Every generation tends to believe that their peer group endured the hardest times. While of course personal circumstances vary, statistics show that the often misunderstood millennials may, in fact, be the most stressed group in history. According to the American Psychological Association, 12% of millennials have an officially diagnosed anxiety disorder—which is nearly double the percentage of baby boomers. Other studies have found that 30 percent of working millennials are classified with general anxiety, and a 2014 American College Health Association (ACHA) assessment found that 61 percent of college students experience frequent anxiety. With such staggering numbers, millennials undoubtedly experience a great deal of stress, and subsequently, difficulty properly managing it.
Anxiety can take many forms and have many triggers, but it ultimately usually boils down to feeling worried or nervous about the future, or feeling looming uncertainty in general. According to Huffington Post, some of the top contributors to millennials’ anxiety include a tough job market, student debt, ambition addiction and/or career crises. Further, millennials are dealing with unprecedented challenges involving a constantly changing political and economic climate, along with demanding technology-based lifestyles, reports Vogue.
Stress and anxiety can negatively impact both mental and physical health, states The American Psychiatric Association. Fortunately, there is greater awareness and acceptance regarding diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses, and the connection to overall mind-body wellness. In addition, there are many healthy ways to help counterbalance the many stressors placed on millennials today that can actually benefit people of all ages.
Try to limit technology time
Technology overload has been said to be a common leading cause of increased feelings of anxiety, social isolation, and stress—yet many people still cling to it. A 2015 study reported by Time found that Americans age 25-34 check their devices on average 50 times per day, and those 35-44 roughly 35 times daily. Tech Crunch estimated in 2017 that collectively, adults spend about five hours daily on mobile devices.
While staying constantly connected may be unavoidable for business or personal reasons, there is mounting evidence to spend more time away from the screen whenever possible. Being overly reliant on technology has been shown to escalate central nervous system arousal, in turn increasing anxiety while decreasing mood. While it can be difficult to break the habit, try starting slowly. For example, while waiting in line at the store, don’t automatically reach for the phone. Instead, allow for a few moments of daydreaming, mental planning or just breathing to “check in” with the body.
Improve sleep quality
While it may not always be possible to log more hours of shut-eye, achieving better quality sleep can be a good start. A University of California at Berkeley study found that poor sleep has a direct correlation to increased anxiety and excessive worrying. Exercise is a great way to naturally combat anxiety and promote healthier sleep; however, WebMD suggests exercising earlier on in the day to avoid stimulating the body too close to bedtime. Experts also recommend prioritizing sleep, limiting screen time before bed, and engaging in relaxing rituals like a taking a warm bath or reading a book to help quiet the mind and signal to the body that it will soon be time to rest. In addition, make sure that the bedroom is conducive to the best quality sleep possible, by keeping the room cool, dark and tranquil.
Cut back on caffeine
For many people, millennials included, coffee fuels the day. From a cup of java in the morning to an espresso after lunch to beat the afternoon slump, many of us are addicted to caffeine. However, most underestimate the connection between caffeine and anxiety. Nevertheless, too much of this stimulant can trigger unpleasant anxiety symptoms, including jitters, sweaty palms, racing heartbeat, or even a full-blown panic attack, according to WebMD. These reactions happen because caffeine stimulates the "fight or flight" response, worsening anxiety.
While giving up coffee cold turkey can lead to withdrawal symptoms like headache and extreme fatigue, simply cutting back consumption can go a long way in reducing anxiety symptoms. Switching to tea is also a gradual way to decrease caffeine intake.
Strive to create a more holistic lifestyle
While even small actions can add up to major improvements in decreasing anxiety levels, for lasting success they must be part of an overall holistic lifestyle committed to wellness. This includes engaging in regular self-care, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and mindfully participating in healthful practices to manage anxiety, including meditation, suggests Psychology Today. Everyone is short on time, but carving out 10 minutes here and there throughout the day to slow down, check in, and rebalance can help reset the mind and body.
Although these suggestions may help ease some symptoms, if you suffer from anxiety, be sure to speak to a mental health professional—never be afraid of seeking help.