Aspiration & Struggle

How Millennials Are Dealing with Stress

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Millennials are by far the most stressed-out American generation, as reported by the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey. This comes as no surprise when you consider everything that this generation confronts on a daily basis. In recognition of National Stress Awareness Day, here’s a closer look at the challenges Millennials face, and the ways in which they are dealing with stress.

High Unemployment Rates

Since the economic slump in 2008, the job market has completely changed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, January of 2007 boasted an average national unemployment rate of 4.6 percent, which peaked at 10 percent by October of 2009. Today, we are on the path to recovery, but certainly not back to pre-recession percentages.

In the past, it seemed that if you had a college degree you nearly always landed a job in your preferred career. But due to a number of factors, Millennials have found that their college degrees no longer guarantee employment. With 75 percent of surveyed Millennials citing finance-related concerns as sources of stress, it’s not a stretch to assume that struggles with employment play a major role.

College Education Costs

The costs associated with a college education have increased tremendously over the past several decades, as well. In the early 1980s, the average cost to attend a four-year institution was around $9,500, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. During 2011-2012 school year, the average cost of such an education was around $23,066. Between 2001-2002 and 2011-2012, the cost of an undergraduate education rose 40 percent, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 28 percent. It’s no wonder that Millennials are stressed out: Not only is the cost of education on the rise, but the fluctuating job market means they will have no means of loan repayment.

Political Distrust

Millennials are one of the most racially and politically diverse generations thus far, and many older generations don’t share their points of view. This has forced Millennials to grow up with a sense of distrust that has flowed into their political and economic views. They have been the targets of economic distress all too often, while bearing witness to and experiencing bullying, discrimination, and political injustice.

So how are Millennials turning the tables and dealing with stress?

They’re Carving Their Own Paths

It may be tough to get an affordable college education, and even more difficult to find a job with decent pay, but Millennials are taking advantage of resources such as social media and online networking, and are personally branding themselves.

Emotional support plays a major role in managing stress, and Millennials are excellent at leveraging sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to connect with other like-minded colleagues, friends, and family. Millennials are building communities around common goals, forming new ideas for startups that answer common problems, and carving out their own career paths. In fact, a survey by Bentley University states that 66 percent of Millennials want to start their own business.

They’re Staying Active

A key factor in managing stress is physical activity, and Millennials are far more active than the generations before them. According to the American Psychological Association, 72 percent of Millennials state that they exercise at least once a week. Gen Xers, on the other hand, are measured at 59 percent. Of those Millennials that exercise, 36 percent report feeling less stressed after their workout — far higher results than reports from other generations. So while increased stress can lead to more serious health risks such as anxiety, depression, and heart disease, the Millennial generation is combating its negative effects with a healthy rush of endorphins.

Even though the economic and political changes have affected the way Millennials establish new careers, they’re learning to manage their stress by creating their own luck and taking care of themselves physically.

Carrie Smith is the financial writer and the owner of CarefulCents.com, a site that helps creative freelancers discover the art of making a living. In May 2013 she quit her full-time accounting job to pursue entrepreneurship. She's been featured in The Huffington Post, Glamour Magazine, Yahoo! Finance and many other business websites. Find her on Twitter at @carefulcents.