An increase of youth seem to be suffering anxiety and depression ever since the “Great Depression” in the 1930s. Why? What has happened to change how we are all able to cope with stress and disappointment? Has stress increased?
It is my observation that modern life is not good for mental health. 80 years ago people spent time together and made real connections. Now, families are smaller, the divorce rate is higher, people get married later in life, electronic communication and entertainment have contributed a loss in the name “equality and freedom.” It may look like we are more connected, however, I believe we are more isolated.
My Grandpa White was a part of the generation some have labelled “the greatest generation.” He knew what “stressors” were. He was born just before the depression – a time when food was hard to come by, jobs were scarce, and people lost homes, land, and stability. He was born to a large family and his father was rarely home. He walked everywhere he went. He had to actually write with a pencil and paper and lick a stamp to send a message. He eventually had to fight in World War II in Europe and had to face bullying at it’s worst. He came home to raise a family in a world where hatred of people who were different and racism was the norm in social circles. He learned to communicate face to face with people. He learned to stand up for himself. He built the confidence to build his own business. He traveled to China, and the Pacific Islands and to Europe to learn about cultures. My grandpa knew stress, but he also learned basic coping skills.
In contrast, I have observed that people of all ages today seem to feel more isolated, misconstrued, and emotionally fragile and unstable than in decade of the past. I am noticing an alarming increase self-absorbed behavior, have low self-control, and feelings of sadness and dissatisfaction with life among the people I meet, especially the teens.
Why? Why do teens these days feel more anxiety, more “stage fright”, more desperation than in generations past?
Now to be clear – I am not a medical or psychological professional. I am only a parent, and an educator, and an observer. I am not trying to address real issues with depression. I am addressing a serious lack of coping skills I see when people are subject to oppression or change in their lives that they are not prepared for.
That being said, I have observed that it doesn’t matter what country you are in, which race you belong to or what place in in society you are in; If you limit your thinking, have changes forced upon you, struggle to succeed or to survive, you may develop an inability to manage your emotions that some might label depression. Is is a deep-seated lack of self-belief even when they are viewed by others as successful? What is this feeling? Could this feeling be a symptom of a lack of coping skills and a lack of true human connections?
I believe we can help ourselves and help others overcome feelings of anxiety. I believe we can up-skill ourselves and learn methods to help us through the rough places of life. Take a leap and try something new. It may be hard, but remember to give yourself growing room. Look for what you can learn in every situation.
We can start by talking to people… face to face. Put away the cell phone. Stop the texting. Write a real letter and put it in the mail box. Make friends. Play games. Laugh. Talk to people older than you. Listen to them. Learn from their experiences. Eat dinner around the table with your family. Make REAL human connections.
Try writing it down. Buy a pad of paper and make a journal. Writing what is bothering you and reflect on the reasons behind what is going on. Open your mind to all the possibilities. Let it all go. Keep it positive. Write in positive statements. If negative thoughts are all you can write, let it go and destroy it. There is something therapeutic about ripping it up or watching it burn in a fireplace with the ashes and smoke floating off… no longer yours to worry about.
Buy a second notebook and write down tasks and assignments. Sometimes coping is just writing down expectations and deadlines and organizing our lives.
Next, take action. Change what you can change and let go of what can’t change. Sometimes you just have to accept that there are somethings not in your control… like other people because they have choices too. Accept your responsibility in a situation and work on that.
Eliminate unnecessary stressors – including “bad” or unhealthy influences in your life.
Find some kind of exercise you enjoy… something soft and slow like Tai Chi or Yoga. Take a walk. Go for a swim. It doesn’t have to be hard and sweaty. Spend some time in nature. Listen to the birds and the rustling leaves.
Learn to meditate… if that feels weird… day dream. Practice deep breathing… not controlled breath. Just allow it to come and go without effort.
Develop love… love for every little “thing” you come across… including yourself. Value yourself and honor who you are and the path you are own.
I don’t have all the answers to this issue. However, I have learned that you can learn coping skills. You can learn to work through stress and find real happiness.