Navigating your 20’s with anxiety

By Zoe Dartley

You’re headed to work on a Wednesday, an iced latte from your favorite coffee shop in hand, and about to step on the subway. All of the sudden, your palms start to sweat. Your heart is racing, and you can’t catch your breath. 

Anxiety takes all shapes and forms. Some of us have anxiety daily, while for others certain situations and life events can spur an anxious episode. Common symptoms of anxiety include feeling jittery, lightheaded, a sensation of butterflies in your stomach, restless, or maybe an overall feeling that something is just wrong. Many of us also with anxiety tend to experience heightened feelings regarding situations that are already difficult. Breakups, job stress, friend turmoil, are all common triggers for anxiety. 

So…what happens next? 

Many people with anxiety thrive on routine – when you can control your physical routine, it is much easier to manage your mental health. When you’re in school, it’s fairly easy to build a routine and community. College naturally creates an environment where meeting friends, maintaining a social life, and pursuing activities and passions is fairly accessible due to the insular nature of campus environments. Graduating and entering the adulthood phase of life can be a major trigger for young adults, whether they have experienced anxiety or panic attacks in the past or not. Your twenties are filled with uncertainty, especially if you have previously thrived off of the structure that high school and college offer. 

One Step at a Time 

This uncertainty can be difficult to cope with, and it can be easy to compare yourself to your friends. Social media may lead you to believe that others are thriving in this next step of life, while you are feeling anxious and unsure. Logically, we know that Instagram and TikTok are a highlight reel, but it can be hard to reconcile this when you’re already feeling anxious. Maybe you open up your phone and see your college friends on trips, or with their new work friends, which can lead to ruminating, another common symptom of anxiety. Is everyone else doing better than me? Did I choose the right job? The best city to live in? These thoughts can build upon one another and trigger symptoms of anxiety as well. The good thing is that a routine and lifestyle that feels comfortable will come, but it sometimes takes time, patience, and work. 

Building New Habits to Manage Anxiety 

Infusing your week with one or two things to look forward to can help create structure and also manage anxiety. Exercise is a great tool to lower symptoms of anxiety, as it releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that contributes to pleasure, satisfaction and motivation. Scheduling one or two workout classes a week can not only help with decreasing symptoms of anxiety, but also contributes to building a routine. Who knows, you might also meet a new friend. 

Mindfulness activities are also proven to decrease symptoms of anxiety. Mindfulness is not just meditating, although downloading the Headspace app and trying one of their quick meditations is another great way to practice decreasing stress. Mindfulness can be anything that helps you focus on the present moment, such as coloring, taking a walk, knitting, or crocheting. 

Reducing Anxiety is Possible 

Those of us with anxiety know that there’s no “cure,” but there are plenty of ways to manage it. Experiencing an increase in anxiety in your twenties, when life is full of changes and uncertainties, is understandable – but there are plenty of ways to manage it. The habits we discussed are great coping strategies and building blocks for a routine, but– of course– therapy is always a great place to talk it out and learn how to manage symptoms. It is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel during turbulent periods and when anxiety is at its peak, but with therapy and coping skills, you can move through adulthood confidently. 

If you need support on navigating anxiety during a life change, or anxiety in general, please reach out to me at