quarter life crisis

5 Ways to Relieve Stress of The Quarter Life Crisis

Everything in your first six months at work screams of honeymoon. A new role, new tasks, mingling with more senior colleagues, traveling, trainings, coupled with the first steps towards financial independence, all create the perfect environment for excitement. Life after study cannot be more perfect.

Unfortunately, fast forward six months later – and things might not be as bright as originally planned. With the feeling of novelty fading off and the combination of reality and routine sinking in, you are likely to suddenly experience a midlife crisis. According to psychologists, many professionals in their 20s or early 30s experience what is called a “quarter-life” crisis. If you combine the high expectations of a Millennial with the nonstop stress and high standards felt at work, it is hardly surprising that many young professionals doubt whether they have made a terrible mistake. They start experiencing stress and anxiety at work, and feel at loss on how to cope – and how to perhaps change their career.

If you feel that you are in a quarter life crisis, lacking confidence about your career choices and experiencing unusual stress levels, there are 5 tips that can help you re-focus on the positive of your choice and resolve the crisis.

1. Develop your personal brand

Everyone has a personal brand: It is the one or two immediate thoughts that come to mind when thinking of somebody. What do people know you for? What do they associate you with?

Despite great studying achievements, young professionals are often confronted with a work environment in which they can hardly find their place, unsure of how to position themselves in the workplace.

Define yourself. As you start your career, make it a priority to be in control of the impressions you want to make to your colleagues and employer. People who establish a strong personal brand—who know who they are and the direction in which they wish to travel — feel anchored. They are less likely to be blown off course by the quarter life crisis and are more likely to to relieve stress better.

To develop a professional brand, start with what you are good at. You want to develop a personal brand in line with your natural talents. If you are unsure where to start, take the HIGH5 free strengths finder test to discover what are your unique talents and abilities. For example, you might be an excellent brainstormer, firing 10 ideas an hour. You want to build your reputation on your talent to help others with unconventional ideas, rather than being, for example, an average project manager.

2. Build ties with people outside your comfort zone

We are social animals who develop ties to others throughout our lives. Most young professionals still keep a strong connection to their roots – their family, their childhood friends, their partners. Such strong personal connections are vital to keep a good mental health, to relieve stress and anxiety at the workplace and to mitigate the quarter life crisis.

Whereas strong ties will help you survive the transition into the workplace, to thrive as a professional you must develop a plethora of weak ties. Young professionals tend to forget about former employers, colleagues and university acquaintances. However, a bigger and more varied network of small ties should form the backbone of support system for your career. A colleague can give you key advice to solve an issue you are facing for the first time in your new organization. A former colleague can give you a hand in finding the new killer job. Another colleague might give you the right push to apply for an internal position that you’ve always dreamt of.

Start to consciously build “weak” ties at work to avoid the risk to be trapped in a limiting network, which doesn’t really help overcome your quarter life crisis. In particular, surround yourself of people that are not like you – for example, if you are a brainstormer, connect to people that are great doers and make your ideas happen. Utilise the weak ties to have a different input – chances are that they faced similar problems, and they can provide with a different point of view you didn’t think of – yet.

3. Build resilience

Learn how to overcome problems by focusing on long term benefits instead of short terms pleasures. Don’t be tempted to take shortcuts that won’t make you any favours in the long term.

The benefits of resilience have been widely studied. The famous marshmallow experiment confirmed this already in 1960s and 70s. Researchers at Stanford University confirmed that children who delay gratification experience a variety of “better life outcomes”.

Young professionals are usually still struggling with resilience, but luckily there are three practices that can help you train your resilience muscle:

  • Connect with coworkers who demonstrate resilience. Look for people who are particularly adept at managing change and embrace the best traits of their personality.
  • Develop your confidence that every problem has a solution. Learn to take your anxiety and calm yourself, especially when confronted with a crisis at work.
  • When you have a bad day, don’t assume that you need to change job to feel better. Avoid entering a quarter-life crisis by focusing instead on the long-term benefits of handling tough situations at work , such as building a positive reputation in your career. Once again – know yourself, leverage your talents, and act accordingly.

4. Work out

Despite the focus on your professional career, do not forget about life outside. We tend to think of stress and anxiety as well as of middle or quarter life crisis as mental states only, but out body is equally important. Successful professionals find a sport they enjoy and establish a routine to exercise on a regular basis. Research shows that aerobic exercises relieve stress by reducing hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that act like a natural painkiller and help improve your mood & self-esteem and relieve stress.

5. Embed mindfulness techniques

Last, similar to exercising, mindfulness practices help your mind and body to relieve stress. Research shows that meditation, even 5 minutes per day, improves resilience to stress and anxiety, and helps develop conscious ways to respond to the stress and anxiety at work. Being more attuned to your body and mind helps avoiding negative thoughts and symptoms that are everybody’s worst foe, and may lead to physical and psychological diseases in the long-run.

Is there an upside in the Quarter Life Crisis?

In fact, there is a significant difference between what has been traditionally seen as a life crisis and a quarter life crisis. While the former stems with a severe loss or identity threat, the latter come from a lack of clarity about your future steps. Hence, a natural result of a mid-20s crisis is a decision on a direction, as a result of asking oneself scary-real questions. With the all the rhetoric from the Millennials’ corner that they never want to settle down – the quarter life crisis is a normal outcome of a constant change a modern world is living in.