“Millennial Therapist” Shares What She’s Learned After Helping Patients for 5 Years

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No, she’s not a millennial – she treats millennials. So if you’re someone who wonders what, exactly, this mysterious and oft-blamed generation lists as their chief worry about life, read on.

Because she’s willing to share.

Tess Brigham is a member of Generation X who never imagined she’d spend most of her professional life working with millennials. Before she began her practice, she’d heard the same thing about the younger generation as everyone else – they were stereotyped as being lazy, entitled, self-centered, oversensitive, and unprepared for the hazards of adult life.

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But after getting to know a number of them intimately – around 90% of her patients are between the ages of 23 and 38 – she’s found that society is largely wrong about the generation.

“What I found was a rising generation of smart and highly ambitious individuals,” she writes on CNBC. “They’re empathetic, diverse, and eager to make a social impact. But there are also many anxieties that hold them back.”

Of course, patients are all different and they have a multitude of worries and issues they wish to explore through therapy. That said, Tess does hear one concern more than any other:

“I have too many choices and I can’t decide what to do. What if I make the wrong choice?”

According to Brigham, decision fatigue is a real thing, and it’s worsened by a world that provides seemingly endless options and information about those potential choices.

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And we’re not talking about small decisions, either. Millennials are stressing about who to marry, what career path to take, where to live, money management, and other facets of life that can really make or break our long term success and happiness.

While many might be under the impression that more options are good, studies have actually found that too many choices cause us to feel stressed and overwhelmed.

I mean, I know I get stressed when I go out to eat at a restaurant with too big a menu, and that’s just what I’m going to eat for dinner. Bigger outcomes? Forget about it.

Psychology professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett has coined the term “emerging adulthood,” which he defines as “the period between the ages of 18 and 25 when many directions remain possible and very little about the future has been decided,” and believes that delaying big choices can lead to confusion not only about your purpose in life, but your identity as well.

If you’re a millennial and this is ringing true for you, here are 5 pieces of advice that Tess gives her clients struggling to make decisions about their future.

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Address how you really feel.

Self-awareness is key, so if you can look inside to figure out not only what’s really bothering you, but what you really want, you’re on the right path toward making a choice that you’ll feel happy with later.

Lay out all of your options.

Brainstorm, and make sure you don’t leave out any choices you have or what outcomes they could possibly lead to. Then, pick out key factors and how they might affect your life and the things that are most important to you.

Know what you can control – and what you can’t.

Think carefully about what risks you’re willing to take and which ones have the potential to cost more than you’re willing to pay.

Make a decision.

Don’t rush, she says, but don’t spend so much time going over things that you become paralyzed with inaction, either.

Oh, and go ahead and make a plan for what you’re going to do it things don’t turn out the way you expect.

Embrace the uncertainties. 

It’s okay to worry or to feel uncertain, but you can’t allow those things to take over your life.

“The only ‘right’ path is the path that feels right to you. You won’t always get it right the first time, but when you embrace and accept your mistakes, you become a lot smarter, wiser, and more confident about the choices you make in the future.”

Basically, it’s okay to be obsessive while you’re weighing your options, but in the end, you can’t do nothing – do something, and feel confident that you’ve prepared well for all potential outcomes, good or bad.

The best part? If you make a mistake, the most it will cost you is some time and money – not your life, or anything so permanent.

So, get out there and start living, millennials. You’ve got this!