A young person sitting on a bench with their head in their hands

Why are millennials such an anxious generation?

And what can be done to help?

Under 35 and feeling anxious? You’re not alone.

Generation Y – defined as the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s – is facing an anxiety crisis. A recent study found that while general levels of anxiety across society have increased, it’s people in this age group who are suffering most, with women nearly twice as likely to be affected as men.

Don’t get us wrong, being stressed CAN be useful. Our body’s fight or flight response to an actual, tangible threat is what’s helped us stay alive – and stress is something everyone experiences from time to time. However, anxiety, in contrast, is the anticipation of unpredictable impending threats – these can be unlikely, or even fantastical.

Exposure to stress for too long can often morph into anxiety, as the brain becomes hardwired to live in fear. If you’re always worrying that the absolute worst is about to happen, that’s catastrophising, and it can have a negative effect on your physical, as well as mental, health.

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What’s caused it?

It’s no surprise really – job insecurity, massive student debt, economic, political and environmental insecurity, concerns about the future of the planet, the emotional merry-go-round of online dating, not to mention rising fears about global terrorism. Then there’s the constant, always-on, LOOK AT ME demands of social media where the pressure is on to post an endless stream of enviable shots of Size-8 you and your Insta-glam life, when the reality’s more beans on toast, Netflix and worrying about the rent cheque.

Ironically, we’re also experiencing too much choice. Research shows that people with restricted choice are more resilient because they can blame other people – or life in general – when they make a wrong decision. If YOU make a wrong decision when you have a wide choice, the onus is on you, and there is no one to blame but yourself. This is increasingly resulting in us obsessing about making the right decision. Anxiety’s a social illness and it’s not going anywhere in a hurry.

However, while you may not be able to control general global uncertainty, there ARE small steps you can take that can have a surprisingly big impact on making you feel better.

Meditation’s what you need

Mindfulness meditation can help you escape negative thought patterns and bring you bang into the here and now, so you’re “living in the moment” and not fretting about the future. Research suggests you only need to practise for 10 minutes a day (#easywin) – so there’s no excuse not to give this one a go!

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Hey there sleepyhead

Sleeping less than eight hours each night is linked to experiencing intrusive, repetitive thoughts, often seen in people with anxiety disorders or depression. Make getting a proper rest each night your top priority!

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Eat your way out of it

Studies have shown magnesium may have a positive effect on the symptoms of anxiety. Try packing more magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, dark green leafy vegetables and cashew nuts into your diet – your brain will thank you for it!

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Keep on moving

When your mind is in that vicious worry spiral, you’ll probably just want to curl up on the sofa and stuff your head beneath the cushions, but getting active will fire up those feel-good hormones – just the ticket for busting anxiety. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, in 30-minute stints. And it doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym; grab a friend and go for a brisk walk, as research shows spending just 30 minutes a week surrounded by nature can reduce anxiety and boost mental health.

Making scents of it

There’s scientific evidence that shows certain smells can change your mental state. Researchers found that applying lemon balm oil to patients’ faces and arms twice a day reduced their agitation by a whopping 35 per cent. Neroli oil and lavender oil have also shown promising anxiety-reducing abilities. Book yourself in for a luxurious aromatherapy massage, or order some oils to self-treat at home – you’ll soon melt away your worries (and you’ll sleep like a baby too).

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Mind & Body