One of the things that I’ve learned through working with young people and anxiety is that they have a way of articulating their experiences that is refreshing. The next generation has created a whole new language for anxiety.
When I first was getting asked by parents to talk with their children about anxiety, we thought it was a trend. ‘Oh, these silly kids, they got a hold of a word and now they all have anxiety.’ I even had a teacher friend say to me, “If one more 13-year-old girl tells me she has anxiety this week, I’m going to scream.” We were in denial. Then, I spent time with these young people and started seeing it differently. Not only do I see their anxiety differently, but I see how I bulldoze right through my own anxieties completely ignoring them.
If you’ve never sat through an Active Shooter Training Course, be glad. I have twice and its rough. Kids have watched teachers panic during unannounced alarms and many schools have had threats that have put them under lockdown or cancelled school. This is a real anxiety for this generation that we can’t fathom.
Our cell phones create constant stimuli which increases the body reactions in the same way that anxiety does. When we go into high schools, I start off with this little skit where I work myself up over my cell phone notifications. Then my coach partner in Anxiety Michigan, Beth Tuttle, finally stops me. My heart is racing, my body has heated up, and I’m short of breath. I do this for multiple classes in a row and my brain knows I’m acting but my body is still responding as if I’m being chased by a tiger. The phone keeps our mind and body at this heighten stress level on a near constant basis, especially for this highly social, highly comparison age group.
And while it’s a different time, anxiety is also very much the same. We mostly hear about boyfriend/girlfriend stress, test anxiety, how to deal with parental pressures, money, not feeling smart enough, attractive enough … somethings never change.
Are you still thinking these kids should just suck it up? You might be. And frankly, in some areas, they will have no other choice. But let’s be honest, how well has sucking it up worked for anyone … ever? How many people working in the mortgage industry pre-2008 and 2009 felt uncomfortable and had anxiety about their job functions but sucked it up and traded securities as they were told to? How many people knew about Harvey Weinstein and didn’t like it but overrode their anxieties and sucked it up? How many times does that still happen in operating rooms, a nurse doesn’t say something because she’s learned to ignore her anxiety and suck it up? Does she even notice she’s having anxiety?
Is naming anxiety and talking about it creating a healthier way than suck it up? We sure hope so at Anxiety Michigan and we are proud to be a part of supporting individuals to develop healthy ways to work with their anxieties. Bring on this new language, conversations, and the articulation of feelings. This generation is truly ahead of the game on anxiety language. And we are excited to be a part of their journey. Learn more at www.anxietymichigan.com
What are your thoughts on the next generation’s articulation of their anxiety? As always, thank you for reading. Remember we all learn from each other, so please consider leaving a comment and adding to the conversation.