CALM DOWN: Here’s How I Survived My Quarter Life Crisis
So a little bit about me: I just turned 25, been working in the same job for three years and after coming out of a long term relationship, I am deeply single.
Cue the quarter life crisis.
But knee deep into a bag of triple-buttered popcorn, and about eight months into a social drinking binge I decided to snap tf out of it.
According to Business Insider, 75% of 25-33-year-olds have had a quarter-life crisis and on average the breakdown lasted for approximately 11 months. I'm not special, so that dulled a bit of my hysteria.
Having said that, every person is triggered by different factors including career, finances, health and relationships, meaning the feelings of frustration, confusion and straight up terror emerge in various experiences. So with myself as the guinea pig I've unravelled a number of solutions (along with my mind) to debunk the irrational thoughts you may be feeling too.
Basically we all need to to calm down, but I know all too well that it's easier said than done, so I've offered up some of my solutions and coping methods to help you through...
I'm several years into my career and each day I'm looking for my next challenge. It's easy to get complacent and that's when the feelings of frustration can settle in. Is this where I should be? Where else could I be going? What are my next steps? Soon enough you start debating existentialism and your role on earth. That escalated quickly.
So I thought back to my university degree when I was planning my career trajectory; I cast my net wide instead of pigeonholing myself in a niche, I opened myself up to networking and new contacts and I wasn't afraid to knock on new doors to see where they would lead me. What did I have to lose? The freedom and urgency we feel when we're younger can often get lost when slogging it out in 9-to-5.
It's time to proactively seek out new opportunities, ask questions and don't be afraid to ask to be involved in new projects that may break up the monotony.
Of course, your current job may also not be where you need to be. According to Business Insider, “Almost a third of millenials [particularly those in the arts, culture and IT industries] feel like they have wasted too many years in the wrong job and are unsure what to do next.” This anxiety around 'next steps' can be career quicksand, so take a breath, start a lengthy and thorough trawl of the job market to decipher exactly what are your options. Next seek out individuals within these sectors that you can learn from and ask advice. A level of mentorship, training and even a spontaneous holiday will allow you to break free and see clearly again.
I also couldn't encourage you more to start a side hustle. The traditional route of climbing the corporate ladder isn't for everyone and whether it be freelance work, a blog or an online business - I wrote a book! - a project separate from your everyday will be a relieving distraction and could even make you money.
So closely linked to your career is your finances.
While we may look like we have everything we need displayed through our social media presence, how far has splashing your cash actually got you?
Coupled with the pressure to achieve a measure of success by the time you hit the big 3-0, it's normal to feel like you're 'failing' because you've yet to tick off a real estate purchase or exorbitant savings goal.
RealEstate.com.au release a report that Australia's current median housing price is $904,000, your immediate reaction to reach for a much more affordable tequila bottle is understandable. Especially if you were to break it down further to realise you would need to earn upwards of $85,000 and save at least 23% of your income towards a deposit. (Watch the video below for a greater breakdown.)
I think I purchased three servings of avocado toast when I read that. What's the point?
But it's important to not labour over evocative headlines. Instead start with something practical like a budget. I get it, you already started rolling your eyes at the screen, but hear me out because this is a failsafe and easy way to cut costs.
Simply list your incoming versus outgoing funds in two columns side-by-side. Start with regular costs like rent, household bills (internet, electricity, water), groceries and phone bill. You may also have credit card or car payments, so add them too. Next, depending on the person, look at how much you're spending on public transport (include Ubers...you'll be surprised how much they rack up), the gym and finally, socialising. Needless to say, eating out, wardrobe shopping and alcohol are expensive!
NOTE: Bills are arguably the biggest source of stress for someone going through a quarter life crisis - they come around like clockwork and they cannot be avoided no matter how many late fees are charged to your credit card.
So now your outgoings are sorted, line the total amount up to your equivalent pay period. So if you get paid weekly, look at your weekly expenses (fortnightly, monthly and so on). Next, work to putting aside 15% of your wage and then build from there once you get more comfortable with your budget. There's no point in putting half of your salary into savings only to dip into it the next week - mentally you will think you're 'failing' at saving, which is not the truth!
Now look at what you can live without, which will most likely mean downsizing your social budget. Start small and work your way up to a manageable savings goal each month and adjust your outgoing expenses as need be to meet that goal.
All of sudden, you have a plan. You have targets. And you'll be surprised at how motivated you are to reach them now that you've actually thought proactively about the future.
