Navigating the quarter-life crisis and beyond
There is a fundamental difference between surviving and thriving. Surviving is defined as “to continue to live or exist” while thriving means “to grow or develop well, to prosper or to flourish”. Thriving implies being able to enjoy life despite the many challenges it presents.
” Life is difficult and complicated and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive the vicissitudes of life.” ~J.K. Rowling
The vicissitudes of life can cause considerable stress, which in turn is associated with poor mental and physical health., In a previous post we discussed Children’s Mental Health. In today’s post we will consider the unique challenges facing young adults, and address this question: how can we help ourselves, our family, and our friends to thrive?
Young adults face many challenges
The pressures of school, work, and family responsibilities, combined with a relentless media culture, result in young people being more stressed than ever before.,, A survey of college freshmen found that self-reports of emotional well-being have fallen to their lowest level in the study’s 25-year history.
After almost two decades of schooling, where each step has been clearly laid out as tangible goals and assignments, new graduates find themselves encountering an overwhelming number of choices regarding their careers, finances, homes, and relationships. Confronted by this whirlwind of options and responsibilities, many feel apprehensive and indecisive. The new label being applied to this age-related transition is “quarter-life crisis”.
Social networking sites (SNS) often contribute to the problem by featuring people who seem to have flawless appearances and perfect lives, although these portrayals are often exaggerated. SNS may prompt us to compare ourselves with those who we believe are better than us, and such “upward social comparisons” can decrease our self-esteem and psychological well-being.,,, Another name for this phenomenon is “Facebook depression”, which is defined as “feeling depressed upon too much exposure to SNS”. In a recent survey, nearly two-thirds of millennials said they would be physically healthier if they spent less time on social media, and six in 10 said it would make them happier.
Nearly two-thirds of millennials said they would be physically healthier if they spent less time on social media, and six in 10 said it would make them happier.
In addition to moderating social media use, it’s important for young adults to develop coping skills to deal with life’s vicissitudes. Practicing self-compassion, developing psychological resilience, and implementing healthful habits can help all of us to thrive rather than merely survive.
Self-compassion is a powerful antidote to negative feelings about oneself. The practice of self-compassion increases happiness, optimism, personal initiative, and connectedness, and may decrease anxiety, depression, neurotic perfectionism, and rumination., Individuals who practice self-compassion are better able to view failure experiences as an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than becoming consumed with fear about what a negative performance says about their self-worth. Self-compassion has three major components:
- Self-kindness, which refers to the ability to treat oneself with care and understanding rather than critical self-judgment.
- A sense of common humanity, recognizing that imperfection is a shared aspect of the human experience rather than feeling isolated by one’s failures.
- Mindfulness, which involves holding one’s present-moment experience in balanced perspective rather than exaggerating the dramatic story-line of one’s suffering.
Self-compassion is an important part of a broader concept known as psychological resilience, which involves a set of behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed by anyone.,, That said, much like everything, a new habit takes time, energy, and planning to successfully implement.
Cultivate psychological resilience
Stressful events can trigger psychological distress, and managing these events requires psychological resilience.,, Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or stress, and bouncing back from difficult experiences., Greater resilience has been associated with lower levels of psychological distress.,, Here are some tactics that can help build resilience:
- Nurture close relationships. Accept help and support from those who care about you and are willing to listen to you.
- Understand that change is a part of life. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
- Move toward your goals, one step at a time. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today?”
- Maintain a hopeful outlook. Try keeping a gratitude journal. This can keep you more focused on the positives in your life.
- Take care of yourself. Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques including breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation, can provide relief for many individuals.,
Implement healthy habits
Healthy habits can keep your mind and body primed to deal with difficult situations. Pay attention to your own needs, engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to boost self-esteem and improve sleep quality, which can help buffer the negative effects of stress.,,,
Many studies have observed a direct relationship between dietary patterns and mental health in adolescents and adults.,,, Diets that include sugar-sweetened beverages, fried foods, processed meats, and baked products are associated with a higher risk of depression., Conversely, diets that emphasize healthy foods such as olive oil, fish, nuts, legumes, fruits, and vegetables are associated with a lower risk of depression.,, Research suggests that replacing unhealthy foods with more nutritious choices can support a healthier mood.
A comprehensive multivitamin and mineral supplement can help ensure adequate micronutrient status and improve mood.
