Ahh Millennials...the "lazy, good-for-nothing, can't get their priorities straight" generation. Ummm excuse me but who woke up one day and made that craziness up?! Last time I checked, I graduated university with an honors degree, got into grad school, and started working 2 jobs to get my life in order by the age of 22. Not to mention, my fellow millennials are also kicking butt by starting amazing new businesses, involving themselves in education, enhancing our technology, and working harder than ever to protect the environment. So...tell me again how lazy and "good for nothing" we are.
As a millennial, the pressure to succeed and prosper has been outstanding. Since a young age, we were encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities, join sports teams, learn new instruments, and engage in additional learning initiatives to add to our “resumé.” In our youth, did we really care so much about our potential work prospects or were we just looking to have fun? As we examine the Millennial generation through a fine-tuned lens, we see how the care-free days have been replaced with heightened expectations, obsessions for high marks in school, admittance into the top Universities, and the exploration of higher levels of education. A Bachelors degree just isn’t enough anymore. Getting a 4-year Bachelors degree does not guarantee you that house on a hill with a 3-car garage and a view. Instead, it offers you a minimum wage job, living from paycheque to paycheque, and forced to pay the ever-increasing costs of living. Its no wonder why the rates of anxiety have skyrocketed since the time of Generation X!
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Across the globe, 1 in 13 individuals suffers from anxiety. Although anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only 36.9% of those suffering will ever receive the treatment required to overcome it. That’s where I come in. As a therapist-in-training completing my MA in Counselling Psychology, I see the effects of anxiety and how they can spiral into more complicated and dangerous mental health and physical disorders. These include major depressive disorder, panic disorder, specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other related effects such as migraines, sleep apnea, substance abuse, chronic pain, and mood swings. It’s no question that anxiety as a result of Millennial stress is an explosion waiting to erupt.
Overcoming the anxiety relating to Millennial anxiety and stress can often seem like an overwhelming and time-consuming task. With all our other pressures, why would we spend time trying to fix ourselves? Are we even fixable anyways? Yes, you are most definitely fixable, and it doesn’t take as much time and effort as you may think. Anxiety is the number 1 set of mental disorders that counselling psychologists treat on a day-to-day basis. And although you may feel as though you are too far gone, too stressed, or too plagued with the effects of anxiety…think again, my friend. I suffer from GAD, otherwise known as General Anxiety Disorder, a form of anxiety that affects 6.8 million adults per year. My anxiety began to increase as I progressed throughout my University career and into my graduate school career. The stress of life, high expectations to beat out my competition, and the overwhelming fear that I might not make it allowed the perfect storm to produce and wreak havoc on my brain. Yes I felt down, yes I felt angry, and yes I felt mentally exhausted to help myself possibly, but I was not unfixable.
In therapy, there a few hidden secrets for overcoming anxiety-provoking behaviours associated with high Millennial expectations, which include the following:
1. Be Self-Aware
Being self-aware may sound confusing, but really it is the practice of being mindful in your actions, thoughts, and behaviours. When we are self-aware, we are better equipped to understanding our anxiety triggers, identifying coping mechanisms, and removing ourselves from stress-inducing situations which may produce an anxiety storm. If you’re beginning to feel stressed or concerned, go away to a quiet place, whether that be in your car, in your room, or in your office. Shut off the lights or simply close your eyes and take a moment to logically assess what is causing you stress and whether there is anything you can do to change it. Ask yourself: When did I begin feeling anxious today? How did it start? What potential triggers could have resulted from today's activities? Who can I turn to for support? Perhaps writing them down can narrow your thoughts and work to calm your nervous and worrisome tendencies before they escalate.
2. Develop a Self-Care Plan
Taking care of ourselves is usually at the bottom of our list and often gets overlooked. Daily responsibilities, taking care of the family, making dinner, and getting all your work done throughout the day seems time-consuming enough, let alone taking time to care for ourselves. Well my friend, make the time because it’ll change your life from this day forward! Self-care can be anything and everything that makes you relax and find your zen. Whether it be taking an Epsom salt bath with some candles and a glass of wine, going to a workout class you enjoy, or sitting at the park with a good book, can really help centre yourself and relax your anxiety. By developing a self-care plan, you are proactively prioritizing yourself and putting your needs first. Set a schedule for "you-time", have a set bed time (and wake up time), and set a weekly goal for yourself to achieve.
3. Get Organized
Getting organized is not just putting things in their place or making a to-do list, it means to organize your life in a way so that it doesn’t become an overwhelming burden to you. Make a calendar that outlines your monthly “to-do” priorities input it in a place that is easily accessible and understandable. A dry-erase board is perfect for this since you can easily make changes, add or remove items, and start each month with a clean slate. If a visual calendar isn’t your thing, perhaps mark items down on your phone’s calendar and set reminders, so you are always aware of deadlines and timelines. Being ahead of the game allows you more time to de-stress, and less time is allowing the pressures and stress to overcome your mental capacity.
4. Follow Through
Following through with being self-aware, developing and practicing your self-care, and staying organized can help you prolong your success and reduce the immediate symptoms of your anxiety. Seeking therapy is a great way to keep accountable for yourself and seek additional help in areas of concern. Talk-therapy is extremely helpful in working through complex and underlying matters and develop more strategies that are more specific to your needs. As we are all unique individuals, we all seek support in unique ways!
I hope these tips and tricks can help you on your journey to Millennial nirvana! Although these expectations will not cease to exist, it is more about overcoming them rather than eliminating them from existence. Anxiety is no joke, and as we learn more and more about our triggers, coping strategies, and tendencies, we are better able to understand ourselves and our ability to overcome Millennial expectations.