I noticed a trend starting around the time I left my parent’s home for college. With class, work, dance practice, blogging and all my other commitments, I keep myself fairly busy as most young adults do. But every time I take a moment to myself, whether that’s watching an episode of “The Office,” online shopping for shoes I don’t need or simply lounging in bed I feel that twinge of guilt in the back of my mind.
Should I go over the new choreography from dance practice? Maybe I could get ahead in my media law homework. Maybe I could apply for another internship this summer. Should I finally watch “Food Inc.?”
I became curious as to why I consistently feel this way anytime I try to unwind. A recent Travel + Leisure article discussed the idea of “vacation shaming.” It was filled with statistics from a 2016 Alamo Family Vacation Survey, which found 59 percent of millenials, those ages 18-34, claimed to feel guilty for taking their vacation days. Twenty-two percent admitted this feeling kept them from going on vacation and 47 percent felt the need to justify to their employers why they planned to utilize their vacation days.
What is it about our generation that makes us feel as though we aren’t allowed a break from our busy schedules? This new all-work-and-no-play attitude has proven to cause major mental health problems among young people. An article by USA Today said millenials, more than any other age group, “report being told by a health care provider that they have either depression or an anxiety disorder,” according to results from a 2012 online Stress in America survey.
After speaking to University of Iowa Senior Behavioral Health Consultant, Trisha Welter, it seems social media plays a role in the stress among young people.
“It’s hard to stop and take a break when you’re so plugged in all the time,” said Welter. “It’s right at their fingertips the whole time. They can’t just go home and totally unwind because it’s there in front of them still.”
Being a young adult today also seems to come with the added pressure to involve yourself in some sort of activity outside of school. University of Iowa’s Pick One! program encourages students to choose a student organization during their first year of enrollment.
“There’s just so much going on. And I think pressures have gone up for doing good in all these things and keeping a good balance. They know that they should take time for themselves, but they feel guilty when they do so they can’t truly relax because they’re worried about what they have to do next.”
This feeling of guilt gives young adults the idea that they must constantly keep their schedule packed to the brim with work. And the stress that comes along with this issue causes both mental and physical health problems.
“[Chronic stress] can affect us in a lot of ways and increase our risks of getting the flu or getting colds and really reduce our immune system,” said Welter. “It can lead to high blood pressure, high heart rate, other chronic diseases – and with mental health it’s really important for a person to take time for whatever they enjoy.”
It seems as though we forget about the importance of mental health. In a survey I conducted of 45 young people, over 80 percent claimed they see mental health as “extremely important,” yet when asked if they ever sought professional mental health assistance 62.5 percent marked “no.”
So here are a few tips that might help manage your stress as a busy 20-something-year-old:
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
Whether we like it or not, we’re getting older. Sure, in high school we could attend three sports practices a day, hit the gym twice, finish our homework, hang out with friends, sleep for a few hours and be back at 100 percent the next day. Now if I even walk to and from a class I feel the exhaustion start to set in.
Yes these are arguably the best years of our lives, and we want to accept every opportunity that comes to us whether it’s another part-time job or Monday night tequila shots with friends. But unfortunately, your mind and body might not be able to take as much as you think it can. It IS OK to say no every once in awhile. It’s better to be honest with yourself now then to end up getting fired from a position for not having the time to get all your work done.
GET HELP (and don’t think you’re crazy for doing so)
Asking for help is actually a sign of strength, not weakness. If you think you can do everything yourself without ever needing another human being, you’re wrong. Sometimes all you need is to ask a friend to check over your resume. Other times, the pressure of life becomes all too much and you need to seek out other professional mental health resources available to you.
SPEND TIME ALONE – actually alone
That means removing yourself from social media. I understand this may sound like a death wish. It isn’t. You could stand to pull yourself away from the new Snapchat filters for a bit.