Micronutrient deficiencies, which are not uncommon in the U.S. population, can exacerbate mood disorders. Scientists have found that low levels of vitamin D,,, vitamin C,, B vitamins, and certain minerals including zinc and magnesium,, are associated with an increased risk of depression. A comprehensive multivitamin and mineral supplement can help ensure adequate micronutrient status and improve mood.,,, Additional vitamin D supplementation may be particularly helpful for individuals with low sun exposure and/or allergies, although levels should be tested regularly if daily intake exceeds 2000 IU. Supplementation with fish oil also represents a promising strategy for ameliorating depression and anxiety disorders.,,,,
Adopting positive habits including adequate nutrition, exercise, sleep, and managing social media use can help young adults (and all of us!) reduce the impact of stress and enjoy life more. Cultivate self-compassion and psychological resilience by practicing the tips in this article, and consider seeking out podcasts on these topics with the time you would otherwise spend on social media. And for more inspiration, check out the American Psychological Association’s web page titled The Road to Resilience.Click here to see References
 Slavich GM. Life stress and health: a review of conceptual issues and recent findings. Teach Psychol. 2016 Oct;43(4):346-55.
 Toussaint L, et al. Effects of lifetime stress exposure on mental and physical health in young adulthood: How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health. J Health Psychol. 2016 Jun;21(6):1004-14.
 Beiter R, et al. The prevalence and correlates of depression, anxiety, and stress in a sample of college students. J Affect Disord. 2015 Mar 1;173:90-6.
 Pedrelli P, et al. College students: mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry. 2015 Oct;39(5):503-11.
 Auerbach RP, et al. WHO World Mental Health Surveys International College Student Project: prevalence and distribution of mental disorders. J Abnorm Psychol. 2018 Oct;127(7):623-38.
 Pryor JH, et al. The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010 [Internet]. Los Angeles (CA): UCLA; 2010 [cited 2019 Jul 7]. Available from: https://www.heri.ucla.edu/PDFs/pubs/TFS/Norms/Monographs/TheAmericanFreshman2010.pdf
 Robbins A, Wilner A. Quarterlife crisis: the unique challenges of life in your twenties. New York: JP Tarcher/Putnam; 2001.
 Walther JB. Selective self-presentation in computer-mediated communication: hyperpersonal dimensions of technology, language, and cognition. Comput Hum Behav. 2007;23:2538-57.
 Vanucci A, et al. Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults. J Affect Disord. 2017 Jan 1;207:163-6.
 Yoon S, et al. Is social network site usage related to depression? A meta-analysis of Facebook-depression relations. J Affect Disord. 2019 Apr 1;248:65-72.
 Primack BA, et al. Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: a nationally-representative study among US young adults. Comput Hum Behav. 2017 Apr 1;69:1-9.
 Fardouly J, et al. Social comparisons on social media: the impact of Facebook on young women’s body image concerns and mood. Body Image. 2015 Mar;13:38-45.
 Deloitte. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 [Internet]. New York: Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited; 2019 [cited 2019 Jul 7]. Available from: https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/millennialsurvey.html
 Anderson NB, et al. Stress in America™ [Internet]. Washington (DC): American Psychological Association; 2013 [cited 2019 Jul 7]. Available from: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/stress-report.pdf
 Neff KD, McGehee P. Self-compassion and psychological resilience among adolescents and young adults. Self Identity. 2010 Jul 1;9(3):225-40.
 Zhang Y, et al. Protective effect of self-compassion to emotional response among students with chronic academic stress. Front Psychol. 2016 Nov 22;7:1802.
 Neff KD, et al. Self-compassion, achievement goals, and coping with academic failure. Self Identity. 2005 Jul 1;4(3):263-87.
 Fergus S, Zimmerman MA. Adolescent resilience: a framework for understanding healthy development in the face of risk. Annu Rev Public Health. 2005;26:399-419.
 Comas-Diaz L, et al. The Road to Resilience. Washington (DC): American Psychological Association; 2019 [cited 8 July 2019]. Available from: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience
 Galante J, et al. A mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress in university students (the Mindful Student Study): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial. Lancet Public Health. 2018 Feb;3(2):e72-81.
 Masten AS. Ordinary magic. Resilience processes in development. Am Psychol. 2001 Mar;56(3):227-38.
 Bonanno GA. Loss, trauma, and human resilience: have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events? Am Psychol. 2004 Jan;59(1):20-8.
 Gooding PA, et al. Psychological resilience in young and older adults. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2012 Mar;27(3):262-70.
 Smith BW, et al. The brief resilience scale: assessing the ability to bounce back. Int J Behav Med. 2008;15(3):194-200.
 Joyce S, et al. Road to resilience: a systematic review and meta-analysis of resilience training programmes and interventions. BMJ Open. 2018 Jun 14;8(6):e017858.
