

Brotheridge says that some key signs you may be experiencing a quarter life crisis include feelings of anxiety and pressure, and sometimes even panic.

"Signs of a quarter-life crisis can include panic about the path that you're on and whether it's right for you, a sense that everyone is doing better than you, confusion about what steps to take next in life, a desire for change but uncertainty about what change to make, and a general sense of disillusionment or lack of fulfilment," she explains.

She adds that it can manifest as physical symptoms too, including insomnia, changes in appetite, stomach issues, teeth grinding and skin rashes.

How to overcome a quarter life crisis

Practicing mindfulness and self-care is one way to push through a quarter life crisis, Brotheridge says.

"Amongst the pressure to succeed and be productive, practicing mindfulness and self-care are essential and will support you in being in a good place mentally to make decisions that are right for you," she adds. "Even if it's just taking 10 minutes to meditate or journal."

Dr Sarah Jarvis says there are several other ways to navigate a quarter life crisis.

Portrait of black young man using pottery wheel and creating handmade ceramics in cozy studio with green plants
Turning a hobby into a revenue stream is one way to overcome a quarter life crisis. (Getty Images)

Seek out solidarity

"If you’re feeling stuck and unhappy, start talking to your friends about it," Dr Jarvis says. "You may be surprised how many of them are experiencing similar feelings or have in the past."

Pick up a side hustle

Feeling flat in your current role? Dr Jarvis recommends volunteering, starting a blog, or taking a passion and turning it into something you could benefit from in more ways than as a hobby.

Make fearless decisions

"One of the biggest myths of decision making is that there are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decisions," Dr Jarvis says.

"There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – there are always subtle nuances. These are just the decisions you make, based on your weighing up of the pros and cons at the time."

Don’t let your degree define you

Dr Jarvis says many graduates feel pressure to remain in the same industry, but says you don’t need qualifications to explore other career paths and see if it could be the right one for you.

Remember it’s normal

"You’re going through a transient and totally valuable stage of your life," Dr Jarvis says. "Imposter syndrome is very real but realising you’re not alone in your struggles can be hugely beneficial for your viewpoint."

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