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Hacking the Millennial Quarter-Life Crisis


Hacking the Millennial Quarter-Life Crisis


Ahh, to be in your 20s and 30s is possibly the best time of your life. For young people, this is the time when they can embrace limitless opportunities and enjoy fun and adventures before entering the tumultuous period of marriage and a mortgage. This is a period when young adults are typically worry-free insofar as good health and excessive responsibilities are concerned.

Unfortunately, for many millennials, the transition period to adulthood is a far cry from what was once a settled period of carefree living. Instead, it now bears the hallmarks of a midlife crisis, characterized by confusion, uncertainty, disillusionment, disappointments, loneliness, insecurity, and depression. With responsibilities typically associated with grownups, such as unemployment, complicated relationships, and debt, it is not surprising for 86 percent of millennials to be affected and to be trapped in a sort of permanent adolescence, which psychologists define as a “quarter-life crisis.”


Quarter-Life Crisis: The Millennial Bug

Experts refer to the quarter-life crisis as the stage of life when young adults, whose ages range from the 20s up to the mid-30s, experience periods of uncertainty and anxiety over the direction and quality of their professional and private life. If you are experiencing feelings of unease and low points in different areas of life – welcome to the club! Fortunately, the quarter-life crisis is not something to be feared. Receiving professional help is one way to emerge from this difficult time.

This period of uncertainty occurs in the interval phase between college age and going into the real world. It is a stage when young people feel trapped, uninspired and disillusioned with many aspects of their life, including career and relationships. While they question and wonder over their adult life, they may also struggle with overwhelming anxiety about the unpredictability of the future and the increase of new responsibilities. What should have been an exciting good time in life has become a period of conflicting emotions with a deep impact on a young person’s emotional stability.

This phenomenon is backed by many reasons, with the top two being the desire to own a home and to establish a career they are passionate about. Millennials in this kind of crisis are also experiencing the stress of living independently for the first time, finding a life partner, and developing long-term personal or professional resolutions.


Quarter-life crisis typically presents itself in the following four phases:


·         Phase 1 – A period when millennials feel trapped or locked in a job or relationship, or both. The illusionary sense causes you to want to leave but is helpless to do so.


·         Phase 2 – The growing sense that change is possible occurs during this phase. Although the separation from previous commitment brings about all sorts of emotional upheavals, the thought of exploring new possibilities is motivated by interests, preferences and sense of self.


·         Phase 3 – A period of reflection, resulting in change of plans to rebuild a new life.


·         Phase 4 – Fresh commitments are reinforced to reflect new interests, aspirations and values.


Risk Factors and Signs of Quarter-Life Crisis

To be in your 20s and 30s is both exciting and overwhelming. It is true people in this age range are free-spirited, but the pressure to be successful in many life aspects can transform this into a time beset by doubts and worries about how to transition into adulthood. You are faced with many issues and what decisions to make, like graduating from college to embark on a full-time career, moving on to graduate school, relocating to a new city, ending a relationship, being engaged, and juggling your finances. Much of your happiness and success depend on your ability to steer around these transitional events.

Certain factors can put millennials at an increased risk for experiencing a quarter-life crisis, including genes, biology, environment and lifestyle. The signs may not be immediately obvious and may creep up unexpectedly. Common symptoms are usually associated with depression, anxiety, and mood swings. The high stress often accompanying the transition phase to adulthood plays a role in the development of all forms of disorder in the millennial age group, which may include substance abuse.


Here are the signs you are being challenged and feeling the intense pressure of a quarter-life crisis:


1.    You feel at a lost and unable to make decisions about what to do with your life while trying to figure out what can complete and satisfy you.

2.    You have difficulty in choosing from the many options available. You are unsure of what you really want, and if you do, you are not taking any actual action.

3.    You lack motivation to set out and face the world

4.    You have difficulty between choosing a life of adventure and settling down quietly.

5.    You feel left behind as you see your peers have seemingly figured it all out.

6.    You feel unfulfilled in what you have set out to accomplish, whether with your job, relationship, or making friends as an adult.

7.    You are often bombarded with an unusual amount of nostalgia.

8.    You tend to compare yourself with others, then begin to feel inadequate and unsuccessful.

9.    You feel you are a failure because you did not meet your goals.


It is not acceptable to be unhappy if you are in your twenties or thirties, especially with society’s portrayal of what it means to be young, free, and beginning to explore the world. As a result, many millennials are unwilling to admit the issue due to feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment. This may result in a dangerous downward cycle of self-doubt and more feelings of unhappiness that can potentially impact your well-being. The best way to hack this negative cycle is to talk about the struggles with a credible professional who can provide insight and support on overcoming a quarter-life crisis.


Facing the World as a Motivated and Focused Young Adult

Unlike generations in the past, this generation does not bear the stigma attached to emotional and behavioral health issues. Young adults of today recognize the benefits of seeking teen/adolescent counseling services, and are more open in discussing their distressing feelings. This includes many millennials who sought help for their quarter-life crisis and emerged on the other side in a better state of mind and health.

Admittedly, there is no easy way to avoid what you are going through. The good news is you are not alone and there is help to pull you out. An experienced and trained counselor independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC at 422 McArthur Road, Suite 2, near Ramsey St. can help you maneuver around stressful situations or thoughts, so you can find the right path to smoothly transition into the real adult world.

If you feel you are not achieving your goals, being left behind, not sure where you are headed in life, or you want to face the world as an adult with greater potential, you have all the good reasons to seek counseling now. Reach out today by calling CCS – North Fayetteville Office –Fayetteville, NC. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can establish a solid foundation for long-lasting happiness. The right fit therapist is waiting to help you set out on the road to a successful adulthood. Schedule an appointment now!

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Fayetteville, NC (North)

Counties: Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson Counties, NC

Areas: Fayetteville NC, Ft Bragg NC, Pope Field NC, Silver City NC, Linden NC, Bunnlevel NC, Erwin NC, Dundarrach NC, Rex NC,and Wade, NC

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Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office, Fayetteville, NC

422 McArthur Road, Suite 2
FayettevilleNC 28311

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  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Anxiety, Depression, Individuals, Couples, Geriatrics, Criminal Justice, Stress Management, Loss and Grief related to death, disability, divorce, deployment, “empty nest”, retirement and other major life transitions
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