After nearly two years of life in a pandemic, it should come as little surprise to hear that younger generations are stressed out.
Recent research conducted by the American Psychological Association found that teen stress was above “normal” or healthy levels, and the same was true for young adults like Millenials and Gen-Zers who are feeling the effect of inflation that is exceeding increases in earnings.
This kind of stress level is above the norm — even for teenagers who are going through puberty and have always faced the stressors that come with growing up.
Over time, this will harm the health of millions of young people, as their mental health, digestion, and vision will suffer due to chronic stress. However, it is still possible to mitigate stress and the impact it has on our health.
The conversation around mental health is finally starting to change. Younger people are more welcoming and understanding to those who have a mental illness, and treatment options are more widely available — particularly for those struggling with anxiety and depression.
However, the cumulative effect of stressors like social inequities, the pandemic, and the economic downturn is harming the mental health of millions of young people. Even before the pandemic struck, an APA survey found that “mental health disorders have risen significantly over the past decade” in young Americans — we can only imagine how much worse that data will look when post-pandemic survey results are released.
Poor mental health is an issue in itself, but it also affects our physical health. Those who are struggling with conditions like anxiety and depression are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses and have a higher chance of heart attacks or strokes in later life. Poor mental health can also spark many physical health issues, like digestive problems and diabetes.
Stress manifests itself in many ways, but one of the most prominent outcomes of overwhelming stress is digestion issues. However, when facing digestive issues, it can be hard to know what came first: the digestive condition or the stress. That’s because many digestive issues are caused by stress, but digestive issues are, in themselves, stressful.
One of the first steps to combating digestive issues is to make a few small lifestyle changes that may help identify the issue. For example, if you’re struggling with GERD, or acid reflux, you should consider making a few lifestyle changes. This might include dietary changes, or you might raise your head at night to use gravity in your favor when sleeping.
You may also want to experiment with probiotics or probiotic-rich foods, which help balance the bacteria in your digestive system. These typically include foods like yogurts, pickled goods, tempeh, and miso which all reduce the amount of LDL — or “bad” fat — in your digestive system.
Younger generations are suffering from issues with vision. Seventy percent of millennials have suffered from eye strain at some point, as we spend more time looking at screens for our work, leisure, and education. However, there’s another factor at play: stress.
According to Dr. Bernhard Sabel, the director of the Institute of Medical Psychology at Magdeburg University in Germany, “continuous stress and elevated cortisol levels negatively impact the eye and brain”. In effect, increased stress impacts blood flow to our eyes and can cause conditions like glaucoma, optic neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration.
Like most stress-related illnesses, the solution to stress-connected vision degeneration is easier said than done: get eight hours of sleep, eat a healthy balanced diet, and exercise regularly. It sounds simple, but, in reality, stress is a vicious cycle that keeps us from completing the behaviors which we know to be good for us.
Dealing with Stress
Modern life is the root cause of much of our stress. Young people lead busier lives and typically live in noisy cities where the line between work and life is often blurred. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to change — so young folks must find ways to cope with stress to preserve their health.
The good news is that it is now easier than ever before to engage in stress-alleviating activities. There are plenty of ways to deal with stress, and almost all of them are centered around improving your physical health.
Start dealing with stress by breathing deeply and engaging in mindfulness practices. This will help you manage acute, or overwhelming, stress. Over time, try to change your day-to-day behaviors to improve your sleep and the quality of your diet — this will help with mood fluctuations, and will ensure you have the energy to overcome stress. If you feel up to it, try starting an exercise routine. Even a short walk or a dip in a local swimming pool can break the cycle of chronic stress and help you manage stress-related symptoms.
Stress is a part of our everyday life. In many ways, it is a good thing: it pushes us to achieve more in life and helps us focus on specific challenges and tasks. However, too much stress can lead to chronic health issues like poor mental health, digestion issues, or even vision loss. Young people can learn to manage their stress by taking a proactive approach to their overall health, and by trying to lead a more active, healthy lifestyle.