It has taken doctors and scientists years to finally label anxiety for what it is and for it to become less taboo in the world of mental health. But even now there is some debate about what anxiety really is.
“The definition of anxiety, or one of the ones I like best is that anxiety is that fearful reaction in anticipation of the possibility of a threat. The threat is not actually present, but it could be,” said Jennifer Trevitt, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Cal State Fullerton.
Human minds are naturally preparing them for an unforeseeable threat, but anxiety has become more common in the millennial generation according to a 2018 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association.
Many states have cut funding for health care, leaving the facilities understaffed and millennials with almost nowhere to turn for help with mental health, according to Governing Magazine.
One of the biggest contributors to this generation’s anxiety issues is the internet. It’s easy for millenials to feel like something is wrong with them when they compare the highs and lows of their lives to nothing but their friends’ best lives on social media.
All people have this basic human instinct to compare themselves to the rest of their tribe, Trevitt said. With social media, the size of the tribe is exponentially bigger than it was two or three generations ago.
Previous generations dealt with this on a smaller, but still prevalent scale, through magazines in the 80s and TV in the 50s that promoted the ideal body.
Although there is no obvious, physical threat present in social media or television, it can play a role in developing personal anxiety.
Another contributor to this generation’s anxiety is nutrition.
The food the current generation is eating would be almost unrecognizable to previous generations. Millennials often choose convenience over healthy options because it gives them time for other things – like scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.
The brain might not be fully developed until the age of 30, and dieting factors may influence mental health, according to a 2017 study by the international journal of Nutritional Neuroscience. The study concluded that by choosing convenience over nutrition, people can negatively affect their mental health.
“(The brain) is an organ and it is going to respond to things like nutrition, sleep, exercise and stress management the same exact way your heart does,” Trevitt said. “Things that you do that are good for your body are also good for your brain.”
These are issues that millenials can actively work to fix by using social media as a tool without becoming dependent on it and recognizing its negative effects.
Consider adopting a healthier diet and cooking at home once or twice a week instead of ordering takeout. Sit outside and listen to nature, and leave the cell phone inside. Strive to get enough sleep every night.
Millennials’ bodies are trying to adapt quickly to the world around them, and they commonly struggle.