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10 tips to help you conquer a quarter or midlife crisis

A few weeks ago a Positively Present reader contacted me and asked me to write a post about coping with a midlife crisis. Though I don't think I'm quite to that midlife point yet (though I guess you never know!), I have had the pleasure of battling a what I'd call a quarterlife crisis. Between the ages of 22 and 25, I really struggled. I was in a job I disliked, my dating life was constantly up and down, my choices were reckless, and I was just flat out unhappy. I hated who I had become and I had yet to figure out who I wanted to be. Around age 25, I started to realize that this whole crisis thing I was going through wasn't just going to sort itself out. I had to do something.

The problem was that I had no idea what to do. I started reading blogs and websites about how to become happier. I picked up books like Quarterlife Crisis and Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis and 20 Something, 20 Everything (all of which were actually really helpful and made me feel so much less alone). But even while reading these and learning that other twentysomethings were feeling the same way I was, I felt silly and vain for claiming to be in the midst of a "quarterlife crisis." I had a job, a boyfriend, friends, a social life -- and I was still so young -- so what could I possibly be having a crisis about? I had my whole life ahead of me, right?

That's the thing with these crises -- quarter, mid, whenever -- there doesn't have to be a good reason. You don't have to have some terrible event happen to you (or any event at all). They just hit you, out of nowhere, and you're blindsided by them. In the media, a midlife crisis is portrayed in a comical way -- new haircuts, younger spouses, fast little sports cars -- but in real life, midlife crises (and, from my experience, quarterlife crises), are no laughing matter. They creep in, dripping into every aspect of your life, and suddenly you are soaked with the realized that this is your life and it not at all what you thought it would be.

Battling this realization is no easy feat. It's broad and sweeping and seems to cover pretty much every aspect of your existence, leaving you with little to hold on to in terms of hope. It makes you feel as if everything you've ever done -- and everything you're going to do -- has been a waste of time. It makes you want to start over, but you can't because this is your life. You are here now and you have to figure out a way to accept what's happened to get you here -- and find a way to conquer the thoughts that have made you feel like you are lost in your own life. 

It took me a long time -- years, in fact -- to get to a point where I can honestly say I don't feel as if I am in the middle of a crisis. Life is far from perfect (and how boring it would be if it were perfect!), but it's stable and sane and happy. I wake up and I know why I'm here, what I'm doing, and how lucky I am to have the people in my life supporting me. I wake up and feel happy. But I had to make an effort (a BIG effort) to get from crisis to calm -- and here are some of the things that helped me along the way.  

10 Tips to Help You Conquer that Crisis

1. Don't give up hope. When everything in your life seems like a mess and you have no idea why you are where you are, it can be so easy throw in the towel and let yourself slide into the quicksand of negativity. Don't do that. You deserve more than that. You deserve a second chance at your own life. Even if it's a teeny, tiny thread, cling to whatever hope you can find. It will save you. 

2. Find a new activity. Doing the same things over and over and over again can be emotionally draining (and damaging). If things aren't what you thought they would be, if you want your life to be different, you have to make it different. Subtract an activity that's bringing you down and add in an activity that will bring you up. Not sure what will bring you up? Try lots of different things 'til you find a perfect fit. 

3. Surround yourself with positive people. Crises can be brought on by the people around us, dragging us down. Evaluate the people you spend the most time with. How do they make you feel? What do you spend time doing together? If these feelings and activities aren't positive, find some new friends. A crisis is hard enough without a lack of support from positive people. 

4. Seek professional help. Finding the right therapist can save your life. When you're really down and out, the unbiased, objective advice from a trained professional can be just what you need to get yourself back on track. Don't try to talk yourself out of it or let negative judgments about therapy get in your way. Sitting on the couch can be just what you need to get you back up on your feet. 

5. Believe in your abilities. Scrub "I can't..." from your vocabulary. The more times you tell yourself that you can't overcome this crisis, the more times you'll be setting yourself back. It might seem impossible at times, but you will get through this and end up on the other side a stronger person. Don't ever stop believing in your ability to conquer this crisis. You can -- and will! -- do it. 

6. Change what's not working. You can't live the life you've always wanted to be living if you keep doing the things that you've always been doing. You have to change. Hard? Yes. Possible? Definitely. Figure out what's not working in your life -- the bad job, the toxic relationship, the negative thinking -- and change it. And don't stop at one thing. Change all the things that aren't working, one at a time. 

7. Figure out what you really want. Clearly a crisis isn't what you want. No one wants that feeling of isolation and frustration. But what do you want? We often whine about not being happy with our lives without giving much thought to what would make our lives happier. Make a list, keep a journal, tell a friend -- do whatever you need to do in order to figure out what you really, truly want in your life. 

8. Take it one day at a time. Every day will have it's ups and downs, but every day you start focusing more on the positive, making changes in your life, and surrounding yourself with the right people is a step in the right direction. Don't dwell too much on the future. Take each day as it comes and, little by little, you'll find yourself putting that crisis further and further behind you. 

9. Treat your body right. It's oh-so tempting to eat what we want, drink what we want, do what we want. After all, when you're in emotional pain, don't you need some sort of physical treat? No. No, you don't. What you need is a body that's in peak physical condition so it can help you battle those unpleasant emotional monsters. Eat your veggies, don't drink too much, get rest, exercise. No excuses. 

10. Join a club or group. There may be people out there struggling just like you are. Find them and work together to conquer your crises. Can't find a group of people going through what you're going through? Start one. It doesn't have to be crisis-specific (what about a happiness project?), but it does have to be something that will inspire, uplift, and support you. 


