Is 30 the new crisis age for UAE residents?

It’s official. Just when you thought that you had this mid-life crisis scenario all figured out, they go ahead and confuse you even further with the latest phrase in the market – quarter-life crisis.

According to a latest Greenwich University researcher Oliver Robinson, who interviewed 50 people aged between 25 and 35 about their difficulties coping, the findings were alarming.

He said in a statement: “You are now more footloose to make changes in early adulthood than I think you once were.

“There is greater fluidity in the job world, greater fluidity in marriage or alternatives to marriage. This fluidity has meant major life changes are more acceptable.

“In the past if a major life change were to occur it would happen in mid-life.”

Pressure to meet parents’ demands can add to the sense of crisis among today’s young adults, he said.

“It is about people feeling a frenetic need to get a job, make money and be successful quickly,” said the researcher. “It links to the demanding nature of people in their 20s and 30s who want it all. They are not happy with a mediocre, ploddy, conventional life.”

While a major re-evaluation of life choices can be unsettling, it seems to be worth it in the end, the British Psychological Society’s annual conference heard. Dr Robinson said “setting the clock back on adulthood and starting again” brings with it a sense of freedom.

A similar research survey conducted in the United Kingdom, noted the crisis years have gotten younger, so if you are a male in your mid-twenties with enough stress to cause mild bouts of anxiety, then it’s time to hit those panic buttons; you may be in the throes of an early or quarter-life crisis.

The phenomenon is not limited to a particular geographic location, rather a global lifestyle that revolves around a high-flying career, with aspirations for bigger and better things to come – be it a fruitful job, a stable home, more holidays or simply greater treats for the kids.

However, UAE residents are particularly at risk considering the economic recession of 2009 saw many lose jobs, suffer from rising stress levels and health risks, along with tackling high rents, mortgage payments and inflation.

Says Roger Phillips, a 28-year-old former public relations executive, Dubai, “With trying so hard to achieve a secure life for the family, I didn’t see this one coming,” who complains about sleepless nights of worrying over time pressures and finances, ever since he lost his job in 2010.

Since, Phillips has been working as a customer service representative at half his salary and has had to send himfamily home.

Phillips’ story is like that of many others who have given up on the comforts of ‘now’ to strive for a better tomorrow.

This usually involves burning the candle at both ends to climb the corporate ladder of success. Priorities for the ‘high-flier’ include all work and no play for next 10-odd years, being a millionaire by the time they hit their mid-30s and owning the mansion and a Maserati (or similar) soon after.

Is it a quarter-life crisis?

Understanding the crux of a mid-life crisis is halfway to dealing with the situation effectively.

Says Dr Amitabh Seth, specialist psychologist: “A mid-life ‘crisis’ can be brought on by a transition during the middle phase of life; this can occur during 40-60 years, give or take a decade.

“The behaviours exhibited during a mid-life crisis may meet the criteria for an ‘adjustment disorder’, which is a psychological condition. While, the duration of a mid-life crisis is variable. In some cases it is limited to a few months, but it may last up to several years.”

Everyone goes through this transitional phase, be it male or female. However, for some people it becomes a crisis situation, one that they have difficulty coping with in a healthy way.

The onset of a mid-life crisis may be when an individual feels they have cared for other people and attended to responsibilities throughout their life. These responsibilities can include taking care of children, spouses, family members, and fulfilling job/workplace roles.

After a certain point, this‘burden’ may cause a person to re-evaluate their life, especially if certain expectations aren’t fulfilled, example, not receiving a promotion, changing jobs, children going away to college, divorce, death of a loved one, and moving house.

The early years

All those crisis phases of person’s life have not altered much over the years, with one exception – the age bracket now seems to have reduced by nearly a decade.

“These figures do not seem surprising given the stress-filled life we are all leading today,” states Khalil Al Kably, a Dubai-based Sales and Marketing Manager in his late-twenties. “With Dubai being a perfect example, one cannot help but notice the rising cost of living here – especially over the last few months, with rents, gas and food increasing by almost 50 per cent.

“This burden adds to the pressure of people pushing themselves further to outperform others to get that raise or promotion. Our professional lives spilling into our personal ones and causing astate of mental and physical exhaustion is a natural progression.”

Dr Jim Conway, author of “Men in Midlife Crisis”, explains in his book that the transition into mid-life occurs in the late 20s to early 30s, which is less likely to be a crisis-inducing one.That is a time for evaluation, an opportunity to take stock of where a man has come from and where he is going.

He further adds in his book,‘…The difference between this evaluation process and his midlife evaluation is that the 30-year-old is usually only beginning to develop his career. He does not have a lot of commitments.’

Unfortunately, today’s generation of adults in their late 20s to early 30s come with their share of commitments that only add on with time.

Ahmed Qureshi, a 31-year-old Advertising Executive, certainly feels the burden, saying,  “Times have changed, and the business world has become a lot more competitive. When you look around and see others doing better, you start doubting your abilities and lay blame on other factors that bog you down – be it your family responsibilities, your college debt or your lack of job security.

