21 February 2017


How do the different generations compare when it comes to coping with stress?

Are modern technologies making life easier or tougher?

This week we examine why it is that Gen Y, or as they are also known, the Millenials, are suffering from more stress than any other generation; and we hear from a Gen Y friend and 4 things that have turned her life for the better, but first

   Thought for the day

     When the character of a man 
     Is not clear to you, 
     Look at his friends. 

            Japanese Proverb

Sadly, it does seem to be that of all the generations, it is the young who report experiencing the most stress the least relief and the least capacity to manage it well.

The Department of Health claims the prevalence of mental-health issues such as depression and anxiety may be up to three times higher among young Australians than across the community as a whole.

According to the American Psychological Association, it is the Millennials, or Gen Y (ages 18 to 33) and Gen X (ages 34 to 47) who report the highest average stress levels. However, Boomers (48 to 66) and Matures (67 years and older) join them in reporting levels that are higher than they consider healthy.

Both Millennials and Gen X report an average stress level of 5.4 on a 10-point scale where 1 is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress,” far higher than Boomers’ average stress level of 4.7 and Matures’ average stress level of 3.7.

Of course, people recognize some stress is healthy, or at least OK. However, the gap between what feels OK and what is being experienced is again higher in younger generations; lowest in the oldies. The difference between Matures’ stress levels and their perception of healthy stress is 0.7 points, compared with 1.3 for Boomers, 1.4 for Millennials, 1.6 for Gen X.

Also, 39% of Millennials say their stress has increased in the last year, compared to 36% of Gen X, 33% of Boomers and 29% of Matures.

What is happening for Gen Y?
On the one hand there are so many opportunities for younger people, yet according to recent Australian surveys, they are feeling higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

They identify with pressures not of their making and "largely beyond their control".

Financially they feel they are going backwards; owning a home seems a more and more remote possibility.

Home ownership in this age group has fallen 25% since the early 1980s, more than half are renting and many stay in their parent’s homes.

Security at work feels more tenuous for Gen Y, and while 50% are in the casual workforce, 20% are unemployed.

Now, Gen Y is known for its increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies. Is this usage linked to heightened levels of busyness, stimulation, distraction, loss of concentration? And what can be done about it?

Four practical solutions
“This is amazing! This stuff really works”

I was talking with a Gen Y friend just recently who has known me and my work for many years. Early 30s, difficult time getting a job, well established now, recently promoted, stressed out. Finally, out of desperation and after ignoring such things assiduously to date, she joined in a mindfulness program offered within her workplace.

“Life suddenly seems clearer and easier”.

So what makes the difference? Here are 4 things my friend tells me she has noticed; 4 things that have flowed on from just a few months of her new mindfulness and meditation practice.

1. Attention
“ My ability to focus and pay attention to a given task has skyrocketed. I used to be easily distracted with what was going on in the office, with checking my phone and social media, and with the thoughts and feelings in my head. Now I can keep my mind on the job much better.

Science backs this. Research from Harvard has shown that meditation leads to changes in brain regions involving learning and memory and improves our ability to sustain attention.

2. Discipline
“I used to have good intentions at work and then be easily distracted. Now I find I can put my mind to something and stick with it. It actually makes the day easier”.

A daily meditation practice can increase self-discipline and sharpen focus at work. More research, this time from the University of Sheffield, shows that mindfulness does in fact encourage persistence at given tasks

3. Productivity
“I am naturally a bit shy and used to prefer working in isolation. This was not always ideal. What I have noticed recently is that I am more open, actually more interested in collaboration. My feeling is that this is more productive – and I am coming to enjoy it”.

Mindfulness meditation practice has been shown to lead to a state of “effortless action”.

This is associated with higher levels of concentrated productivity that are related to understanding and establishing goals, prioritizing tasks, overcoming challenges and more effective time management.

4. Self Esteem
“I used to be racked with doubt. This is weird. Now I just seem more accepting of myself and others. There has been no conscious effort in this. Really it is a bit strange. I used to analyse everything, but now, it seems that just through sitting quietly most days, things have become better. People seem nicer to be with somehow”.

Research has shown that meditation promotes acceptance and helps us let go of negative self-talk and reduce procrastination. Meditation leads naturally to being more actively engaged in present feelings, thoughts and behavior in a nonjudgmental but focused way.

It is remarkable. Making time each day for a few minutes of quiet, of stillness, of no stimulation; this may well be the most productive thing a busy person can do.

COMING PROGRAMS - Retreats and Trainings

Both the meditation teacher training, and our next meditation retreat feature contemplation

March 27th -31st     Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2
Ruth and I train people aspiring to be meditation teachers, or who already are and are seeking to extend their skills. This program is allied to Module 1, presented by Paul and Maia Bedson who teach on Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation. We teach Contemplation and Guided Imagery.

April 7 – 13th     Meditation in the Forest

This is our annual Pre-Easter 7 day retreat at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. Each year we learn a little more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and we practice together. Then each year there is a specific theme; this year it is contemplation. There is not so much written on contemplation, and very few retreats on this specific topic, yet in my experience it is one of the most useful and profound elements to add to our practice. Ruth and I love presenting this retreat, and we love observing the benefits it brings to those who attend.

April 24 – 28th Cancer and Beyond
For many people these days, living with cancer is an ongoing reality. So how to do that? How to live fully and well in the potential shadow of a major illness? It seems to me to be virtually essential to regularly take time out, to stand back, to re-assess, to keep on track, to get back on track when necessary, to clarify the confusion that is so easy to get into with all that is in the Press and on the net, and to perhaps most importantly, to be re-inspired and re- enthused for the journey ahead.

1 comment:

  1. For this generation meditation is particularly important if for no other reason than it addresses the malaise that follows from "being distracted, from distraction by distraction." Growing up in a time where the phone in your pocket is a greater driver of your behaviour than the world around you has created a lot of the deep anxiety we see. Meditation is a powerful antidote.