The texting while driving conundrum…or generational differences in coping strategies


I’ll explain the title. I’ve become rather annoyed with the constant bashing of Millennials or the Generation Y cohort. They have their faults, but every aging generation likes to think that the new generation is selfish, reckless, and lacks more profound values. I felt the need to defend the Millennials in a recent post, because I believe this free-thinking and tech-savvy generation has much to offer. I was able to provide hard data to show that Millennial employees are not as lazy and self-entitled as they are made out to be.

There is one thing that Millennials can learn from older generations, however: The ability to cope effectively and productively with stress. Perhaps it’s one of those “par for the course” issues. The older you get, the more you’ve experienced (good and bad), and the better equipped you are at dealing with problems. But when it comes to dealing with stress, I’ll admit it: I find some Millennials oddly contradictory. Take my Generation Y cousin, for example. He’s willing to drive MY car, with ME in it, at ridiculous speeds, while texting, and not even blink an eye, pull a sweat, or hyperventilate (all of which I did). Yet when it comes to taking tests or handling multiple projects at once (something that many jobs require), he wants to curl up in a fetal position.

“You’re willing to put your life and mine on the line, but writing an essay and studying for a test all in one week freaks you out? Am I getting this right?”

“Driving is easy. School is hard. I don’t want to fail.”

So how do younger and older generations differ in their ability to manage stress? According to data I analyzed from our Coping & Stress Management Skills Test, Baby Boomers use healthier coping strategies while Millennials use unhealthy or “empty” coping strategies:

(Note: Scores range from 0 to 100. The higher the score, the more often the coping method is used.).

Healthy coping strategie

1) Problem-Solving: A coping strategy that involves actively looking for solutions and creating a “plan of attack” to deal with a stressful situation.

o   Score for Millennials: 64

o   Score for Generation X: 67

o   Score for Boomers: 71

2) Information-Seeking: A coping strategy that involves conducting research and seeking out information to better understand and deal with a stressor or problem.

o   Score for Millennials: 59

o   Score for Generation X: 65

o   Score for Boomers: 68

3) Negotiation: Consists of compromising or making your goals, mindset, or behavior more flexible in order to better fit within the constraints of a situation.

o   Score for Millennials: 63

o   Score for Generation X: 66

o   Score for Boomers: 69

4) Social Support: Consists of looking for emotional support from loved ones or friends.

o   Score for Millennials: 51

o   Score for Generation X: 53

o   Score for Boomers: 57

5) Positive Cognitive Restructuring: Involves changing our perspective of a problem and viewing it in a more positive or productive light.

o   Score for Millennials: 64

o   Score for Generation X: 67

o   Score for Boomers: 71

6) Emotional Regulation: Using relaxation techniques or finding healthy outlets to channel/release negative emotions.

o   Score for Millennials: 56

o   Score for Generation X: 56

o   Score for Boomers: 63

Unhealthy coping strategies

1) Rumination: Involves thinking obsessively about a source of stress or a problem.

o   Score for Millennials: 54

o   Score for Generation X: 51

o   Score for Boomers: 45

2) Avoidance: Tendency to avoid thinking about a problem and doing what is necessary to resolve it.

o   Score for Millennials: 36

o   Score for Generation X: 30

o   Score for Boomers: 26

3) Helplessness: Conceding defeat and not taking responsibility for a situation.

o   Score for Millennials: 39

o   Score for Generation X: 38

o   Score for Boomers: 34

4) Social Withdrawal: Tendency to avoid all contact with the outside world and to avoid dealing with others – even if they want to help.

o   Score for Millennials: 41

o   Score for Generation X: 39

o   Score for Boomers: 36

5) Opposition: Tendency to lash out at others when under stress, or to blame others for our problems.

o   Score for Millennials: 42

o   Score for Generation X: 39

o   Score for Boomers: 34

My younger sibling and cousins deal with the stress of sleep deprivation and the need to study with energy drinks, comedies, video games, and exercise. That’s sort of a good start. Here are some other tips to help Millennials deal with stress:

  • Stop the rumination trap. Over-thinking problems in your life and allowing them to take over your thoughts can make the problem seem even more overwhelming. If you find yourself obsessing over an issue in your life, make an effort to stop those thoughts in their tracks – pick up an engrossing book, watch a comedy on television, play with your dog, or go to the gym.
  • Meditate. Find a book about meditating and practice daily. This relaxing activity allows you to detach yourself from all the clutter that is filling your mind. It also helps you to gain perspective and accept the present situation. You can add an interesting twist by doing “walking meditation.” It combines the benefits of meditation with a change of scenery, fresh air, and a little bit of exercise. Walk slowly but very deliberately while concentrating on your breathing (breathe from your lower abdomen). Imagine your feet gently pushing against the earth as you take each step. Breathe so that for every breath in, you take 3 or so steps, and for every breath out you take 3 or so steps. Adjust this to your liking, but the slower the better. This exercise forces you to be aware of the present moment (and to not be mentally embroiled in the past or the future), and the deep breathing works to calm anxiety.
  • Join a community. Any activity that will bring you together with like-minded people will help you increase your support base. While it may take time for you to feel comfortable opening up to new people, simply being around others is uplifting on its own.
  • Write. Keep a journal and let everything out in your writing. You can leave your worries on the page (and maybe create something beautiful).
  • Learn to say no. If you are really overloaded with things to do, it would be in everybody’s best interest, as well as your own, to refrain from taking on more. If you don’t have time at work on an assignment, or to meet your friends for dinner, just say so! Taking on too much is bound to make anyone burn out.

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Insightfully yours,

Queen D