If you spend much time with adolescents or young adults, you may be pondering the phenomenon of anxiety, as I am. It is epidemic, and it is real. There is more to this than the healthy lessening of stigma around these issues. Use of mental health services and medications are increasingly common — which, you might say, is a good thing. But even as therapy and medical treatment increase, rates of depression and suicide are also increasing steeply.
The causes are being debated and are certainly complex. A leading culprit, however, is social media and its handmaiden, the smartphone. The remarkable rise in anxiety began as the children who have grown up with iPhones reached adolescence. Psychologist Jean Twenge has named the generation of students now entering college “iGen” because they have never known life without ever-handy mobile technology.
We at Goshen College are responding to this reality in new ways, making therapy mainstream, facilitating faculty readings and discussions of how to be responsive in our classrooms, and nurturing a strong network of relationships and referrals amongst staff, faculty, therapists and clinical services. We are listening to our students, adapting and responding.
I was encouraged to read a book that speaks to these issues across the lifespan and the globe: The Age of Overwhelm: Strategies for the Long Haul by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky. Lipsky provides deep insight, professional expertise, humor and great stories. One chapter entitled “Less Depletion, More Stamina” inspired my own stamina checklist:
- Simplify, simplify, simplify.
- Connect mind and body, for example, through yoga, Tai Chi or other exercise.
- Enjoy nature. John Muir said: “Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.” Walk through it!
- Draw deeply on spirituality and religion. Prayer and worship matter.
- Spend time drinking in art and live music.
- Engage with your community. No one needs to do this alone.
I hope that Goshen College is a place where we learn and affirm and model practices like these for ourselves and for one another.
What’s on your stamina checklist this week?