Responsibilities like getting married, starting a successful career and paying back student loans can be rather large sources of stress, especially when you’ve just entered the real world.
A survey by WebMD found that young adults, those between the age of 18 and 33, are the most likely to feel stressed out.
The same WebMD survey also claims that only 25 percent of individuals surveyed felt any relief from meeting their doctors or counsellors.
As an individual you alone can help yourself and no amount of external advice can change this fact.
Before taking the necessary steps to deal with the crisis, there are a few changes you should make to your lifestyle - you must first eliminate anything holding you back.
Negativity can take many forms in your life and not all are immediately visible.
A survey by the American Psychological Association states that the three biggest sources of stress in young adults are work, money and relationships.
Now immediately quitting your job or breaking up with your significant other is not advisable. However, try and see where you can adjust your lifestyle to remove the source of negativity. You need to make a change in a sustainable way.
We all allow ourselves to get distracted every once in awhile. Usually it is a movie or a generous meal.
But any distraction that is taking over your life cannot be termed as a trivial distraction anymore.
Distractions destroy action. If its not moving you towards your purpose, Leave it alone.
Although you may have convinced yourself that having those few drinks every night is nothing harmful.
Or a few hours of gaming every day is just a bit of fun.
These often have a way of spiraling out of control. For a short period try limiting non-productive activities in your daily life. Getting away from harmful habits requires a good level of introspection.
Charles Duhigg, the author of “Power of Habit” describes a process to get rid of an unhealthy habit by analyzing it on a deeper level and dealing with the base urge itself.
Only if you have a life free of unnecessary negativity and distractions, you can focus on what you really need to.
1. Handling stress the right way
You must realize that this is just a temporary phase. You will become stronger in the long run if you keep at it. The Harvard Business Review notes that people tend to experience a sharp increase in stress levels in their twenties.
Another study by the Happify data science team on 88,000 people found that there is a sharp increase in stress in early thirties and late twenties. In fact, the average age for depression has dropped from the late forties to the mid-twenties.
But there’s a silver lining….
A person's emotional response to this stress declines over time. And they also experience a significant improvement in overall life satisfaction.
The American Psychology Association has found that levels of stress consistently decrease as an individual ages.
As your life takes course, you will have less time to dwell on your stress. You will gain experience and be better equipped to deal with challenges.
2. Letting go of limits is as discomforting as is important
The plethora of choices for you to consider might be one source of stress.
But you can use this as an opportunity to reflect on your past and find out what you truly want to do. Find things that run parallel to your passion and lifestyle. Then focus on them.
There are no arbitrary rules or limits that you need impose on yourself. Worrying about these will only lead to further stress.
A study by the Pew Research Center found that only 20% of individuals between the ages of 18-29 are married, in fact the same study shows that the average age at which people are getting married and settling down is increasing.
At the same time your twenties are not simply a time of procrastination. In this Ted Talk, the speaker, who is a clinical counsellor, describes how important this decade of your life will be.
Your twenties are about making the right plans and investments into who you are and who you want to become. If you are not pursuing traditional goals, that is perfectly fine but then make sure you are pursuing something worthwhile.
3. It is always good to rethink your identity
Taking this personality test will help you learn a little more about yourself. It assesses your personality in terms of Mind, Energy, Nature, Tactics and Identity.
The Mind aspect shows how we interact with other individuals. You might be an introvert in which case you prefer solitude and are easily exhausted by social interaction or you might be an extrovert and prefer group activities and feel energized by social interactions.
The Energy aspect is about how you process information in the world. An Observant might be more down to earth and focus on the present and current patterns in his world. On the other hand an Intuitive individual might focus on the hidden meanings of the world around him or her and the future possibilities it lends itself to.
The Nature aspect determines how we make decisions and cope with our emotions. Individuals who display the Thinking characteristic tend to focus on objectivity and rationality while those who are Feeling are more sensitive and emotionally expressive.
The Tactics aspect reflects your approach to work and decision-making. As a Judging individual you may value clarity, predictability and structure over spontaneity. A Prospecting individual may be more flexible and prefer improvising and spotting opportunities over working within a defined framework
At the end of the day, human behaviour cannot be measured by data points. This test might only give you a little insight into your behaviour and habits. It is up to you to make changes in your lifestyle to fit your personality type.
