I assume most people have watched The Lion King. Without spoiling anything for those who haven’t (although hopefully that wouldn’t be anyone), there is a common Swahili phrase used throughout the movie (usually in song), hakuna matata, which means “no worries”. Simba and Co. seem to be able to live their lives happily because of this philosophy, and to young children, this appears possible. But what about the youth transitioning into young adults? How do they deal with life stresses? What ARE these stresses?
Allow me to start off with a personal experience. Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with a pretty severe depressive anxiety disorder. I would break into tears at the most random times and sweat about the tiniest things. I lost interest in many things I normally liked doing. I barely walked outside the confines of the dorm. My condition got so bad during the finals period, I contemplated packing my bags up and just leave without finishing my second year of college.
The problem perhaps stemmed from a range of issues including the fact that I was terribly homesick. Yes, homesickness can be underrated sometimes. I’m sure many international students share the same view as me, but at the time, I was so ashamed about not being able to keep myself in check I nearly failed to tell even my closest friends how I had been feeling. Luckily, I did.
In response, a flatmate helped me deal with my loneliness while I was fighting exams by constantly keeping me company, while two others whisked me off on a trip far away from campus as soon as term ended. Peers can be a great buffer for times of trouble, and I will always be grateful for those who lent a hand; had I kept my depression a secret, I doubt I would have survived past it. However, not only friends can work wonders.
A common myth amongst my generation is that it’s best to keep your loved ones in the dark to avoid worrying them. I beg to differ in opinion. I had kept my family well-informed of the situation, and every day my parents would call to see how I was doing (I still feel guilty about the ridiculous overseas phone bills we received in the aftermath). An aunt, who works as a school counselor in Hong Kong, served as my part-time shrink whenever I was unable to see my real one at the university. I had a lot of support from home despite being thousands of miles away from it. It’s hard to imagine how things might have been without familial help—I can only guess that my parents and relatives would have been ten times as worried if they had found out too late.
Every individual has his or her unique way of coping. I take my emotions to blogging (although I’ve come to realize there is an unspoken but expected limit to what you should write online) and writing stories, while others throw themselves into work or constant partying. There are a selected few who might resort to even more concerning means: News headlines declare an unhealthily frequency of teen suicides and accidental deaths from drug overdose. There was even a tragic case reported by Hong Kong media recently about a 15-year-old boy who killed both his mother and young sister in an act of depressive rage. Does this mean today’s youth is less able to deal with stressful situations?
I can’t answer that question. It would simply be unfair and politically incorrect to say yes, given how everyone has different reasons for feeling the way they do. Perhaps one should consider the availability of needs these days compared to that of past years. Maybe dissatisfaction is easier to induce today than before and therefore, causes more anxiety?
Think about it. In the majority of developed countries, university education is now technically a life standard. Young people compete to at least complete that particular stage and most can’t even bear the thought of otherwise. Quick re-wind to their parents’ era of adolescence: Tertiary schooling was considered a luxury and many got by living successfully without a college degree. The weights of importance cannot be compared, which is why I always find it odd whenever someone mentions his or her aspiration to “live up to the folks”.
(Honorable mention: A lot of young people are spoiled and used to getting what they want. Newsflash!)
Simply put, as time passes, the causes of stress evolve. You can never really blame yourself fully for feeling nervous, worried or upset because this negativity is one of the many reflections from your environment. You’re never really alone. You certainly will never solve anything by harming yourself or others. So for all those who are going through some sort of trouble, think about who you can talk to and how you can get through the problem at hand. And don’t just turn your discontent into envy for someone who appears to be better off—the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Take it easy, and hakuna matata.
(Readers: How do you personally deal with stress and anxiety? Got any insightful stories to share about yourself or someone you know?)
Chow, C. (2013). Hakuna Matata?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 25, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/youth/2010/08/hakuna-matata/