By Caitlyn Crenshaw–

It is midterms. You have spent more time in the library than in your bed.  You have a full course load, and time seems more elusive than the raindrops on a gloomy Louisville day.  Are you stressed yet? If you are a millennial, stress might just be keeping you up at night.

Americans in the millennial generation, ages 18-33, reported a higher stress level than any other generation, according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association.  Millennials reported an average stress level of 5.4 compared to the national average of 4.9 on a 10-point scale.  Even more alarming, 52 percent said stress made it hard for them to sleep at night in the past month according to the survey.

So why are we so stressed out? This time in the lives of millennials is filled with crossroads and life choices that while they may not define us, they have the immense power to direct and affect us.  What defines a person can only be determined by what they allow to define them.  Stress and anxiety are at its worst when control and coping are at its worst.

For Millennials, top stress sources are work, money and relationships. The economy came in fifth, just behind family responsibilities.

As the stress level of millennials rises and the stressors stay strong, the need to find effective coping mechanisms in life is of utmost importance.  Whether it is taking some time off, exercising more, listening to music, or turning to family and friends, these ways of coping with stress are important to establish rather than unhealthy or harmful habits.

The survey also found that more millennials reported being diagnosed with anxiety or depression than their elders.  These findings prove the importance of coping with problems effectively and in a healthy way.  Norman B. Anderson, PhD, a lead researcher on the survey and CEO of APA, said, “We need to improve how we view and treat stress and unhealthy behaviors that are contributing to the high incidence of disease in the U.S.”

Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, of the APA, said, “not being able to move on with the goals that they have” contributes significantly to the stress and expectations of this generation.  And in an economic climate where the college degree many work desperately to attain does not gurantee a career or job after graduation, millenials experience conflict between the idealistic dreams of their youth and the harsh realities of the present and future.

In contrast to the stress levels, the survey also found millennials to be brimming with optimism for the future.  It seems like the perfect paradox presented to be part of the generation with the most stress in their lives and also the most optimism for the future – as if it is this optimism for the future that motivates millennials and gives meaning to their stress.

Why worry about the little things?  Worry about what you can control in life, and everything else will either fall into place or it is not worth the worry.  Ask yourself what has to happen to be happy and present in this moment, rather than worrying about tomorrow.  This is the time in our lives where making mistakes is expected and learning from them is what’s important.  When the stressors in life seem too overwhelming, it is important to realize that these things may affect and direct a person, but they do not define them.

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Photo by Genevieve Mills/The Louisville Cardinal