Advice to Twenty-Somethings from a Fifty-Something on How to Address the Stress in Your Twenty-Something Life

My husband and I have four children together, all in their twenties. They are knee-deep in new jobs, school, kids, in-laws, and money worries. All of them handle stress in different fashions, but they are finding their ways in the world. Some listen to our sage advice; others nod, ignore, and move in completely different directions. 

What I would say to my twenty-something self about how to successfully maneuver through those difficult and stressful years?

  1. Pay attention to your money! Yes, you have bills and you don’t get paid very much, but know how much you have. Pay bills first, then yourself, and then budget the rest for fun, food, and travel. Try to save a little every paycheck. Don’t get into debt. Pay all of your bills on time. Set aside money for emergencies, because there will always be emergencies.
  2. Take care of yourself! Don’t eat a bag of chips and dip and call it dinner. Don’t drink to excess. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. I ran at least four to five times a week back in my twenties, and I think it saved my sanity. 
  3. Have a circle of good friends! Even if you have a significant other, don’t lose track of your friends. Surround yourself with strong people who love you, and cut loose the ones who don’t. Your friends will keep you grounded, even in turbulent circumstances. And be a friend. Help people move, take food over when they are sick, and listen when they need to talk. A good friend is precious.
  4. Get a hobby! Learn to cook, train for a marathon, take up photography. Do anything that you have yearned to do. Your hobby may even lead to new relationships, whether it is a friendship or love.
  5. Don’t be a complainer! Yes, life is hard, but you don’t need to bitch about it to everyone. Get a journal and write it all down, but don’t be that person that everyone avoids. You’ll be amazed on how far a sunny disposition (or at least not a Debbie Downer) gets you in life.
  6. Acknowledge your own mistakes! Don’t blame others for every bad thing that has happened in your life. Sometimes things ARE your fault. Admit it and then move on. 
  7. Seek out help! It’s okay to admit you need assistance. See a therapist. Talk to your minister. Get advice from a financial planner. Learn how to meditate. Call your mom or dad.

And most importantly:

Be happy! I know these years are hard, but don’t forget to smile. Play music. Dance around the house. Take a weekend trip with friends. Embrace each moment. You may be surprised later how much you will miss these years. Life happens. Mistakes are made. Change occurs. Try to greet every day with joy and surprise.

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“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”

-Gilda Radner