Mid-Life Crisis: It’s Not a One-Time Deal

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You see a balding man in a red convertible and...

You see a balding man in a red convertible and what’s your first thought? Mid-life crisis, right?

We’ve come to expect some sort of crunch-time in our mid-forties when we panic at the state of our lives and feel the need for change. This crisis might be accompanied by an abrupt job switch, relationship upheaval or a sudden urge to take up skydiving.


While most of us are familiar with this concept, many don’t realize this “crisis” isn’t unique to mid-life. Several others are just as common, each occurring in unique periods of our lives. They can be just as powerful as a mid-life crisis, but aren’t frequently labeled as such.

Quarter-Life Crisis

This occurs in your mid-twenties. You’re several years out of school and feel like you’re still waiting for life to begin. You feel a bit lost, scared, lonely and unsure how to transition into “adult” life. You look back at college or high school and begin to regret the things you never tried or could’ve done better. You look around and see many of your peers are “ahead” of you. They’re already married, on a solid career track or farther along in goals you have for yourself. You start to fear you’ll never accomplish certain things if you haven’t done them by the time you’re 28.

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Common responses to a quarter-life crisis include depression and blaming others for your perceived failures. It’s also common to rush into major decisions in an effort to feel more like an adult. You get married, buy a house, have kids or take a new “grown-up” job.

Moving out of this crisis typically involves a reality check. You notice not everyone is “adulting” the way you think you should be by now. You admit some of your hopes and dreams haven’t happened yet (and maybe never will) and accept that it’s okay. You realize you have time to pursue these things and have plenty to be thankful for in your current stage of life.

30-Year Crisis

When you reach your early to mid-thirties, it’s often time for another crisis. The time of tremendous change in your twenties is over. You’ve settled into life a bit and started to analyze your situation.

You reflect on childhood and develop a critical attitude toward your parents, for the things you think they should’ve done better. You look at your current career and decide you don’t like the path you’re on. You feel the urge to pursue something else because, let’s face it, you don’t want to do this for another thirty years.

You look at your spouse, and wonder if you want to do that for another thirty years, too. This is often a tumultuous time for couples, as they strive to individuate and start to push back at things they’ve accepted for the first few years of marriage. If single, you feel lonely and aimless. If childless, women hear the clock ticking.

All of this analysis can become quite overwhelming. To get through it, you need to first recognize the crisis for what it is. Don’t panic. This is normal. Take a deep breath and focus on the next step. Realize you aren’t trapped. You do have choices. Explore them. Go ahead and take some grad classes. Work through things with your parents by talking to them and gaining a better understanding of their perspective. Get counseling or therapy to work through relationship problems, job issues or other concerns.  

Later-Life Crisis

Once you’ve made it through a midlife crisis, you might think the turmoil is over. This isn’t necessarily true. Studies have found that about 33 percent of adults over the age of sixty go through a later-life crisis.

This crisis includes a loss of self-worth as you move into retirement. If you don’t stay active in other ways and haven’t maintained a healthy social network, you could feel lonely and without purpose. At this stage in life, it’s also common to lose someone close to you. This can create a time of deep sorrow.

To move through a later-life crisis, it’s important to think of it as an opportunity for growth. Stop looking back and regretting things you didn’t do. Embrace this time as a chance to do new things. If you’re retired, you have more time to volunteer, travel or learn something new. Staying as physically active as possible is also key. Regular exercise boosts your mood and keeps you in a better mental and physical state.


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