Greek philosopher Herculites was the first to say ‘The only constant in life is change’ – unaware that it would later become popularized modern-day motivational posters.  Change is a  normal part of life. We are born, we grow up, we go to grade school, then university, get a job, start a family, and then the cycle repeats. Modern day living is built upon these phases of transition.

It is only natural that these phases of change cause immense stress that have great psychological effects.  According to Merriam-Webster, stress is defined as “something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety” [1]. Stress can be a good or a bad thing. “When the body tolerates stress and uses it to overcome lethargy or enhance performance, the stress is positive, healthy and challenging” [2]. Converting stress into positive change is accomplished through the use of positive, problem-coping strategies. This can be done by analyzing the situation and using effective tools to plan and prepare for upcoming changes.

Another way to approach the stressors of change is through avoidant coping. “Avoidant coping occurs when individuals try to prevent an emotional response to the stressor, for example, using avoiding behaviors or cognitions, minimizing or denying the problem or trying to detach oneself from the outcomes of a problem” [3]. Employing this coping mechanism during stressful times of large life transitions and the resulting psychological effects of increased anxiety and depressive symptoms is what I coin ‘transitional anxiety’.   

Transitional anxiety can be seen at any stage but is most common amongst the youths. An  annual Stress in American survey revealed that, “Thirty-nine percent of this younger generation reported that their stress level had increased in the past year, compared with 29% of those ages 67 or older. These young adults also admitted to feeling the least equipped to manage their stress well” [4]. It is unclear the age range of the ‘youth’ measured in this survey but it is clear that Millennials, or Generation Y, make up a large percentage.  

Although there are no clear age ranges, the generation of Millennials usually span from the mid-1980s and end at the early 2000s. As with previous generations, Millennials are faced with their own set of unique challenges. For instance, we are the first generation to grow up with the Internet, in an increased urbanized and globalized environment.

With increasing costs of higher education, food, and housing, the traditional clear-cut path to economic security and stability has become hazy. Innovation, education and adaptation are buzzwords for this cohort, “In this age of the future, it is imperative to sell yourself, adopt new technologies, prepare for change, be change” [5]. And with change being the cornerstone of a generation, it makes sense that today’s youth experience a lot of transitional anxiety.

So for all those young adults about to enter or exit university, or are living another year in your parents’ house suddenly plagued with anxiety attacks and low moods, know that you are not alone. Take your time to understand your situation and plan a course of action – even when it seems unforeseeable. Try to understand change as a positive opportunity as opposed to a threatening one, and perhaps the constancy of change won’t be such a bad thing after all.

 

By: Shreya Mathur

Edited by: Alisia Bonnick

 

References:

[1] Stress. Merriam-Webster.

[2] Salleh, M. R. (2009). Life event, stress and illness.

[3] Holahan, C. J., Moos, R. H., Holahan, C. K., Brennan, P. L., & Schutte, K. K. (2005). Stress generation, avoidance coping, and depressive symptoms: a 10-year model. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 73(4), 658.

[4] Sifferlin, Alexandra. ‘The Most Stressed-Out Generation? Young Adults’. TIME Magazine. Feb 07, 2013.

[5] Niedzviecki, Hal. ‘Millennials facing the future- anxiously’ The Star. October 17, 2015