Quarter-Life Crisis Tips for Millennials

Photography by Lauren Mazzotta

The Quarter-Life Crisis is a REAL and scary thing. Most of us have been there, having various expectations of what entering our early twenties is going to be like and then realizing that not everything is as easy or as fulfilling as we thought.

Even if it seems like you’re the only one dealing with this, it’s normal to feel lost, afraid, lonely, and confused. Figuring out what and/or who you’d like to be at this point in your life, and navigating new adulthood can take some getting used to. In recent years, I’ve gone through a few waves of this feeling, which is usually brought on by some sort of stress in a young person’s life (like moving out on your own, un or underemployment, etc.) and I’ve found a few tips and tools that have helped me to have an easier time dealing with it.

Next time you’re feeling lost, think of these 8 tips, and hopefully it’ll help you realize you’re not alone.

Stop comparing yourself to others

Whether you’ve been scrolling on Facebook (seeing how successful people you went to high school with are now) or you’ve been talking with an old friend about the year they spent backpacking around Europe, the most important thing you can do when experiencing your Quarter-Life Crisis is to STOP comparing yourself to other people.

Social media is a big factor in making us feel badly about ourselves, as there’s a difference between who we are in life and what we show of ourselves online. In fact, most people try to post about experiences and things that make them look more interesting, attractive, intelligent, and accomplished. But it’s important to remember that you rarely ever know the backstory to anyone’s perceived successes. It’s a waste of time and energy to wish you had what someone else has, because you never know what they had to go through to get it.

Set tangible goals

If you’re feeling stuck at a job, or in an apartment with roommates that you don’t like, or are just feeling like you’d like to get out and see the world, think of small, digestible goals to set for yourself in order to get the ball rolling toward your bigger, desired goals. Think about it this way: if you only have bigger goals, you’re more likely to feel unnecessary stress, and there’s a higher chance that you’ll give up before you have a chance to dig in. It’s healthy to celebrate small victories, and you might even find that you’re at your final goal sooner than you’d think!

One way to decide what your smaller goals are is to think about where you’d like to be in one year, five years, and ten years, and then figure out what steps you need to take in order to get there.

Example: You’d like to own your own freelance company. Try setting goals like networking to get more clients, figuring out a name/brand, coming up with a business plan, learning about the financial side of things, etc. You’ll likely have to start by juggling your freelancing alongside your full time job, but once you get enough freelance business, and you feel that you’d be able to make a livable wage going out on your own, you’ll feel a lot more ready to take it on!

Make a list

Take some time to sit down and write a list with two categories: What you DO like about your life and what you DON’T like about your life. Figure out ways to continue doing what you love, and write down some ideas on how you can explore those avenues even more. Then you should think about the reasons why you don’t like various aspects of your life, and how you can fix or change them. Similarly to setting tangible goals, this can make things a little bit more digestible and easier to manage.

Have a little faith

While there isn’t much technique or planning to go with this one, it needs to be said. Having a positive attitude can help you see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re really feeling down. Try reassuring yourself that you’re doing your best, and that you have plenty of time to reach your goals. You’re not the only person who has ever felt like this, and if you take a step back to realize that, you’ll end up on the other end of these feelings eventually.

Talk about it!

When you’re having a hard time, it’s never a good idea to keep your emotions bottled up, so talking about how you’re feeling is a great tool. This can help you to, again, realize that you’re not alone, and perhaps you’ll help a friend who has similar feelings come to that same realization. You may even find that whoever you’re talking to has gone through the same thing, and maybe they’ll have some advice!

Try speaking with someone you admire, or talking to a person in a position that you’d like to see yourself one day and find out how they got there. More than likely, they didn’t get in their position overnight, so asking questions and learning about someone else’s journey can make yours seem a little less frustrating.

Further your skill sets

Taking a few classes, getting a career-related certification, or teaching yourself a new skill can put you in a better position when it comes to getting the jobs you want or exploring more aspects of what you love in life. (Boosting your resume can definitely mean growing positively as a person!)

These ideas can not only open up higher level job opportunities, but they might also allow you to move up within your own company (if that’s something you want to do), or even start your own company (!!). It may not be realistic to go back to school or get another degree, but doing even small things to expand your skillset can definitely give you a boost, even if it’s just a bit more confidence!

Evaluate your relationships

Take a step back and look at the people you hang out with and what you usually talk about. Do these people and these conversations fulfill your social needs? Asking questions like these can help shed some light on whether or not you’re spending your time and your emotional energy in a healthy, positive way. As I said in my post about making good friends after college, positivity is contagious! Surrounding yourself with people who hold you up and who don’t just want to talk about how awful your jobs are or what you feel like you’re missing out on can help you to get through the hard times.

It’s very important to be able to talk about the negative things in your life, and to vent your feelings with your friends, but be sure you’re conscious about including a healthy balance of positive conversations along with the occasional “bitch session.” Making sure that you have more good feelings than bad after your interactions is key to keeping your head above water.

Be more selfish (in a good way)

Having the ability to say no to doing things that you aren’t obligated to do can help you curb some of the feelings that arise during a Quarter-Life Crisis. It’s important to learn how and when to put yourself and your feelings first, and to practice self care so you don’t get burnt out. Recognizing that it’s okay to take a day to yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed or to say no to going out for drinks because you’re trying saving money for something can help to alleviate some stress.

It’s also important to be able to ask for help when you feel like you’re drowning. Sometimes, we take on too much because we think we should be able to handle it all, but that’s not always the case. Accepting help and asking for help is a form of self care that can sometimes be hidden behind pride or fear, so take the leap, and see how much better you can feel with a little bit of breathing room!

Above all, coming to the realization that you have so much of your life ahead of you, and that you’re not the only person who has these feelings of hopelessness, confusion, and fear can help you come out of your Quarter-Life Crisis as a stronger, more self-aware, and hopefully more confident individual. With all of the daily pressures, expectations, and responsibilities of adulthood surrounding us, make sure to celebrate the small victories and give yourself a little more credit! I’ve been through it before, and I’m going through it again today, so at least we’re suffering together — joking, but not really!