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How to tell if you're having a quarter-life crisis

A young man meditates on a table in an empty office in front of his laptop

4 signs you’re having a quarter-life crisis and what to do

A young man meditates on a table in an empty office in front of his laptop

If you’re in your 20s or early 30s and haven’t heard of the quarter-life crisis, it’s time to switch off the Netflix and start paying attention.

Because, it’s not ‘if’ it happens to you, but more likely to be ‘when’ it happens to you.

The Guardian reported that a whopping 86% of millennials experience a quarter-life crisis – and with symptoms like depression, isolation, confusion and anxiety, it’s going to take more than a few Kayne memes and some smashed avo' on toast to come out the other side unscathed.

Before you start overthinking your life, here are four signs you’re having a quarter-life crisis – and what to do about it.

1. You’re feeling trapped

Dr Oliver Robertson from the University of Greenwich explains that a quarter-life crisis happens in the transition between ‘emerging adulthood’ and ‘early adulthood’ and involves a struggle between independence and commitment. If you feel as though you’ve committed at a young age – whether it be to your career or your relationship – you could feel trapped, overwhelmed and crave independence.

Fix: Instead of quitting your job or breaking up with your boo, identify exactly what part is making you feel trapped – you might find out that you are the problem and by altering your own behaviour, you can make a positive change.

A young woman sits on a green bench at a train station

2. You feel like you’re stuck behind the ‘eight-ball’

Are you worried that all you friends have their life together – marriage, kids, etc. – and you’re just sitting around waiting for UberEATS to deliver your Pad Thai? Before you start eating your feelings, you should know that you’re not alone.

Dr Robertson explains that this is the flipside of feeling trapped. Instead of having the responsibilities that come from commitment, you crave it – and feel as though everyone else is moving into adulthood while you’re stuck behind the eight-ball.

Fix: It’s time to work on your emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a term that psychologists use to describe how well someone can handle their emotions and react to the emotions of other people. There are five key areas of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy and motivation. Being sound in these will help you deal with feelings of inadequacy and funnel the negative energy into something more productive – like heading to the gym, taking up a new hobby or starting meditation classes.

Don't put all your effort into money or work; instead figure out what makes you happy and do it

3. You’re worried you’re not earning enough

Dr Robertson looked at the signs of the quarter-life crisis and found that two in five of the young people he questioned were concerned about their financial situation, saying they didn’t earn enough.

Whether it’s stemming from the fact that we’re seriously anxious about housing affordability, or from data which shows only eight percent of us believe we’ll be financially better off than our parents, financial stress is one of the signs of a quarter-life crisis.

Fix: Try not to focus as much on the amount you earn and put more effort into building up your budgeting skills. There are countless free apps available to help your get on the right track with your spending. Just remember, it doesn’t matter how much you save from your pay packet – any little bit you put aside will help.

4. Unsure of your purpose

It was all so simple in primary school. When the teacher asked what you wanted to be when you grew up, the answer generally stayed the same – doctor, policeman, vet, popstar (or, was that just me?).

Nowadays, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you’re meant to be – both personally and professionally.

Fix: Psychologist Frederick Herzberg theorised that there are two sets of factors in the workplace. The first set of factors are the ‘hygiene factors’ – these are things like salary, status and job security. Although, these factors are important, they don’t lead to satisfaction.

The second set of factors are ‘motivators’ and include things like recognition, responsibility, a sense of importance and personal growth. These are the things that bring satisfaction.

The trick is to focus on your motivators and not spend so much time dwelling on the ‘hygiene factors’. Stop putting all your effort into striving for a huge pay check or promotion, instead figure out what makes you happy and do it.

At nib, we want you to rest easy knowing that you’re protected regardless of what life throws at you. That’s why we offer a range of covers that you can tailor to suit your current situation – it’s how health insurance should be.

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