 Li Y, et al. Relationship between stressful life events and sleep quality: rumination as a mediator and resilience as a moderator. Front Psychiatry. 2019 May 27;10:348.
 Lin CC. The relationships among gratitude, self-esteem, depression, and suicidal ideation among undergraduate students. Scand J Psychol. 2015 Dec;56(6):700-7.
 Rosenzweig S, et al. Mindfulness-based stress reduction lowers psychological distress in medical students. Teach Learn Med. 2003 Apr 1;15(2):88-92.
 Felton TM, et al. Impact of mindfulness training on counseling students’ perceptions of stress. Mindfulness. 2015 Apr 1;6(2):159-69.
 Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Physical Activity Reduces Stress [Internet]. Silver Spring (MD): ADAA; 2019 [cited 8 July 2019]. Available from: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st
 Wunsch K, et al. The effect of physical activity on sleep quality, well-being, and affect in academic stress periods. Nat Sci Sleep. 2017 Apr 26;9:117-26.
 Flueckiger L, et al. The importance of physical activity and sleep for affect on stressful days: two intensive longitudinal studies. Emotion. 2016 Jun;16(4):488-97.
 Kimball SM, et al. Database analysis of depression and anxiety in a community sample-response to a micronutrient intervention. Nutrients. 2018 Jan 30;10(2):152.
 Khanna P, et al. Nutritional aspects of depression in adolescents – a systematic review. Int J Prev Med. 2019 Apr 3;10:42.
 Grases G, et al. Possible relation between consumption of different food groups and depression. BMC Psychol. 2019 Mar 6;7(1):14.
 Parletta N, et al. A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: a randomized controlled trial (HELFIMED). Nutr Neurosci. 2019 Jul;22(7):474-87.
 Bonaccio M, et al. Mediterranean-type diet is associated with higher psychological resilience in a general adult population: findings from the Moli-sani study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018 Jan;72(1):154-60.
 Richard A, et al. Associations between fruit and vegetable consumption and psychological distress: results from a population-based study. BMC Psychiatry. 2015 Oct 1;15:213.
 Opie RS, et al. Dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression. Nutr Neurosci. 2017 Apr;20(3):161-71.
 Bird JK, et al. Risk of deficiency in multiple concurrent micronutrients in children and adults in the United States. Nutrients. 2017 Jun 24;9(7):655.
 Kerr DC, et al. Associations between vitamin D levels and depressive symptoms in healthy young adult women. Psychiatry Res. 2015 May 30;227(1):46-51.
 Penckofer S, et al. Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine? Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Jun;31(6):385-93.
 Pullar JM, et al. High vitamin C status is associated with elevated mood in male tertiary students. Antioxidants (Basel). 2018 Jul 16;7(7):91.
 De Oliveira IJ, et al. Effects of oral vitamin C supplementation on anxiety in students: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Pak J Biol Sci. 2015 Jan;18(1):11-8.
 Du J, et al. The role of nutrients in protecting mitochondrial function and neurotransmitter signaling: implications for the treatment of depression, PTSD, and suicidal behaviors. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2016 Nov 17;56(15):2560-78.
 Li Z, et al. Association of total zinc, iron, copper and selenium intakes with depression in the US adults. J Affect Disord. 2018 Mar 1;228:68-74.
 Blumberg JB, et al. Impact of frequency of multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement intake on nutritional adequacy and nutrient deficiencies in U.S. adults. Nutrients. 2017 Aug 9;9(8):849.
 Kennedy DO, et al. Effects of high-dose B vitamin complex with vitamin C and minerals on subjective mood and performance in healthy males. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2010 Jul;211(1):55-68.
 White DJ, et al. Effects of four-week supplementation with a multi-vitamin/mineral preparation on mood and blood biomarkers in young adults: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrients. 2015 Oct 30;7(11):9005-17.
 Chang YH, et al. Effects of multivitamin-mineral supplementation on mental health among young adults (OR15-03-19). Curr Dev Nutr. 2019 Jun 13;3(Suppl 1):nzz044.
 Yehuda S, et al. Mixture of essential fatty acids lowers test anxiety. Nutr Neurosci. 2005 Aug;8(4):265-7.
 Delarue J, et al. Fish oil prevents the adrenal activation elicited by mental stress in healthy men. Diabetes Metab. 2003 Jun;29(3):289-95.
 Kiecolt-Glaser JK, et al. Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: a randomized controlled trial. Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Nov;25(8):1725-34.
 Larrieu T, Layé S. Food for mood: relevance of nutritional omega-3 fatty acids for depression and anxiety. Front Physiol. 2018 Aug 6;9:1047.