There’s a common idea that existential crisis is limited to those approaching what has been traditionally known as ‘mid-life’. In our late thirties and forties, even our early fifties, people have experienced quite a lot and have a general idea of how their life has gone up until now. We can become reflective, take stock of who we have become and all too often we get very judgmental about ourselves.
These moments are not specific to any particular period of peoples lives. Lifepaths are more varied across the world than they ever have been. There’s a wider range of life experience than there ever has been before, with greater options on how a life can be led. This means that some are experiencing these ‘crises’ earlier or later than mid-life.
Here are eight signs you may be experiencing this crisis now.
It’s important to sometimes take stock of how one’s life has been led. We look back at our decisions, good or bad, with the benefit of hindsight. In our late teens and early twenties, it is common to be impulsive, live in the moment, and at times make rash decisions.
Looking back at these decisions make us reflective, trying to see a pattern to our behaviors and how we might fit in the grand scheme of things. We look at where we are now, and whether the decisions we’ve taken to get to this point were beneficial or destructive. These questions we ask of ourselves can shake our foundations, and this is what is known as an ‘existential crisis.’
For example, some people question whether that young, hopeful person they were would even like the person that they have become. Some people question their happiness with their life so far.
Nor do we only reflect on our inner world. Often, if one is going through a crisis, we look to our outer selves to. We can become more and more consumed by a kind of fear of what we are presenting to the world. We may start to look back at a picture of our younger selves and wonder how we changed so much.
There are two ways people deal with this worry of how we look to others. We simply give up on trying to maintain a good appearance. We might even become unhygienic or messy, even seeking destructive eating habits or drinking excessively.
Conversely, we may also recognize improvements we may make to our appearance and actively seek ways of facilitating a change. If left unchecked, this can manifest in obsessive exercise or beauty regimes.
In combination with the last point, we might also seek physical and mental exertion as a means of escape or recapturing some sort of vitality. As our visits to the doctor or the hospital become more regular, there’s a creeping dread that our bodies and minds are no longer the energy-primed machines they once were. We see those younger than us in a constant flurry of activity and envy their ability.
We seek new challenges, pushing our selves towards goals that we may not have considered worthwhile in our younger days. We search out learning opportunities to keep our cognitive functions intact and physical challenges to revitalize our anatomy.
Sometimes our worries about our life trajectory, appearance and aging body can get the better of us and cause us sleeplessness. We replay past transgressions from years or decades ago over an over, even though we know there’s nothing that can be done about it.
We think about the changes we notice in our appearance or the physical issues that we fear may manifest as something sinister. The future which was once so distant becomes the present, and we wonder how we managed to waste so much time getting here.
It’s a cyclical process, as the more we worry over this stuff, the more likely we are to lose sleep the next night.
In part due to the sleeplessness, but also as a general change in overall mood we can become more prone to irritation. As the world changes around us and we struggle to remain relevant, we find ourselves lagging behind somehow. We find it difficult to understand the reasons behind some changes to society and social norms.
Where we were once able to take life’s little grievances in our stride, we now find them distracting and can end up obsession over them. Worst of all, we can make irritability part of our personality and actively seek out reasons to be irritated or outraged.
Changing Habits and Hobbies
If you find yourself experiencing a change in your habits overall, there’s every chance you are going through a crisis. If you think back, this crisis also happens during puberty, our movement into our first steady job or when we embark on a new relationship. We let go of things we think are childish or no longer suitable and abandon endeavors we no longer find useful.
In fact, this change of habits and hobbies may be a kind of reversion to those of an earlier time. We might dust off that old guitar or break out the paints we were once so fond of. Our introspection involves us reminiscing and regretting decisions we didn’t make as well as those we did.
This can be a truly good thing. It’s never too late to enjoy doing something you love and it’s never too late to make it a main part of your life. Embrace your changing interests. Just because you’re a grown up, it doesn’t mean that you should stop dreaming or changing. At the very least, you’ll have some fun.
Sometimes, when in a crisis, there’s a tendency to become overly impulsive. Part of the joy of childhood and youth is the fact that impulsive decisions can be made with very little long term consequence.
By contrast, as we take on more responsibility throughout our lives, we become increasingly aware that we are chained to the paths we have chosen to follow. We long for the freedom to act impulsively.
Remind yourself that impulsive decisions are still a possibility. People do that all the time. For instance, they leave their office job to pursue their dreams of being travel bloggers or writers, they change careers and so on. Of course, those decisions require more thought than the ones that you made when you were young did, especially if you have a family, but they can still be impulsive.
For the most part, a crisis is actually a healthy, normal part of traveling through life. Without them, we can stagnate and fall into boredom and lethargy. But it is also important to be aware of the danger of such crises. Without recognizing the more destructive elements of such changes, we risk our mental health. Like boredom and lethargy, giving way to the more impulsive, dangerous elements that result from a crisis, can lead us up blind alleys from which it can be difficult to return.
If you think that you are depressed or generally feeling bad in any way, you should discuss it with a therapist that can help you get through some of the darker areas of a crisis.
Author: Aimee Laurence is Marketing graduate with many years of experience in content writing and proofreading. She teaches at Essays For Sale and likes to write about business strategy, entrepreneurship and startups.