It’s a hectic, increasingly insane world out there. For the younger generations hanging on can be a challenge. To help us understand how Millennials experience and cope with stress and anxiety, we sat down with therapist Tara Griffith, who is also the founder of Wellspace SF, the San Francisco community of licensed therapists, nutritionists and certified coaches. In addition to psychotherapy, Tara’s organization specializes in working with young adults, providing life coaching, career coaching, nutrition and health/wellness coaching.
Describing the Millennial patients she frequently works with, Tara explains that many of their mental health stressors are tied to technology and entrepreneurship. “What’s really unique about millennials, especially in San Francisco, is there’s a lot of integration of socializing and work. There are bars in certain start-ups and you’re encouraged to do all these outside activities together, so the work/life balance becomes a little messy sometimes,” says Tara. “The quick growth of companies creates some stressors in how to work with your colleagues or be a good manager or employee. Many people that are in management positions are sometimes really young. They are learning to navigate a quickly growing industry.”
Tara feels that integrating or learning easy, yet effective stress management tools is important. And so is scheduling time for self-care, and being able to set boundaries. “For urban Millennials, the pace of life can be so fast today that we often just go, go, go. They don’t really schedule the time for self-care. They’re just reacting in the moment instead of sitting down and reflecting on the next step or who they want to be.”
Communication and feeling a connection with other people is also a unique challenge for Millennials according to Tara. “Technology has made it so much easier to disconnect from people. In the past, you may have to meet someone face-to-face or pick up the phone and have a difficult conversation. Now you just disappear without ever having to be accountable. The face of dating and communication is definitely changing.” That’s where Tara sees technology – and Millennials’ affinity for it – having the greatest impact, “And not necessarily in a positive way,” says Tara.
Tara lists a few essential coping skills that she frequently works on with her clients:
- Try to schedule time for self-care in your calendar. “If it’s not scheduled its often the first thing to go,” says Tara.
- Learn more about mindfulness and meditation and incorporate that into daily life.
- Identify one’s inner critic and understand how that contributes to your stress level.
- Learn how to speak with yourself in a nicer, kinder and gentler way; refocus perspective on the positive.
- Utilize tools like gratitude journals and affirmations.
While useful for everyone, Tara explained that gratitude journals are particularly helpful for Millennials. This forces them to take time out of the day to focus on what’s going well in their lives. “The way that we think about the world is going to contribute to your anxiety. It’s very rare that we spend time thinking about all the great things in our life,” explains Tara. “Spend time each day really reflecting on the positives in your life and what they mean to you. By doing that you reshape the way your brain works, and you start to notice more positive things in your life, instead of skewing toward the negative.”
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Mindfulness and Living in the Present
Mindfulness and intentionality are traits commonly attributed to Millennials. “Doing my own work on myself and seeing the benefits – of particularly the mindfulness — and how that has significantly impacted my own life…I can be very passionate about it because it’s something that works. It’s not just something I’ve read about in a book.”
Explaining her own work, Tara notes that “I am not the type of therapist who’s just going to sit back and nod their head and say, ‘tell me how you feel about that.’ I don’t spend too much time in the past, which other therapists might. I’m really focused on the here and now. The present moment,” says Tara. “We can spend years and years sitting on the couch talking about how your mother ruined your life. My personal opinion is that we can talk about that but I don’t want to stay there.”
Tara’s personal connection to her work and her patients reflects the kind of purpose Millennials are hungry for. As Tara explains about her approach: “Sometimes people look at a therapist as an expert or a know-it-all, but we’re people with our own struggles and heartaches and challenges and most therapists get into this because they can really empathize with other people’s struggle. And I think that’s what I try and let my clients know about me. That I’m just like you.”