8 Signs You're Having An 'Early' Midlife Crisis (And What To Do Next)

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woman having an early midlife crisis

Have you reached a time when you start to feel like something is missing from your life? Perhaps you are questioning your purpose. You wonder where the time has gone, and you look older than you feel. Are you having an early midlife crisis?

What is an early midlife crisis?

An early midlife crisis refers to a period of intense self-reflection and existential questioning that occurs at a younger age than the typical midlife crisis.

While a "regular" midlife crisis typically happens in the late 40s to early 50s, an early midlife crisis can strike individuals in their late 20s to early 30s. It's even been marked by science. A 2013 study by the University of Essex found that 86% of people in their 20s felt anxious that they are not doing enough.

To be fair, being a 20-something-year-old is scary. You have to fight millions of other graduates for your first job and struggle relentlessly to pay a mortgage, all while finding time to juggle your relationships while attempting to change the world.

An early midlife crisis is marked by a deep sense of dissatisfaction, restlessness, and a search for meaning and purpose in life. The triggers vary, but common factors include a lack of fulfillment in career or personal relationships, a sense of unrealized potential, and a feeling of being trapped in societal expectations.

The sudden realization that time is passing quickly and the fear of missed opportunities may also be catalysts.

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Unlike a "regular" midlife crisis, an early midlife crisis can present unique challenges, as individuals are still in the process of establishing their careers and personal identities. It requires careful self-reflection, support, and the willingness to make bold changes to navigate this turbulent period successfully.

If you are experiencing any of these, you might have an early midlife crisis.

Here are 8 common signs of an early midlife crisis.

1. You're caught up in your regrets.

It's easy to fixate on everything you wish you would have done or done differently. You spend too much time and energy worrying if you have made all the right choices. You persecute yourself for not making better decisions.

Focusing on your mistakes leaves little space to create new opportunities in your life.

2. You're overwhelmed by the thought that you should be further ahead in your life.

You find it hard to believe that life is going so fast. You had all these dreams, and here you are in your mid-thirties, not as far ahead as you would like.

You dreamed of retiring early, and the reality is now that you need to work at least to age sixty-five. All the trips you dreamed of taking are not happening, and you wonder if they ever will.

You had hoped to do much better and feel ashamed for not having a better-paying job. You become aware of missed opportunities. You missed the chance to live your dreams because you feared failure. You might be having an early midlife crisis if this is the case.

3. You feel like you're losing control of your mind.

Your mind feels chaotic. You have difficulty sleeping because your mind doesn't want to quiet down. There is so much you want to do and you do not know where to start.

Your inner critic wants to keep you safe by scaring you from trying anything new out of your comfort zone. You feel anxious because you fixate on everything that can go wrong. In desperation to avoid the loud negative voice in your head, you ignore your dreams.

4. You feel like some part of yourself is gone, never to come back.

It feels like you have lost your zest for life. Things that used to be easy are now demanding. You have lost the motivation to try something new. Maybe you are experiencing an early midlife crisis.

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5. You feel isolated and alone despite the family and friends you have around you.

You cannot figure out why you feel isolated when you have many friends and family in your life. Maybe it is because you don't feel understood.

Perhaps it is because your interests have changed. Perhaps you are looking for deeper relationships than you have had. Maybe you are tired of being someone you are not.

6. You feel like you have wasted a portion of your life, and you will never get it back.

Maybe you envisioned that you would be financially secure by age 35. But the sad reality is that you don't have the money saved that you hoped you would have by now.

You think of all the things you should have done or not done. You question why you don't have a better job. You feel like you have wasted too much time, and it is too late to catch up. You could be experiencing an early midlife crisis.

7. You feel hopeless about the future.

You are feeling down about the future. You wonder if it is worth trying to change anything in your life. The world is changing fast, and you don't know how to catch up.

You worry about inflation, job opportunities, lack of retirement funds, climate change, and the environment. You get down in the dumps and have difficulty trying to get out of your negative attitude.

8. You're apathetic.

If you aren't as interested in the usual activities and passions you once cherished, it could indicate the onset of an emotional crisis, which may align with an early midlife crisis.

This shift in perspective suggests a loss of connection or fulfillment with aspects of life that were once a source of joy and satisfaction. This is signaling a deeper underlying struggle, prompting you to question your purpose, values, and overall contentment.

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What do you do if signs of an early midlife crisis are present?

1. First, remember that you are not alone.

Find a friend or family member to talk with about what you are experiencing. Think of a person who will listen to you without judging you.

Don't be afraid to get professional help from a coach, counselor, or psychologist. You don't need to suffer alone. There is a way out of this challenging time in your life.

2. Second, remember that life is full of change, and that is okay.

Learn to accept the new you even amid chaos. Give yourself space to allow the new you to shine.

It is okay to be unhappy. Do not be afraid to feel the pain in your body, heart, and mind. Take the time to grieve the loss of your old self, creating space for the new you to take your place in the world.

3. Third, embrace the opportunity to grow through change.

Moving into a time of rebirth creates some space for you to discover who you are in this time of life. Take the time to experiment.

Maybe you want to start a new career or return to school. Perhaps you want to learn to dance, play an instrument or take martial arts. It is never too late to start something new.

The good news is that you will make it through this transition time and find joy again.

You will not only make it through but also find greater purpose, happiness, and satisfaction in life than you ever dreamed was possible. Your reward is great for doing this vital work.

Most of us will have some sort of midlife crisis in our lives, some more dramatic than others. Whether it's in your 30s, 40s or 50s, your inner critic will be active, telling you off for everything you should not have done or did not do.

Going through an early midlife crisis is hard work. This time of transition is a fantastic opportunity to get in touch with what you want in life. What are the dreams you still want to make happen? What are some new possibilities that are starting to germinate in you?

If you do this well, you will find a greater purpose and joy in your life. It is worth the work.

Get all the support and help you need. To live life well, we need to support each other. Sometimes we need others to help us see what is happening within us because we are too close to see it.

You are worth the effort. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

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Roland Legge is an author, certified spiritual life coach, and teacher of the Enneagram. He helps people connect to their inner selves and find alignment with their highest purpose and values.

This article was originally published at REL Consultants. Reprinted with permission from the author.