Which generation is the most stressed of all? That would be Millennials (ages 18-33) according to the annual Stress in America survey compiled by the American Psychological Association.
The APA surveyed 2,000 Americans and rated their stress levels with a threshold of 10. Millennials were found to have the highest stress levels (5.4 out of 10) with 39 percent saying their stress levels had risen in the past year.
Boomers reported stress levels of 4.7 out of 10, and Matures 3.7 out of 10.
Dr. Lynn Bufka, one of the psychologists who developed the Stress in America report, expressed her surprise at the results. She blames sky-high expectations of the younger set in combination with a bad economy and unstable relationships at that age as key causes of high stress.
“There’s a huge emphasis placed on school, and once they get out into the workplace, Millennials discover that their academic achievements don’t translate,” says Dr. Bufka.
Gen-X (ages 34 to 47) have had an easier time readjusting their expectations, while Boomers and Matures are more settled in their lives with less uncertainty riding on their choices.
While short-term stress can lead to ailments such as sleep problems, stomach issues, headaches, colds and viral illnesses, Dr. Bufka says the real concern is chronic, recurrent stress. “Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between the effects of stress and the negative things we do to cope with it, like overeating, not exercising, and making impulsive decisions.”
While major stress comes from the unknown (like the future of the economy), the key is learning ways to cope with stress you’re feeling now. Dr. Bufka says these three steps are a good place to start:
1. Interpretation is Everything
Dr. Bufka urges not to jump to the worst case scenario on something when there could be a much more logical explanation. “How we interpret situations has a huge impact on stress. If you always go for the negative assumption, your stress levels will be high.”
2. Adjust Your Expectations
You may feel pressured on certain birthdays like the big 30, and feel you’re coming up short if you haven’t yet reached the status you think a 30-year-old should have. Instead of rehashing your short-comings, try to focus on the positives in your life like having a college degree or owning your own car.
3. Take Time Out
Life is demanding enough without feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Dr. Bufka says, “One of the most difficult things to do when you’re stressed is to make time for yourself, but it’s essential. Take a step back and ask, ‘is there anything I can ditch to reduce these stressors?’ Set boundaries in terms of your work and social life, and make time for exercise, sleep, and relaxation.” Sounds like some good advice to us!