No Chill: Why Millenials Should Probably Just Calm Down Already

I’m pretty self-aware, so I know that I’m a generally anxious human. It never surprises me anymore when I have to take a second to calm myself down as work, school, and social obligations begin to pile up; it doesn’t shock me when I have to be told to stop overthinking and attempting to solve all of my problems at once.

What has surprised me lately, however, is the fact that I can’t seem to stop that big ole stress train from rolling over me when I’m trying to relax – when I have no real obligations, nothing due, nowhere to be. It could be an extended holiday or a long weekend (or, heck, maybe even a normal weekend), but my mind will immediately jump to panic mode. “I should be doing something,” it chatters, “I’m gonna fall behind, I’m wasting precious time, how dare I think I can relax?” But, as aforementioned, I have nothing to do…so what am I stressing over? What am I gonna fall behind in? This feeling is especially frustrating because when I’m busy studying or working, I’m always thinking, “Man, it would be nice to catch up on all my unread books,” or, “Gee, I’ve been wanting to start that show forever, but I’ll have to start when I have a break.”

And then, here it is, my perfect opportunity to give myself a break and catch up on all those amusements I’ve been looking forward to, and I feel guilty for it, lazy for it, all the pressure of life paralyzing me out of choosing just one thing to distract myself from it.

This odd phenomenon felt pretty isolating, but as I talked to more people, I realized this wasn’t just an issue for me. Many of my friends, fellow Millenials, were able to commiserate, saying they also had a hard time vegging out, so I decided to do a little research. As it turns out, Millenials have been dubbed “the most stressed-out generation” (a Google Search suggestion that pops up two slots above “the most entitled generation,” for the record) thanks to a study by the American Psychological Association. This study, conducted in 2012, asked subjects of varying generations to rate their average stress level on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being “no worries” and 10 being “I am nothing but worries.” The average rating Millenials gave their daily stress was 5.4, far above the scores given by the Baby Boomers and Mature adults also participating in the study. The APA study also showed that “Only 29 percent of Millenials…say they are doing an excellent or very good job of managing their stress…. In fact, since 2010, the percentage of Millenials who have said they are doing a good job at stress management has decreased.” So, not only are Millenials the most stressed-out age group, we are also the worst at coping with said stress.

It makes sense, then, that a generation so anxious can’t find a moment to calm down. But, I wondered, was this inability to chill a phenomenon of its own? According to a study conducted by Christina Luberto at the University of Cincinnati, it is indeed, and it even has a name: relaxation-induced anxiety. While there are many different situations that may culminate into this particular anxiety, the cause that hit closest to home was that of societal pressure: “…others may be afraid of the social consequences of doing relaxing activities, such as appearing lazy, feeling a loss of control, or worrying they’re not relaxing ‘correctly’.”

It’s no secret in this day and age that Millenials are faced with a multitude options for education and careers paired with aggressive competition for both of these things. But I find it interesting that the results of this environment are not more widely discussed – or at least as widely discussed as how “ungrateful” or “lazy” our generation is. If you get nothing else from this article, know that this stress, this self-punishing fear of downtime is not some weird fluke in your system. Read that book on your shelf that you’ve been eyeing for the past month. Start that Netflix original you’ve been ready to binge. We all deserve a moment of peace and rest, even (and perhaps especially) the Millenials.

Feature photo: Nicole Mason/ VIA Unsplash.