“The generation before us had the luxury of leading an easier life, where peer pressure and the thirst to prove oneself was not as demanding. Today, it’s the case of the pressure piling on, leading to a volatile situation where something has got to give — and in our case it is the psychological stability.”

Echoing the sentiments, Singh further explains that it is possible to face several early/mid life crises during the life span (starting as early as 25), which could be triggered by different events and last for varying amounts of time.

“When a person experiences an early mid-life crisis, they are likely to have a very individual experience.

“A person with a family may feel a lot more stress as a result of their responsibilities towards their family, whereas a younger 20-something person may not be as pressured by other people,but may be struggling with a tremendous internal desire to achieve certain goals.

“In both situations the behaviour can be impulsive, disorganised, and even selfish.”

Alternative theory

Several people feel that the diminishing role of a ‘guide’ or ‘philosopher’ in people’s lives today has caused this sudden onset of youngsters walking blindly into a self-made trap.

“Independence is what Generation Y is craving today but that independence comes with a price,” explains Shanti Arora, mother of two — both in their early 30s. “They need someone to perform the role of a father-mother figure, who can show them the right path during troubled waters.

“This creates a sense of belonging and an avenue where they can turn to someone for advice, be it in their professional or personal lives.”

Theorists feel that a backward trend has caused individuals to feel an alienated existence, which has added to these stressful times and caused a breakdown of sorts in their psyche, at amuch younger age.

Arora adds that it is the responsibility of parents and guardians who should take an active interest in the lives of their children. “There is no harm in displaying affection or providing a shoulder to cry on — especially when the alternative could be a broken marriage, an identity crisis or worse.”

Several studies have been conducted to try and identify whether mid-life crises are experienced universally. So far the academic research has identified it is a global phenomenon.

Dr Seth highlights that cultural factors contribute to a mid-life crisis in many ways.

“Many cultures follow a ‘social clock’ where there are certain age bound milestones that are expected to be fulfilled, such as the graduation age, the age to move out of the house, the age at which you should achieve certain financial goals etc,” he says.

“With these pressures, the possibility of feeling under-valued and caught up in a life crisis may increase.”

Crisis management

Angela Rafferty learned about the mid-life crisis the hard way, claiming that her husband of five years went through it at age 29. “He woke up one morning and declared he was not in love with me anymore, bought himself a convertible and packed his bags soon after.”

As clichéd as it may sound, Rafferty researched the overnight metamorphosis and came up with conclusiont hat her husband was a textbook case of a mid-life crisis, except much earlier.

Seeking professional help, she concluded that stress at work and the probability of being bogged down by responsibilities at a young age – with an early marriage and an unplanned pregnancy – caused this state of affairs.

Luckily for her, the “erratic behaviour”changed within a few months due to an ample amount of patience and her insistence that he visit a counsellor.

Dr Seth says that at this time an individual’s environment is important as it can help a person cope with certain events and changes.

“It is important to have asupportive and understanding family where you can share some of your concerns.Talking through some of these problems can help an individual problem-solve effectively during this stressful period,” he states.

“You may find that buying a red Porsche or getting a drastic haircut is a healthier way to deal with the crisis, rather than selling your house and living in a house boat, or getting adivorce and moving to another country.”

Handle with care

Minor adjustments and a whole lot of insight may be exactly what it takes to prepare oneself for the crisisyears. Dr Seth provides some useful tips that can help individuals take pause and reflect on their life’s achievements and burdens.

Learn to be assertive and say now and then you feel the need to. Poor organisation and personal time management are commonly reported issues that lead up to a crisis. 

Get to know yourself. Many people are jostled between demands from spouses, parents, children, family members, co-workers etc. This leaves very little time to sit back and see who you really are, and what you really want to accomplish.

A life crisis often comes about when an individual feels they have not fulfilled expectations (from others orthemselves).

View it as a life quest rather than a life crisis. This is a time to discover and reflect on your goals and ambitions, and restructure your life a way that meets your goals.

Remind yourself that early and mid-life are temporary phases, and that they will pass with time. No one remains a teenager, and these are transitions, or phases that will not last forever.

Quarter-life crisis checklist

· Have you been regularly complaining about being dissatisfied with life?

· Have you hinted at being trapped in a marriage or relationship?

· Have you suddenly traded in the family car for a sporty convertible or motorbike and suggested to add a speedboat to the collection?

· Have you undergone a physical transformation overnight – including colouring hair blond/red/pink; signing up for plastic surgery; even enrolling in the most brutal work out plan for weight loss?

· Have you suddenly quit your job and decided to travel for the next year?

· Have you recently purchased DVDs of movies like American Beauty and Fight Club?

· Have you shown an aversion to nighttime (read anytime) cuddling?

· Have you been thinking about leaving this planetary realm for a more heavenly accommodation?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to more than a few of these questions, then may be it is time to consult a professional.

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