If you don't have your health, then what do you have?
We've all done it; when you're stressed out or negotiating a particularly horrendous hangover, healthy choices like eating right and regular exercise are literally the furthest things from your mind.
That's when I realised I gained ten kilos.
Yeah ok, it was over the space of five years and our bodies change as we age blah, blah. But I was more concerned that I hadn't been concious about my intake or wellbeing for almost a year. I was either focused on work or busy downing shots on a Saturday evening. (Work- life balance?)
I read a helpful article in Men's Health, which interviewed a psychologist called Dr Oliver Robinson who explained a way of flipping the quarter life crisis mentality into an experience focused on "openness, curiosity and growth".
"People may find old habits and coping mechanisms no longer help in the way they used to, and this can act as a spur to explore new ideas, new activities and new ways of overcoming life's challenges," he explained.
Interesting, I thought. A simple concept where if something isn't working, try something new. Groundbreaking!
I spoke to Pressed Juices Nutritionist Molly Westcott and asked her to explain how our mental health is so intricately linked to our diet. "A lot of people don’t realise that what they eat has a direct impact on their mood. It's no wonder they call the gut our second brain! A build up of these toxins can result in our bodies' organs or processes being unable to operate to their full potential. This can leave us feeling sluggish and not looking our best."
So I took the plunge and tried something new: a 5-day cleanse designed by a nutritionist and focused on de-stressing and rebooting my metabolism. Molly explained to me that a cleanse wasn't going to make me drop ten kilos, but by providing my body with a wide range of nutrients and a structured system I would be in the best mindframe to break bad habits. It would also allow my digestive system to heal itself (apparently the impact of my nervous system had caused my immune and digestive system to slow down and led to bloating and constipation. Embarrassingly, check and check.)
"Not only is stress a huge factor in causing the body to age prematurely, it also causes us to eat more. When we have high blood cortisol levels our metabolism is increased, causing our hunger levels to rise which can lead to poor food choices and weight gain. By cleansing you improve digestion and it can also slow down the effects of ageing! Think clear, glowing skin, bright eyes, strong hair, nails and increased energy!"
In the interest of full disclosure; I nearly bit a co-worker's head off on the first day as I withdrew from my caffeine addiction. But slowly my body responded by releasing all the toxins that I had stored up during my quarter life crisis. By Friday I was legit glowing. My stomach was flatter (sorry for the TMI but I was wayyyy less gass-y) and I wasn't craving junk food.
Fast forward a few weeks and I've yet to binge on junk food or takeout - although my daily coffee is back with full force (noone's perfect). All I needed was a clean slate, to not feel like I was slogging it uphill from the beginning but evening the playing field so to speak. I'm exercising more and while I'm not yet a supermodel, I've honestly never felt better.
If you're interested in more information about cleanses, please contact a nutritionist or head here.
Two words: wedding season. Amiright?
Bit of background; I was in a relationship on-and-off for six years and it eventually came to an end due to the proverbial fork in the road; we were on two different paths and stages in our lives. And while I knew it was by far the right choice in the long term, being single can fkn suck sometimes.
The issue is when you come out of a relationship or have been single for a long time, it's easy to replace that person with the buzzing social scene. Go out more, put yourself into new experiences and turn into a bona fide 'Yes Man'. But if we look back at the other factors of a quarter life crisis being career, health and finances - your social life shouldn't really be number one on your priority list. It's about balance.
Now quick check in with the wider populace, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported the median age of marriage has increased year-on-year to 31.9 years (male) and 29.9 years (female).
Sure this could be because social media has connected us "electronically and disconnected us emotionally” according to The New Daily, but I would argue millennials have shifted their focus from relationships to the other factors I've already mentioned.
A Business Insider survey showed that "the number one trigger for a quarter life crisis is anxiety over finding a job or career path that they are passionate about (64%) compared with finding a life partner (44%), having children (38%) or getting on the property ladder (49%).”
Having said that, for anyone who may have their career and finances sorted but are struggling with their personal connections, the number one piece of advice I can give is DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO ANYONE. (Sorry, caps lock was needed.) Someone will always be one step ahead, the same as another one step behind. But this is about YOU.
If marriage and children are in your future, they will come at the time that is right for you. After all, I've just listed a whole smorgasbord of stuff you can worry about in the meantime. (JK, don't stress, pls.)
Instead, take it from someone who crawled their way out of a tub of cookies and cream ice cream to the other side. I survived and so will you <3