A few months ago, I was editing my bookshelves -- getting rid of old books to make room for the new ones -- and I came across my quarterlife crisis books. In previous editing sessions, I'd left them on the shelves, thinking, "I never know when I might need these again..." but this time I pulled them down, blew the dust off of them and thought, "I should donate these. Someone else might be going through what I was and could really use them." I added them to the stack of to-donate books, not thinking much of it. When I think back on that day, I realize that it was an important act, donating those books. It meant I'd made it through -- finally -- to the other side of that quarterlife crisis.

Maybe I would have a midlife crisis. Maybe I wouldn't. But making it through those turbulent early twenties gave me one thing I hadn't had back when I was a teenager: the realization that I could survive a crisis and come out stronger, better, smarter. For me, the old cliche had turned out to be (quite literally) true: what didn't kill me made me stronger. Strong enough to take those books off the shelf and pass them on. Strong enough to sit here and write this. Strong enough to know that those of you out there struggling will conquer their crises -- just like I did.


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Surround yourself with positive people-- that is an important one I've learned. If someone is bringing you down, if someone isn't a "net positive" in your life, then you you can make the choice to limit your time with them. The people around us can make all the difference in the world and I am always surprised when folks don't follow that one. We don't have to be with people that make us feel bad!!!

Thank you! You give me courage.

Laura - I'm so glad you highlighted this point! Surrounding myself with positive people is one of the most important lessons I've learned as well, but it's also been one of the hardest. It seems so obvious - just get rid of the people that bring you down! - but I've found it to be very complex in some cases, especially with people I really love or am related to. But I've learned that there are ways to distance myself from negative people even when I didn't have the option to completely rid them from my life. Thanks so much for the comment!

Dee - You're welcome! I'm so happy to hear that this article has given you courage. Thanks for reading!

“I started to realize that this whole crisis thing I was going through wasn't just going to sort itself out. I had to do something.”

First of all, I totally agree. You have to act and yet those actions may start out very small. Also, I second your comment on treating your body right. I believe the health of our bodies (physically, emotionally, spiritually) is connected in that you can’t be optimally healthy in one category without being healthy in the other. Your ‘health’ has to do with all three things. I know for me I feel I do better going to bed earlier and waking up earlier. (Even though I tend to want to stay up late, I usually regret this decision).

Your post also reminds me of something I saw at a friend’s house a few weeks ago: life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about defining yourself.

SF - Thanks for sharing your insights! I really do believe that taking care of yourself physically can have a big impact on emotional and spiritual health. I love the quote that you spotted at your friend's house. It's so true!

Hope you don't mind, but I love your blog and tumblr so much that I added little links on the side bar of my blog. Your writing is fantastic and inspires me every day :)


Paige - Of course I don't mind! Thanks so much for adding my site on yours. And thanks for the compliments too! I appreciate that so much!

Great post! I'm writing on the same topic, how to quell the quarter life crisis. I'm looking forward to reading more of your thoughts. I'm at www.quellingtheQLC.com

John - Thanks! I'm looking forward to checking out your site. Thanks for sharing it!

Maybe you can tell me what a person does who really can't fix anything, who's going through both a quarter life and midlife crisis and really can change a thing who's turning 25 in two weeks???

That's what I'm trying to figure out. I'm all for the encouragement and it's nice to know. But my main problem is society. What I want right now is to be a mom but I can't why because guys think I'm weird and gross. I would love to be working (a crap job or a fun one doesn't matter) but I don't have the college degree. Don't have a degree because I couldn't afford to pay for college any more because my dad died unexpectedly on thanksgiving. I can't get a job because I owe $200,000 in student loan debt are defaulted. Only good thing, I live with my sick mother who provides a roof over my head and food. I'm stuck in a rut and I don't know how to get out of it without involving money or college or a marriage of convenience that I'm not willing to do.

So I'm broke, basically friendless, never had a boyfriend ever nor ever been on a real actual date, I'm uneducated by society's rules and I'm unfit to have a baby whether it's my weight or the "apparent" ugliness I don't see. I would low to talk to a person about this but since universities are strict with outsiders and want money irregardless I can't afford therapy let alone buy a book about people who are supposedly going through the same thing.

People should be happy they got to graduate college and get some kinda of job. Even in today's economic situation. But no they bitch and moan and get made because they're not married or haven't had that trip to Europe.

While I have to sit at home because I don't have any money to go anywhere and take care of a sick mother.

Oh did I mention that my family disowned me and my mom??

So don't complain unless you have a real reason to.

Bunny - It sounds like you're going through a really rough time and I'm so sorry to hear that. Though I've never been in your exact situation, I can offer this advice: start focusing on the positive. Instead of thinking about the things you don't have, start focusing on the things you do have. And start focusing on the things you love about yourself. And go out and do things that you love to do (which will expose you to people who also like to do those things). The more you focus on the positive, the more things will fall into place. People are attracted to positive people who love who they are. Good things happen to those who bring positivity to the world. I know it is really hard to do when things are bad, but a positive attitude really will change your life.

Hi Dani, I am not sure if the term mid-life crisis does justice to the event that it proclaims to be. For me it was an event that changed my life. I decided to give up drinking alcohol because it was consuming my life. When I stopped drinking I had a lot of time on my hands and I filled it by learning. I was so proud of my self for stopping drinking I believed anything was possible. In the next few years there was nothing in my life that did not change. I hate to use the term mid-life crisis but while it is here lets use it. Everyone will have a mid-life crisis, but most people will just sweep it under the carpet. Very few people will let it consume them and I salute these vital few. This change is necessary to ensure you have a perfectly positive life in the NOW. Great post. Lee

Lee - I'd definitely call that a mid-life crisis. During my quarter-life crisis, I too gave up drinking. It's been one of the best decisions of my life and has freed up so much of my time for things like Positively Present. Change is absolutely necessary (even without a crisis) and I'm so impressed by your choice to give up something that was impacting your life negatively. Way to go!

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