Most millennials seem to be living in a world of chronic and unreasonable anxiety. According to The American Psychological Association, adults aged 18-35 are experiencing more stress than any other generation. College students in particular seem to grow more stressed with every passing year. Nearly half attend counseling for various mental health concerns, with anxiety being by far the most prevalent one.
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So – what are we so stressed about?
Many are quick to blame the economy. The current climate of financial uncertainty definitely has its place in our stress-scape. Young people are more concerned than ever before about making a living. The top reported causes of stress for our age group, unsurprisingly, are money and work. In fact, these far outweigh our concern for our health and our family lives – and this could be a big part of the problem.
Financial and career oriented success are often driven by fear.
We worry about not having enough. Our stress does not seem to decrease as we become more successful – and, in many cases, it may even increase. A promotion could lead to more hours spent at the office. More money may lead to a better neighborhood, fancier schools, and higher expectations. There is little, if any, satisfaction in the end.
By contrast, caring for our health has an instant impact on stress in our minds, hearts, and bodies. Exercise is a known stress-buster. The right nutrition keeps our body in good shape, which can greatly impact our mental health. Typically, a healthy body is a happy body. A happy body is a healthy mind.
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Unfortunately, the work-stress-money cycle gets in the way of this.
We don’t have time for the gym after working a twelve-hour day. We don’t have the time or the money to cook a fresh, healthy dinner. So we stop by the drive-thru and head home. We stress-eat in our cubicles. We may not be concerned about our health – but that doesn’t mean its neglect doesn’t impact us. It only means there isn’t room in our worlds to worry about one more thing, no matter how important.
The same goes for family life. Millennials are putting off marriage longer than any generation before. We do this for many reasons. Most of them are good. Women are more independent, and there is less social and financial pressure to marry for the sake of marriage. We are becoming more careful when it comes to choosing a partner. We wait until we’re financially stable to have children. Many women simply opt out of motherhood altogether.
These reasons are all sound. Many people live happy and rewarding lives without being married. Even more construct exciting and fulfilling worlds for themselves that don’t include children.
The problem only comes if we begin to feel isolated. When we opt out of starting a family, we give up an important element of social support. Social support is huge in fighting stress and validating our sense of self.
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Some millennials are able to cultivate this support in other ways. They develop a network of close friends. They nurture warm ties to existing family members. Others, however, are left feeling alone and disconnected. This is where the stress is able to hit them the hardest. When we fall into loneliness, even small anxieties can easily become unbearable.
So – what can be done about millennial stress?
Here are some things you can do today to stay healthy and happy:
- Practice mindfulness. Stay in the moment.
- Spend time outdoors.
- Prioritize. Invest time and energy in the things that are truly important.
- Find a way to exercise that you actually enjoy.
- Volunteer in the community.
- Minimize social media use.
- Eat healthy food that makes you feel good.
- Learn to live within your means.
- Find an artistic outlet. Express yourself.
- Consciously care for your mind, body, and soul.
- Adopt a pet.
- Fight perfectionism. Let “good enough” be good enough.
- Seek spirituality.
- Connect with someone in a meaningful way every day.
“More smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. More blessed, less stressed,” wrote Roy T. Bennett.
Could we become a generation who embraces these values?