New research finds most millennials ages 25 to 35 are questioning their life choices.
Adulting is a struggle.
Six in 10 Millennials say they are suffering a quarter-life crisis, or a period of intense self doubt and insecurity that is causing them to question their life choices, relationships and career paths, according to a survey of 1,000 young British professionals.
The men and women ages 25 to 35 confessed to feeling in a slump for more than six months, fueled by fretting that they spend more than they earn each month (53% of respondents), they are struggling to find the right job (26%) or they are working in a challenging job (24%). And 1 in 5 millennials are worried about buying property, while 1 in 4 yearn to be in the “right” relationship.
This backs a recent LinkedIn survey of 2,000 millennials, which found that 72% of young professionals ages 25 to 33 who also said they’ve experienced a quarter-life crisis. The main factors that this group grappled with were finding a job they’re passionate about (57%) and the pressure to buy property (57%), which were both higher priorities than finding love (46%). Women (61%) in particular were also more likely to be unsure of their next career move, compared to 56% of men.
Millennials tend to face excessive uncertainty in their career trajectory, question their life choices and have a difficult time staying present in the moment mainly because they don’t have a lot of real-life experience to compare anything to, says Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist and the author of The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius.
“Things are really difficult for people in their 20s and early 30s because you’re making what seems like the most important permanent decisions of your life. In reality, many people do make changes, but it feels like these are non-refundable changes that you’re making for your career, relationship or family,” she says. “Once you choose something, you’re ruling out other things and that’s anxiety producing.”
Women in particular feel more pressure than men in their twenties because the biological clock is ticking, experts say. Many often feel pressure that they have to step away from a job or make some kind of trade off they may not be ready to make.
“It is difficult when deciding ‘I want to have children’ or ‘I want to have a family’ and this is the window and the window may or may not be coming at a great time professionally for you,” says Saltz.
The survey also found that 31% of people felt they had wasted years in the wrong job while 34% had relocated to another part of the country or abroad and 35% reportedly changed their career entirely. When it comes to feeling stressed about work, Saltz says it’s important to take a step back and realize not everyday is going to be fun.
“Many people in their 20s have unreasonably high expectations. Not only should they be earning well, but they should be loving the concept of what they’re doing minute to minute. We’re a very happy focused society right now, where, if you’re not happy something is wrong. That bleeds into how you feel at work,” Saltz suggests.
Here are some tips for dealing with the everyday anxiety that comes with growing up:
It’s important to take time to acknowledge your achievements and be thankful for where you are in life whether it be getting a new job or promotion, coming up with a great idea or even enjoying a good cup of coffee.
“It’s more about mindfulness, being able to take pleasure and having gratitude for the moment to moment things that do bring you pleasure in life,” says Saltz. “It’s an attempt to focus on the present, which helps deflect in the long haul, obsessiveness and anxiety that’s just out of reach.”
Lower your expectations — for the time being
The sky’s the limit, but not everything is within reach instantly.
Millennials tend to set relatively high expectations for themselves and their ambitions, and compare themselves to people with seemingly “perfect lives” and extravagant experiences on social media.
“Our society today, especially with social media, breaths a lot of grandiosity into the fantasy that everybody looks like they’re leading the life of the rich and famous,” says Saltz.
“Think about what the “fantasy” is, and consider how realistic it is.”
Recognize anxiety when it happens
When you experience self doubt or hate a current project you’re assigned to at work, it’s easy for thoughts to spiral into bigger picture questions like: “Is this really what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life?” Saltz says it’s important to label these feelings as “anxiety” and mentally shelve them.
“Anxiety is a future-focused issue. It’s about what may or may not happen in the future. Stay in the present,” Saltz says of combatting worry-oriented thinking.
“Thoughts like ‘this is the worst,’ and ‘it’s always going to be like this’ are classic anxiety thoughts and tend to run in an obsessive loop,” she adds, recommending you not to engage with these thoughts and instead revert back to the present. To help with this, check out these meditation apps to decompress from work.
Realize it all takes work
Relationships, careers, finances: Getting them right takes work. And Saltz says that you need to recognize that you’ll have to “put work in” to get where you want to go.
Career wise, you can’t expect growth if you stay stagnant. Building relationships with mentors you admire and trust could help further the next step in your career. Make an effort to network with people in your industry and build a rolodex of contacts you can call on for advice.
This article was originally published on Nov. 15, 2017 and has been updated with U.K. survey data.
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