Existential Crisis? What is it and how to do I overcome it?
An existential crisis refers to feelings of unease about meaning, choice, and freedom in life. Whether referred to as an existential crisis, or existential anxiety, the main concerns are the same: that life is inherently pointless, that our existence has no meaning because there are limits or boundaries on it, and that we all must die someday. Sounds like a tough mindset to sit in, right?
Someone trying to manage an existential crisis can have heightened emotions related to depression and anxiety. A person may experience feeling overwhelmed, have low to no motivation, have excessive worry or loneliness. These emotional responses tend to arise during transitions and reflects difficulty adapting, often related to losing safety and security. Questioning the purpose of life and other aspects of the human experience isn’t unhealthy or uncommon. But once an inability to answer those questions causes prolonged distress and despair, the result may be an existential crisis. This type of crisis can have a variety of causes, including a traumatic event, history of unresolved emotions, or lack of fulfillment with life.
So how do you get relief from an existential crisis? Experiencing an existential crisis does not necessarily mean that a person has a mental health problem. In some cases, an existential crisis can be a positive experience. Questioning your life and purpose is healthy, and it can provide direction and lead to fulfillment in one’s self. The following options can help you positively overcome an existential crisis:
Therapy: Finding a therapist specializing in existential depression can help you manage your anxiety, find meaning in life, and overcome life’s grand challenges. Common approaches to existential crises include psychodynamic psychotherapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), existential psychotherapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy.
Journaling: Maintaining a written record of your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings around your existential despair can help you clarify your questions and help you find meaning during a crisis of meaning. Additionally, noting small and meaningful events in a gratitude journal can help remind you of the things you enjoy about life, along with positive experiences and interactions that collectively add meaning to life.
Social support: Reaching out to a friend or family member may help you see your existential crisis in different ways. For example, talking to your friends about your career path can help you overcome fears or shame and learn about new options and possibilities to explore.
Meditation or mindfulness practices: Studies have shown that mindfulness practices can help reduce the symptoms of stress that may correspond to an existential crisis.
If you feel like you may be experiencing an existential crisis, reach out. Let's schedule time to navigate through your questions and find meaning through therapy.