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How to survive your quarter life crisis

Move over mid-life crisis, there’s a new phenomenon in town, and it’s taking the millennial world by storm. So much so that the Guardian said that 86% of millennials (those born between 1980-2000) will experience one. That’s a crazily large number of us!

worried girl, waiting

So why are so many of us going through these crises?

We are all similar creatures, with similar dreams and aspirations - that vague dream that we can do anything and are destined to lead a long and happy, adventure-filled life - we just need to take that first step.

In the meantime you’ve taken a job “just for now”, have moved or stayed in a place that’s ok but not your ideal city/country escape, and are starting to realise that this mythical first step is harder to take than first appeared.

All around you see friends and old school mates seemingly glide effortlessly towards “Making It” - everyone has a better relationship, career, apartment, life than you. Even your parents had bought a house, worked their life-long job for 3 years, and popped you out, by your age!

Welcome to phase 1 of your quarter-life crisis.

According to Dr . Oliver Robinson’s study at the University of Greenwich, the quarter-life crisis is a transformational period and has 5 distinct phases.

butterfly in jar

Phase One is feeling trapped by the life choices you made - job, relationship etc. You’re not living life, life is living you, and you’re stuck on autopilot. I was living in the UK working in an industry I really didn’t like any more (TV) and was terrible at my job because I was so unhappy, I couldn’t even think straight. I felt like a robot instead of a real person.

Phase Two is closing in on breaking point. You feel that you have to “get out of this”, and that change can happen if you just take the leap. You feel like you’re in a fork in the road - stability and safety or risk and reward? The urge to quit my TV job was only overcome by the fear of being branded a failure, mainly by myself, but this urge grew daily.

Phase Three is when it happens. You break the commitment that’s making you feel trapped - the job, relationship etc, and then detach from life for a bit. During this time-out you attempt to forge your real identity. The day I quit I felt such a relief! I left and went to Thailand, with the sole purpose of regaining my confidence and rediscovering myself.

Phase Four is the beginning of slowly rebuilding your life. I knew now what I needed from life, what makes me happy, and for me that was being by the water, learning, and teaching - teaching diving, learning to surf, deepening my yoga practice, learning digital marketing and learning how to start a life anywhere, without knowing anyone. So I moved to Australia and then Bali, and finally Portugal.

Phase Five is you continuing this new life, with commitments that are more in line with your interests and passions. For me, To the Sea Retreat epitomises this new life. Ocean,Yoga, Socialising, Teaching; this is what I love, and subsequently what I excel at.

So, now you know what’s happening, and that it’s a process that a lot of people go through to emerge the other end in a much better place than when you started. Change is scary, painful, and takes time to rebuild. But we can do it!

We can also try not to get into the crisis in the first place by knowing more about ourselves to begin with. And by watching this awesome TED Talk on life lessons for twenty-somethings. I watched it when I was 29 and it still blew my mind!

So, phases 3-5. We all know the feelings in phases 1 and 2, but what kind of break do we need to do in phase 3 to truly start to learn about ourselves?

MacNaughton, the cofounder and CEO of the Integral Center in Boulder, CO, an organisation that specialises in personal and relational development, has some great insights into what to do now.

To start, uncover your identity by trying new things. Take a class in something, go on a short course like learning to surf, tap into your resistance. What scares you? Do it.

As a scuba diving instructor, I can safely say that watching people conquer a fear (of sharks, of claustrophobia, of the ocean in general) is so rewarding. The confidence that you regain when you realise you can do what was once unthinkable transfers into all other aspects of your life too.

Start listening to that little voice inside you, the voice that whispers your heart’s desires. How? Well to start with, slow down, be patient, and try to switch off your ego (the loud, impatient, unsupportive voice that tells you you can’t do it - the voice of your angst). Meditating really helped me overcome my anxieties, and there are some great apps like Headspace out there to get you to started.

I also found that talking to people really opens you up to new possibilities. There are jobs and opportunities you’ve never even heard of waiting for you, if you just start looking! Talk to everyone, be proactive, be open. However, as MacNaughten says, most new endeavours fail if you decide to create something just for others. It will leave you feeling empty and you probably won’t satisfy them anyway. Create things for your own enjoyment.

Our retreats work because they are exactly what we want from a retreat, and it makes us indescribably happy to put them on!


The last point MacNaughton makes ties into the above point. What do you want to see in the world? Wish there was a wine glass cooler? Make one! (Ooh what a great idea - if anyone wants to go in on this get in touch!). Step up and create the things you want to see.

So phase 3 has gone well, you’ve slowed down, found out what makes you tick, and are full of confidence that you can build a life you want. Enter phases 4 and 5. Now it is imperative that you pay attention to the small changes as well as the big. Do not fall back into old habits! Instead, focus on making small, manageable changes to your life that you can stick to.

Every small step is a giant victory. Don’t be afraid of failure, it’s ok to fail! Trying is much better than not trying, and if you fail at one thing, learn from it and try something else.

So if you’re feeling trapped and lost, remember you’re not alone, and remember these phases. Turns out having a crisis might just be the best thing that could happen to you!

Do you want to some space to figure out your next move, learn about yourself through learning new skills, and have fun whilst doing it? Come on one of our surf and yoga retreats in the Spring!

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#mentalhealth #millennieals #surfing #yoga #retreat #quarterlifecrisis #happiness