Five Steps to Overcome Your Quarter-Life Crisis

About a third of young adults feel anxious, disappointed and unprepared—maybe you are one of them! Here are five things you can do now to get back on your feet.

I was living alone in a strange town, working a job that made me cry every day. I was supposed to be good at this! I felt like such a failure.

“Why can’t I get it together?”

Do you feel like you’ve lost your purpose at the ripe old age of 25? Do you worry that you’ve already missed out on your dreams? Are you scared that the rest of your life will be as stressful, lonely or mind-numbing as it is today?

You’re not alone! Some studies suggest that a third of emerging adults struggle with depression, or what some are calling a “quarter-life crisis.” Faced with what seems like a chasm between what you expected for your life and the reality, it’s easy to feel trapped.

But you’re not really trapped—it’s an illusion. It may take a few years, but most young adults look back on this challenging time and say it led them to make positive changes in their lives. They’re in a better place now.

So how do you navigate your quarter-life crisis and come out more energized and at peace? Let’s pull back the curtain to understand why your life is in crisis. Then let’s look at some first steps to getting yourself headed in the right direction.

Most young adults look back on this challenging time and say it led them to make positive changes in their lives. “What’s wrong with me?”

It helps to understand what’s going on behind the scenes. Emerging adulthood isn’t puberty all over again (thankfully!), but you are still experiencing significant changes. Your brain continues developing into adulthood, impacting your personality and reasoning abilities.

More obviously, your occupation and living situations are generally in flux during your 20s. These changes, in turn, impact your relationships with friends and family, which shift again if you get married and if you have children. What’s more, you are likely burdened by new financial worries like rent and student debt. All this adjustment creates stress!

Then there’s the added stress of expectations. Perhaps you had a mental timeline of where you would be at this point and now find yourself far behind. Maybe your relationships aren’t what you had thought they would be. Perhaps, like me, you got into the career you wanted, but it turned out to be miserable. Or maybe you can’t find a job in your field—or a job, period!

Social media can reinforce the impression that all your friends “have it together” and are busy chasing their dreams. In reality, though, many people struggle with this kind of discouragement and frustration. Again, you’re not alone! All these factors and more drive the quarter-life crisis.

So that’s the “why.” Now let’s talk about what to do about it.

“Who am I anyway?”

If you’re in the throes of a quarter-life crisis, chances are you’ve spent some time agonizing over just what you ought to do and feel. It’s easy to get bogged down in self-pity, but let’s think bigger. A personal crisis is the perfect time to give serious thought to humanity’s deep questions—you know:

And, we may be young, but let’s not forget:

You can imagine how different answers to these questions could radically alter the kinds of choices you make, so do your research. Take your time. Far from a distraction, this is the foundation you need to be able to answer those other quandaries like, “Do I really have what it takes to be an artist?” or “What am I looking for in a man [or woman] anyway?”

As for me, the Bible showed me that my identity doesn’t come from my job or any physical attribute or achievement. “Who I am” is a child of God, growing into an exciting future role in His Kingdom! I’ve found incredible encouragement and perspective from realizing that the attitude, character and relationships I build through this life are what really matter and endure. As Solomon discovered in Ecclesiastes, everything else is “vanity.” It doesn’t last.

“What am I supposed to do?”

Here are five tools you can start using now to beat your quarter-life crisis:

1. Prayer.

When you feel stuck and depressed, there are so many reasons to talk to God! For one, the Creator of the universe wants to hear from you! If that’s not reason enough, here are some specific things to pray:

2. Courage.

Many emerging adults feel stuck or directionless. Armed with prayer, study and the good advice of some trusted allies, take a hard look at your unfulfilling situation and what’s keeping you there. You may find that fear has been holding you back. Change for the better usually involves getting out of your comfort zone and taking some (healthy) risks. Be ready to face your fears and try something new!

3. Planning.

Now that you’re mentally prepared for change, it’s time to make a plan. Set realistic, bite-sized goals and write them down. Try to anticipate the obstacles you may face, and the ways you will mitigate or overcome them. Identify any distractions and set clear limits. If you don’t yet have a budget, make one. Take control and keep it!

4. Persistence.

These last two points help us get our expectations under control. Maybe you’ve got your life pretty much on track, but you’re just not seeing results as fast as you would like. Be patient and keep at it! Don’t use other people (or worse, other people’s highlight reels as presented on social media) as measuring sticks for your progress (2 Corinthians 10:12). Our generation has a reputation for quitting easily and demanding instant gratification, but we can rise above that.

5. Contentment and perspective.

Finally, the key to satisfaction in any situation is your attitude. True joy doesn’t come from your lifestyle or even your friendships. It’s a gift from God that transforms even the most vexing, uninspired situation into an occasion for growth (1 Timothy 6:6). Do what you can to improve your life, but recognize that ultimately the only thing that can make you happy is choosing, with God’s help, to be content (Philippians 4:11-13).

Celebrate small successes. Cultivate gratitude by thanking God for the many gifts and opportunities He has given you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Read the books of Philippians and Ecclesiastes to help you build an eternal perspective—and the ability to value what God values and not be overly concerned with things that don’t matter in the long run.

Start now!

If you are experiencing a quarter-life crisis, now is the time to work on getting out of it! With God’s help, hard work and some serious reflection, your quarter-life crisis can be a blessing—the wake-up call that helped you realize what was really important and drove you to change your life for the better.

Learn more in our articles “Decision Making” and “Choose Life!

About the Author

Life, Hope & Truth Contributor