When people reach their thirties they’re often told that they are in the prime of their lives but this isn’t the case for a lot of young adults.
In fact it can be a time of self-doubt and panic with many of the same feelings associated with the traditional symptoms of a mid-life crisis (usually occurring in the late forties and early fifties). For young adults struggling with many options now available to them and feeling indecisive about some of them, a lot of thirty-somethings can experience depression and anxiety.
With the opportunities to expand careers and travel the world more freely, the choices are more varied than in previous generations but the quest for ‘success’ is much higher too. As a society we put a lot of emphasis on ‘success’ which, for most people, means earning a lot of money and achieving some sort of status through doing so. However, as a counsellor and psychotherapist, but also in my private life, I’ve seen that this constant emphasis on these aspirations does not necessarily lead to happiness. In fact, quite the opposite is true because people get tired and stressed, often losing their motivation and then start to wonder what it’s all about. Constant striving for more can stop people ‘enjoying the moment’ because they’re always looking for the next goal to achieve.
Whilst achieving goals is a good way to enhance self-esteem and motivation, some balance needs to be achieved to feed our inner spirits as well.
However, although uncomfortable and worrying, if people feel stuck in a job or way of life, it can trigger an urge to change things, often for the better. It’s a time of reflection, of saying “is this what I really want?” and if the answer is “no”, this provides the impetus to make changes. This isn’t easy if you feel that you’re stuck in a relationship that doesn’t feel right but, because there are two people in the relationship, talking is the first key to changing things. We can all get stuck in a rut where relationships are concerned, particularly in our thirties when quite possibly there’s a mortgage or high rent combined with a small child and both partners working. However, we all need some time to relax and recuperate from the stresses of work and childcare and it’s important to factor in time for that. If you both want different things in life (and this may not have been the case when you set out together), it may be the time for relationship counselling to see how you can hopefully work things out together, rather than separating and losing a lot of what you’ve built up together, both emotionally and financially.
If it’s your job that’s now a problem because it’s not going the way you had anticipated or you’re not getting the promotions you’d hoped for, feeling ‘stuck’ can provide the stimulation you need to explore different options. This might be to look into re-training opportunities, moving to a different area either job-wise or geographically and generally thinking about where you want to be in five years’ time.
Even though the thirties are adulthood, many people still try to live up to their parents’ expectations of them. For some, this is a great way of seeing what else they can achieve, but for others it’s a burden that they don’t want. In these cases, it’s important to have a conversation (or more than one) with parents, along the lines of you’re not happy and want to make changes which you will make with their blessing.
This time during your thirties may also be a time when you re-evaluate friendships, some of which just aren’t working for you any more. Ask yourself why and whether you or your friend(s) can still make time for each other. It may also seem that you no longer have anything in common – however, one thing that you might have is a shared history and this is often an important part of friendship that we can’t put a price on. If that person, or people, have been there for you in difficult times, that’s quite a bond and worth thinking about before you decide to make permanent distance between you.
In the same way, you might have decided that you no longer want to be treated in a certain way by people you come into contact with – if you often feel ‘put down’ by others, it’s time to look at how you might be more assertive and not accept put-downs.
So, being in your thirties can be the time to reflect on where you are and where you want to be, making changes if you feel that’s right for you and setting goals to achieve that. It’s not easy to change but the rewards can be great and hopefully you’ll start living your life in a way that’s more fulfilling for you and those close to you.