Existential crisis: what is it and how to overcome it?

Even the best of us question life at times. As unpredictable as it is, you try to make sense of the worst of consequences, but sometimes you end up questioning everything. At some point in life, you can and will feel the stress of rushing through everything without purpose. While in some cases it could be inconsequential, in others it could be a nagging feeling that just doesn’t seem to go away. If you’ve been feeling confused for no apparent reason or lonely or feeling like you don’t have a purpose in life, you could be going through an existential crisis.

While many of us go through this feeling of existential crisis, not many understand exactly what it is and how it affects you! To help you understand, Health Shots contacted Dr. Kersi Chavda, Consultant Psychiatrist at PD Hinduja Hospital and MRC, Mahim, Mumbai. This is what you need to know.

What is an existential crisis?

If you have been feeling uncomfortable with the meaning and purpose of life and this feeling is recurring or persistent, you could be having an existential crisis. By definition, it is the feeling when you question the meaning of life or your personal purpose, or the purpose of life in general. Dr. Kersi Chavda says it’s common to search for meaning and purpose in life, but an existential crisis arises when satisfying answers prove elusive. A person going through an existential crisis may have a hard time coping with not getting the answers to these questions. The lack of answers can trigger a series of symptoms in an individual who is going through an existential crisis.

Also read: Aww, stay-at-home depression is real! Here are expert tips on how to combat it.

It can trigger internal conflicts, frustration, and loss of inner joy. This type of crisis can follow major events such as trauma or loss. The causes of an existential crisis can include guilt, unrealized potential, dissatisfaction with oneself and lack of achievement, the expert adds.

Understand the existential crisis. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Another reason why you may question life is the choices you make. While the freedom to choose should be valued, it also implies responsibility and accountability for consequences, which can be overwhelming for some people. This can be especially true when they make the wrong decisions. This triggers existential anxiety about the meaning of life and the choices you have made, explains the expert.

How to overcome an existential crisis?

Finding meaning and purpose in life can bring hope and help overcome an existential crisis. Here are some strategies suggested by Dr. Kersi Chavda that can help you in declaring her:

1. Replace negativity with positivity

When you question everything you are doing in life, it is natural to have negative and pessimistic thoughts. Telling yourself that you are making the wrong decisions or where you are going in life will not get you through an existential crisis. What you need to do is look for something you want, volunteer for a cause, or just be compassionate and kind in life.

Also read: Eliminate negative thoughts and be more optimistic with these 5 tips

2. Identify your strengths

Do not sink into your thoughts and think that you are incapable of doing anything. We all have strengths and positive qualities that can help us understand that we can do better. Also, looking on the bright side of things, you may think that some questions may not have answers. If you can’t find one for yourself, talk to loved ones or a professional to find a way.

healthy woman
Identify your inner strengths to overcome the existential crisis, Image Courtesy: Adobe Stock

3. Do not confuse existential crisis with anxiety or depression

It is crucial to differentiate between an existential crisis and typical anxiety or depression in order to seek the right help if needed. Accepting help, including medication if necessary, can alter a person’s perspective and help them better understand their role in life.

4. Seek help

It goes without saying that you should consult a professional if you have been questioning everything in life. You should definitely seek help if you are suicidal. It will help you change the way you think and feel about your role in life.

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