By: Tatyanna Carman
I couldn’t move. My heart was beating so fast and my chest felt ten times heavier than usual. I felt the tears stream down my face as I wept with each breath that I couldn’t seem to catch. In that moment, I felt like I was going to die.
Labored breathing… Racing heart beat… Irrational thoughts… Nervous movements like leg shaking or lip biting… Sometimes the inability to move–frozen in place… A feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome… Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, or rather the elephant-sized weight in your chest: anxiety.
Everyone goes through it at one point and time, but it seems as though there is a relatability with young people, specifically those within Generation Z (people born from 1995-2012) who bring up the topics of anxiety, feeling overworked and overwhelmed. If I gained a follower every time I saw someone post about how horrendous their mental health is, I would be as popular as Kylie Jenner.
However, anxiety is prevalent throughout all generations. Although it seems that the younger generations, Millennials and Generation Z, have increased anxiety. Although, it has always been detrimental; there has merely been an increase in conversation about mental health, with younger people. There are those within the generations of Baby Boomers (1946-1964) , Generation X (1965-1980), Generation Y, also known as Millennials (1981-1994) and Generation Z, who have untold stories and traumas, including experiences and a history of anxiety.
Everyone, at some point was a young adult figuring out their path through life like I am now. Adulting is hard, I know. And you know who else knows? Everyone. Don’t believe me? Consider, anxiety has always been prevalent in all populations, and once people go deep below the surface within, others will see that.
Although, money doesn’t buy happiness, it sure does make life a lot more comfortable. Finances are a common stressor according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). An APA poll from May of 2018 showed that Baby Boomer’s anxiety increased with a seven point jump between 2017 and 2018 on a 0-100 scale. It also said that the greatest increase in anxiety was about paying bills.
This matches the responses from Baby Boomer, Beth Johnson, when she shared her experiences with anxiety. In 2011, a tree on Johnson’s property fell on the roof of her house costing $20,000 to repair and $8,000 to clean up. She later lost her job as well after suffering from health issues including a torn aorta.
Financial stress also affects young adults as well trying to live fresh out of undergraduate or graduate studies. Millennial volleyball coach and physical therapist aid, Leah Hansford talked about her biggest cause of anxiety. “I think it’s the stress of not having enough money to finish my education. Finances, things that come with being an adult, you know. I have a car, car insurance, my phone bills, so money just ties around a lot of my stressors right now, because it controls everything that’s going on in my life,” Hansford expressed.
Some college students also feel the financial pain of student loan debt; Americans own a toppling at $1.5 trillion in student loan debt according to Forbes.
“The amount of debt that people my age go into and the people that are older than me already have, you know, it sinks you financially. So no matter how hard some people work, you can’t get out from under that,” said sophomore Journalism and Political Science double major Stephen Neukam.
Work and Academics
All work and no play means that the anxiety is here to stay. That is why work, whether it be at a job or homework, is another stressor that we all love to hate and bond over throughout the generations. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) a 2006 stress and anxiety disorder survey showed that 56 percent of employees said stress and anxiety most often impacts their work performance. Fifty-one percent of respondents said that it impacts their relationships with coworkers and peers.
I especially know the feeling the first few months of working at a new job. Baby Boomer and receiver for Target, Deanie Holmes, recognizes this feeling. She said that anything new gets her stressed until she gets used to the environment. She explained that her current job as a receiver was very stressful in the beginning, but with learning the position and better communication skills, she now “loves it.”
For millennial Behavioral Health Specialist, Brienne Jennings, some of her anxiety stemmed from academics starting when she was six or seven. She said that her grades, extra-curricular activities and preparation for college made her overwhelmed. This continued when she went to TCNJ and suffered “panic attacks twice a month during college.” It makes sense. There is a lot of pressure to go to college, even more to do well in college, but many people don’t explain what happens when you get there. College is difficult, to say the least and is a challenge to balance on top of all of the offered activities. Of course like everything else, it comes with stress!
Adjunct professor, Sean Keegan-Landis explained his last experience with anxiety while in graduate school for psychology while also teaching psychology, “…and I just remember not being able to turn off that low-level anxiety even when it was clear work time is over, it’s time to hang out with my spouse. It’s time to just relax on the weekend. I still like found [it] hard to crack a smile. I found it hard to just laugh at what my spouse was saying or just fully disengage and be done with the work because it was always just in the back of my mind that I am not getting it done,” Keegan-Landis explained.
I think Toys ‘R’ Us wasn’t wrong in their jingle when they sang “I don’t wanna grow up…” because growing up includes all of the growing pains that come with it–with all of the anxieties that come with it. There are certain pressures that come with being recognized by society as being an adult that are ever changing and can influence anxiety as well. Some people from older generations have a lot to say about younger generations, but I feel as though that some of them have forgotten that they were once young themselves and wanted to change the mold created by their elders.
Sophomore Film, Tv and Radio major, Demara Barnes, said, it “affects me because I’m already a person that is very determined and I want to go far in life, but being that I have a lot going on and then dealing with hearing people (say) ‘oh well you have to do this in order to be successful’ or ‘you have to be this to be successful’ it’s like now I have to conform to what society is pushing me towards instead of going at things myself,”
We should not have to conform to the pressures of others even despite their seemingly good intentions, because it just makes matters worse in the long-run.
You don’t have to be a 20-something to experience growing pains. Gen Xer and stay-at-home mom Daisy Outram explained that her fear of failure inflates her anxiety, which started after college. This coincides with her fear of judgement, which she says is amplified in a house of four.
There is no real definition or mold for being an adult or being successful; it is all up to the individual. My growing pains could be different from yours or it could happen at a different stage of life. During this stage of life, there shouldn’t be any judgements on what is the right or wrong path.
“It’s hard to understand younger generations. I don’t think either one understands each other,” Beth Johnson said.
This miscommunication can be resolved by not just hearing other people’s experiences, but to listen to them as well.
People need to know that feeling anxious, being overworked and overwhelmed is natural. We all go through it with some worse than others. If you are ever feeling anxious, know that there are solutions. There are the basic and mundane answers like talking to a family member and going out for a jog, but I know that sometimes it isn’t that easy. What works for me when I am filled with anxiety is to look around the room that I am in and say out loud what I can see. Another way is to ride it out. Let it all in and feel the pain. Although it feels like it, it won’t last forever. All eight people I interviewed mentioned the increasing conversation about anxiety, which is good. That is one thing I wish I could tell my younger self who was experiencing her first panic attack at the end of her senior year from crippling stress about what she is doing now–talking about the very thing that terrorized her that day. And although I don’t have it all figured out, I am making steps to get better, which is what I advise all of you. If a thousand people read this or only just one, I just want you to know one thing : You are not alone.