The transition into adulthood brings freedom and responsibility. And inevitably, varying levels of anxiety come along with these tremendous changes.
For many, becoming responsible for one’s self and livelihood can be overwhelming. Indeed, this transition seems to pose endless requirements for decisions and much opportunity to make a wrong one.
What should you do? Where should you start?
Melanie has some great food for thought and practical ideas for you!
In This Article
About the Author
Melanie Hart, MA, LPCC has experience working with individuals and families seeking healing from substance abuse, trauma, depression, self-esteem issues, and anxiety. She is passionate about helping people find the answers, restoration, and healing that will move their lives into peace. You can schedule an appointment with Melanie for online counseling or in-person at our Denver, CO counseling center.
Ah, adulting. As we enter this stage of our life, we often find that the freedom we so longed for and glamorized in our youth was at best a dream and at worst a sham. What a cruel trick, adulthood, filled with foreign concepts like lease agreements, interest rates and insurance policies. “And why,” you may ask, “did no one mention any of this before I arrived here?”
It is a lot to take in. But, like every other adult person in the world from the beginning of time until now, humankind has managed to make the leap. That fact, however, may not be of much comfort to those in the early stages of adulting.
What is Anxiety and Where Does it Come From?
For today’s young people, adulting seems steeped with anxiety – that dizzying sense of being overwhelmed, paralyzed, or afraid. Studies show that nearly 34% of adults have been affected by an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Yet, I’d guess, every adult has experienced some level of anxiety at some point in their life.
To many, the anxiety of adulting is a general sense of being overwhelmed all the time. Some of the physical symptoms can include headaches, heart palpitations, flashes of hot or cold, stomach aches, and tension in the shoulders, jaw, and back. Often, the physical symptoms seem to come on suddenly, and out of nowhere, and can add a layer of confusion and fear on top of feeling overwhelmed, causing the individual to feel out of control, and spiral into a panic attack.
But where does the anxiety come from and how come you’re experiencing it now?
The one-word answer: Fear. The longer answer: Fear of (fill in the blank).
Let’s look at an example. Liam is overwhelmed as he faces the decision of pursuing his master’s degree or entering the work force. He fears if he makes the wrong decision his future will suffer and he’ll have to struggle to rectify the bad decision, or worse, he’ll never be able to overcome his bad decision.
This would leave him in a state of hopeless despair and struggling financially, or perhaps even homeless. Adding to his dilemma, he sees his friends touting their great lives on social media and this makes him feel like he’s not good enough. All of these thoughts leave Liam unable to make a decision. Liam is paralyzed.
There’s good news for Liam! Because anxiety is so prominent, there are many treatment approaches for overcoming it. For now, we’ll look at a simple approach for Liam.
First, let’s help Liam recognize his responsibility for himself. The decision before him is his to make. Sitting idly by will not produce an outcome Liam wants. In fact, doing nothing will likely have the opposite effect and result in an outcome Liam does not want.
Let’s also help Liam understand that in life there are many right decisions. Many young people become obsessed thinking there is only one right answer and one right path for them and they had better find the right one or else they will be miserable.
This is simply not true. The right path is the one you take. And you can choose at any time to take a different one. The path of life is more like a tree with a myriad of branches rather than a road from point A to B. Learn to enjoy the journey.
Often times the key for young adults to overcoming anxiety is simply action. In my home we use the phrase “pray and row.”
You see, there were two people fishing on a lake when a storm came up. The one said to the other, “We need to pray that God will get us off this lake to safety.” The other said, “I agree. You pray and I’ll row.” They made it to safety, and so will Liam.
So Liam begins to take action by praying for counsel. He rows by setting up a meeting with the advisor of the master’s degree program he is considering. He also rows by sending out some resumes and having a few interviews.
As Liam moves from paralysis to action, he feels less overwhelmed and he begins to see options he hadn’t thought of previously. The action that Liam takes provides him information and experience, which are vital to Liam maturing and developing into his future self.
Ultimately, Liam finds an employer with tuition assistance benefits and he is able to enter the workforce and begin his master’s degree simultaneously.
As a young adult, you’ll be faced with decisions, challenges, and questions you will not have answers for. And it’s okay. Your parents overcame challenges for which they did not have answers, and so did their parents, and so did their parents. Somehow as humans, we find answers where there weren’t any before, which is part of the beautiful process of adulting.
Be patient with yourself as you adult, and be ever curious about what discoveries await your future.
Above all, if your anxiety seems more than you can handle, seek help. Any of our counselors would be honored to help you and become victorious over anxiety.
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-  Bandelow, B., and Michaelis, S. 2015.Epidemiology of anxiety disorders in the 21st century. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610617/
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