4. Comparison with others is the death of success
In the 1950s, the psychologist Leon Festinger popularized the social-comparison theory. He argued that people have innate tendencies to assess their self-worth by comparing themselves to other people and that social comparison leads to feelings of insignificance and insecurity.
Social networking platforms have only exacerbated this problem in recent times. Just look at the spike in the amount of time people spend on Facebook after a breakup.
In an interview with a psychologist, Dr. Steers, who conducted a study on the link between Facebook use and depression, it was noted that “Part of the reason for that is people tend to self-present on Facebook and they try to present themselves in the best light possible”
It is important to remember that whatever photographs and posts you see on Facebook or Instagram have been selectively uploaded by your friends.
Do you post your day to day mediocre moments on Facebook?
So while you may be witnessing a constant stream of road trips, parties and weekend getaways, remember this is the highlight reel you are witnessing.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
5. Success is never 'overnight', unlike popular opinion
Success happens in slow and painful steps, not overnight. You will find success in the culmination of your sustained effort over a large period of time. This graph from a youth blog conceptualizes this perfectly.
Think of each step you take as an investment into your future. Like any investment, the returns can only be seen after a sufficient amount of time has passed.
If you always judge yourself prematurely you will find yourself reaching short of your goal. You must give yourself time.
Longevity is what breeds results.
6. Figure out the RIGHT risks, and take them
Take a little time and try to come up with an overarching aim and a timeframe.
Although a detailed goal will be much easier to work towards, it is having a goal that is crucial. This will define success for you, for example assume your goal could be “I want to be a graphic designer by the time I am 30.”
Now you need to find the steps to achieve that goal. This is where research comes in. You would need to look at the jobs available and their recruiting requirements.
You might need to take a course or a certified training program in this field to gain the required skills.
You could contact young people who work in the field, who would be able to offer you inside information on average pay scales, or working hours.
You might find an opportunity on the opposite end of your country. Even if this seems discouraging at first, try doing a simple cost benefit analysis of the risks and rewards of pursuing this.
Since self-doubt and discouragement do not factor into these analyses, you might find the pros outweighing the cons.
That is the leap of faith.
7. Finding a mentor who can channelize your energies
A mentor can provide priceless guidance at the start of your career.
Although, finding one is easier said than done, you would be extremely lucky to find one amongst your existing contacts or through social media.
Before approaching someone, reflect on what you want from this person as your mentor. If you require day to day attention then you might be better off reaching out to a family member or a retiree rather than a busy CEO. You can approach others if you don’t want advice so often.
It is also much easier to find someone to mentor you when the relationship is mutually beneficial. Try contributing something to them or their organization first. They may then be more inclined to guide you.
It is important to remember that ultimately it is your work ethic and grit that will bring you success, your mentor might guide you to the water, you must be the one to drink.
8. Dealing with failure is something everyone should be ready for
As you go through life you will come to realize the importance of failure.
Looking at stories of highly successful people, you will find that failure has always been an integral part of their journey to success.
Before he found Microsoft, Bill Gates, owned a company called Traf-O-Data which tracked traffic data to sell to municipalities. The only problem with the product was that it did not work and the venture failed.
Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
However, Microsoft cofounder, Paul Allen, has said that “the programming and entrepreneurial experience gained was seminal in preparing them to make Microsoft’s first product.” In the long run, your failures are an integral part of your successes.
This is where the concept of learning as a curve comes from.
Investing in your education is investing in yourself and it is in your twenties when your investments have the most potential to grow.
The investment into education may not even be monetary. Online services like Coursera, MIT Open Courseware, and Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Institute offer high quality certified courses from reputable institutes for free.
And there is no shortage of variety.
You can also look for programs and workshops in your local community or universities. Here you could also interact with a variety of people who might be in a similar position as you.
Every step you take on your journey is a leap of faith even if you don't stick all the landings, keep taking those leaps!
This is not a perfect tutorial.
Everyone is in a different situation and there will never be a one-fits-all solution to our problems. Usually a quarter life crisis is a symptom to a much deeper problem in our lives. This process did not focus on any single aspect of my life, instead I changed the fundamental way I lived.
The process is simple by itself but it requires constant dedication.
Do you think your life is in a bit of a lull? What changes do you plan to make to kick-start your life today?