Quarter Life Crisis: Phase 1

On a day-to-day basis you have to pretend that everything is fine, which can result in anxiety and other mental health problems.
— Short Sharp Science
  • Have you ever wanted to punch someone in the face, when people tell you that life will get better?
  • Do you cringe when people tell you that in your 20s and 30s you should be happy because you’re young?
  • Do you get frustrated because you cannot explain to your love ones your feelings without them judging you?

In this blog post, we’re discussing Phase 1 of a Quarter Life Crisis in depth.

A Brief Overview of Quarter Life Crisis

    About a decade ago, psychologist coined a Quarter Life Crisis because they noticed that people in their twenties were stressed about their glass being half empty. Psychologist noticed that twenty somethings were  experiencing a period of anxiety, uncertainty and inner turmoil that often accompanies the transition to adulthood. Psychologist, Oliver Robinson, has researched this phenomenon for over 10 years. Robinson and his colleagues interviewed 50 people who described themselves as having experienced one. Robinson and his research team uncovered interviewees' Quarter Life Crisis experiences could be broken up into five distinct phases:

Phase 1 - A feeling of being trapped by your life choices. Feeling as though you are living your life on autopilot.

Phase 2 - A rising sense of "I've got to get out" and the feeling that you can change your life.

Phase 3 - Quitting the job or relationship or whatever else is making you feel trapped and embarking on a "time out" period where you try out new experiences to find out who you want to be.

Phase 4 - Rebuilding your life.

Phase 5 - Developing new commitments more attuned to your interests and aspirations.

Out of all of the Phases, the first phase of your quarter life crisis is the phase that punches you in the face, and makes you forget everything that you know. A recent article from Bustle, contributor Phoebe Waller, explains that the, “The quarter-life crisis is a funny creature that sneaks up on twenty-somethings from out of nowhere, and puts us under a spell to believe that we are miles away from reaching the goals we set ourselves as kids.” We feel trapped and this is very normal.

When The Quarter Design interviewed several men and women on their experience of a Quarter Life Crisis.

(I disclosed the true names because of confidentiality)

I felt like I was dying- Michelle, 25

I cried every day because I, couldn’t articulate my feelings. I was angry and mad at myself and I didn’t want to tell my family because they see me as finally “making it.” Neither of my parents attended college so I knew that I couldn’t tell them that my job stressed me out - Elizabeth, 29

You don’t understand, I’ve always had to hide myself because I’ve lived in so many locations that I have to hide. – Jake, 27

I would hide a hit the gym every night because I felt trapped in my relationship and I didn’t want him to see me unhappy.  – Jaleeha, 24

Phase one can cause many side effects...

Side effects of a Quarter Life Crisis Phase 1

  • Shortness of breath

  • Anxiety attacks

  • Depression

  • Anger

  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

  • Escaping from your life (drinking, drugs, tv)

  • Social isolation

  • Loneliness

               Phase one is by far the most difficult phase to understand, because if you or your loved ones are experiencing  it, they will not know that they are experiencing it. When one is trapped in phase one of their Quarter Life Crisis their identity is in questioning.

Identity Crisis

An identity "crisis" may occur at any time in your adult years when you're faced with a challenge: figuring out your identity.  In addition, not every person goes through an identity crisis at 20 or adolescents, but instead accepts the roles and values handed down by his or her parents. Some people can remain in a permanent state of crisis. Think about that…

Have you ever had a friend who just can’t get their act together? A friend who always has to complain about every restaurant that you eat at? Or criticizes the way people look? When a friend is constantly commenting on other people they are often hiding something. They have lost who they are. It’s like Comedian, Dane Cooke, says if you don’t know that person, it is most likely you.

The good thing about having an identity crisis is your future self is telling you that’s time to into a new you!

You must experience a crisis because it is a natural part of life. Questioning who you are isn’t the best feeling. It’s a moment that you have to get real and honest with yourself. Developmental psychologist, Eric Erikson, explains that we experience around eight forms of identity crisis in our lives. Even little kids have identity crisis.  I recently interviewed, former school leader and founder of The One School Project: A Global Collaboration about preschool children and their identity crisis and he’s researched the Habits of two year olds entering preschool.


Imagine you’re two years old and you’ve just started preschool. Before that, your parents held your hand. Your butt was always cleaned by them and now you’ve turned three and you’ve have to grow up. This can create a shock. I’ve seen some kids turn into their version of MacBeth trying to revenge everyone in their sight. - Brennan Gage

Think of your life as an economic crisis…. In every eight years, we go through some economic downturn. It an odd way in our lives we have the same cyclical crisis effect.

The problem for them is that without an actual period of exploring their own commitments, they may find themselves in mid-life to regret those decisions that did not match their true, inner needs.

How can I get out of a Phase 1?

It really depends on you and what you want. I’ve interviewed people that have gotten out of a phase 1 of their Quarter Life Crisis in two weeks and some people were in phase one for 1 ½ years ( hint- that was me ) There are multiple options. These options have been tried from experts, and case studies.

Mental Health Apps

If you are experiencing severe depression or anxiety seeking out for help in can benefit. There are several mental health apps can help you create a sense of calm.

Pro:   You can talk to someone in the luxury of your own home.

Con: is that it is looking for help by using technology might always be the best case scenario. Many are designed by software developers instead of psychologists, without scientific testing. They range from beneficial, to harmless but useless, to bordering on fraudulent.

Note: When we are feeling trapped using  phones might lead us to spending hours on Instagram. A 2014 study in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions found a correlation between higher social media usage and depression/anxiety

Counseling/ Therapy

Millennials are experiencing anxiety and depression. We live in the age of Prozac Nation and we are forced to Keep up with the Kardashians. Millennials are the age group that are currently experience the highest forms of depression. Talking to someone with an unbiased opinion could help you understand why you are feeling trapped.

Pros: Have one on one contact with a specialist

Cons: Price can be an issue and not every counselor and therapist are all the same.

Mastermind groups

There is strength in numbers. Steve Jobs did not make apple without Steve Wozniak. There is no Sonny without Cher. Talking to a group of people can help you see the light out of the end of the tunnel. When I was knee deep into a Quarter Life Crisis, my friend and I would meet up at a coffee shop and write down all our dreams and aspirations every month. We tried coding together. We looked into engineering schools. We job shadowed people.

Pro: Trying out new things can help you step out of your confront zone.

Con: Having a mastermind group with friends won't necessarily help you grow. When I felt stagnant I attended Meetup groups.

Going off the Grid

A study in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions found a correlation between higher social media usage and depression/anxiety.

It’s difficult to completely go off the grid but here are some ways to fake it:

  1. Camping not Glamping

  2. Turn off your wi-fi

  3. Turn off your phone an hour before you go to bed

  4. Read the Minimalist blog.  

  5. Learn how to Disappear

  6. Have your friend change your FB or any Social Media password

  7. Travel abroad.

  8. Drive in the car for ten minutes before turning on music


Do I really need to say anymore. Go ahead a Mediate so you can levitate


Write all your anger down

Just because they're negative emotions doesn't mean anger, fear and sorrow are bad or wrong. Those emotions are there for a reason. 

If you would like a schedule a Scheduling a free 30 minute Discovery Call give me a holler.






Eugenie George