Does the word “stress” seem too vague and general to draw your attention? How about fatigue, depression, anxiety, chronic pain and muscle tension? How about severe tension, inability to concentrate, blank mind or brain fog? These are just a hand full of terms that I discussed with my therapist in 2013. These symptoms were new to me. I thought I had a disease, but it took countless doctor visits before I could ac- cept the diagnosis I received. I was stressed out, even though I didn’t feel any stress. It was there, slowly creeping up on me.
Like many others, I never used to give the light of day to terms like “stress,” “anxiety,” or “depression,” mainly because they didn’t apply to me. As someone who was as happy as could be for 22 years, I was one of many who enabled the stigma that still surrounds mental health. But men- tal health and physical health are connected at the hip, and it could take until your body starts reacting physically before you can convince yourself to change your lifestyle. After learning that relationship the hard way, I feel compelled to make it known to millennials that you don’t have to accept stressful lifestyles as the norm.
According to a Feb. 7 article by Steven Reinberg on WebMD. com, college aged kids are tak- ing the blunt of environmental stressors. “Young Americans between the ages of 18 and 33 years old—the so-called millennials—are more stressed than the rest of the population, according to a new report by the American Pyschological Association,” writes Reinberg.
As college students, we spread ourselves pretty thin on a weekly basis. Most of us have to balance classes and work. We have to accept the reality that we’re accumulating debt and earning low wages at our jobs. With more students going to college than ever, the competition in the job market is fierce.
As college students who live in a service-industry, information age, it can be difficult to find time during the day to treat your body and mind correctly. But, we all need to make a greater effort than our parents and grandparents to be proactive about our mental and physical health.
When visiting with my therapist—something that took some shame-shaving for me—I concluded that we could all use some extra therapy, even if it’s not from a practicing professional. Don’t let corporate food chains fool you—eat right. Don’t let social media lure you—give most of your free time to things other than your computer screen. Exercise. Go somewhere new and meditate once a day.
But, most importantly, if you begin to feel like you have spread yourself way too thin with responsibility, don’t be afraid to ease up. The core cause of mental stress is when our reality doesn’t meet the expectations of who we want to be. Even the playing field for yourself and set healthy, realistic and attainable goals, and don’t fret if you fall short sometimes.
I had no idea that the stress- ors discussed above were doing this to me, but management helped me turn the corner. I strongly encourage, as someone who’s been to hell and back, that we all be proactive and take care of ourselves. You might even be surprised how good you can really feel by making small lifestyle changes.
Mike Foster, Senior