Mental Health in your Twenties.

I remember sitting in my bed at the age of four telling my Mum that I didn’t want to grow up. At sixteen I remember starting a new school with a knot in my stomach that said, ‘I don’t feel ready to be here’. Finally, I remember my parents leaving at university for the first time thinking ‘bloody hell, now I have to be a grown-up on my own?’

As I fast approach the end of my twenties, I can say with all honesty that it’s been an eye-opening ride. Some memories are joyful but for the most part, it’s been shallow and terrifying.

When I first read Yaya’s post I couldn’t help but loudly agree with each point. “Oh my God, yes.” I could be heard saying from the office, “That is one hundred percent relatable.” Maybe we’re the only ones? Or maybe you’ve felt it too?

About the author.

Yaya (aka Lauren) writes both fiction and non-fiction stories about our wondrous and chaotic minds. She blogs about self-help books, mental health tips, and self-care tools.


Mental Health in your Twenties: Why it’s hard and five ways to improve it!

By Yaya (Yaya Tales).

I remember sitting in my bed at the age of four telling my Mum that I didn’t want to grow up. At sixteen I remember starting a new school with a knot in my stomach that said, ‘I don’t feel ready to be here’. Finally, I remember my parents leaving at university for the first time thinking ‘bloody hell, now I have to be a grown-up on my own?’

“I was born with an existential dread of adulthood.”

Why? Perhaps because somehow, deep in my unconscious, I knew that at no other time does the wonder and the uncertainty of life hit you more like than in your twenties. It’s a time when self-doubt, anxiety and a lot of questions appear out of nowhere. But it turns out that what I needed was to draw a map through this weird and uncharted territory.

That’s why I’m writing this post: to give you a few pointers to plot your own voyage. Whether you’re right at the start or well on your way; if you can work out some important things about yourself, and what you want, then managing your mental health in your twenties gets significantly easier.

Why might we be struggling right now?

It’s been a while since neuroscientists and psychologists discovered that your brain isn’t quite ‘done’ until later in life. Yet we still put this huge pressure on ourselves to be instant, perfect adults when we turn eighteen. The fact is, all the until the middle of our mid to late twenties, our prefrontal cortex (an area at the front of your brain that helps you make rational decisions) and our hormones are still in flux. In fact, if you’re under twenty-five years old, you’re actually still in ‘late adolescence’.

We all have a vague awareness as we grow up that there are certain milestones that ‘should’ occur at certain times. The age of consent influences when we decide to start having sex and the same goes for your first drunken night out, your first drive, your first night living out of your parents’ home, your first job, etc. All of these huge changes happen in a relatively short time. And all while our brains are still developing?

No wonder we can feel so stressed!

Then there’s the general day-to-day rush of adult life. You begin to feel it as you move through your twenties: time goes quickly when you’re an adult. The increased responsibility you have and the endless jobs to do, mean that your perception of time is literally different from when you were a teenager. We need to get a whole lot more done than we were kids. There’s the need to organise our time and resources in a way we simply aren’t taught in school. Most of what we know comes from learned experience – for better or for worse!

Finally, we come to the biggest and probably scariest aspect of our twenties: CHOICE.

Oh. My. Goodness. It feels like you have to choose everything in your twenties! From your career, to where you live, to what sort of person you want to be in a relationship with (or not). And these choices can both reflect and build on your overall outlook and values.

When you were in school or at home, there were clear goals to achieve. There were grades and systems to measure how you did. Now, you arrive in adult life and you need to set the standards for yourself. I can tell you right now that this was a recipe for disaster in my experience. It resulted in me feeling lost in who I was, and was a huge part of what led to the development of anorexia and OCD. Even if you don’t have any tendencies towards mental illness, even if you’re super resilient and accepting, this is still a very uncertain time. Endless possibilities and seemingly endless angst.


Yikes. So, how do we cope with all this?

I hope that doesn’t all too much like doom-and-gloom. All those tricky situations? They’re the first step in your journey of life and they can be as exciting as they are nerve-wracking. The best thing we can do to ready ourselves for our twenties is to be prepared. And when I say prepared, I mean for both success and failure.

>> Align with your values.

That means grabbing a notebook or journal and doing some soul-searching. I kept a diary through my early twenties that really helped. We might associate diaries with teens because of Hollywood stereotypes, but the popularity of bullet journaling and art journals on Instagram and Pinterest tell a different story.

Try to figure out what your core values are (for example, honesty, self-improvement, health, world peace – anything you want). You can do this through mood boarding, and letting yourself swim in plenty of inspiring series and books! Once you know which six or so things are really important to you, use them. Align the decisions you make as you grow with these ideals, and you will feel calmer and more in control. A sense of direction when everything seems up in the air will also help you feel less burn out and overwhelm – because you know you’re working towards something.

>> Play to your strengths.

You probably have an idea from school or work of what you’re good at. Really listen to the feedback you’ve received, but also listen to your heart. Which tasks and projects throughout your life have really lit you up? These may well be your major strengths – both in your ‘hard skills’ and in your personality. Once you have some idea of what they are (and keep in mind they may alter slightly with time), you’ll have a framework to work with. When you attend job interviews, for example, really look at where you’re going to be: does this seem like an atmosphere where your particular strengths can shine?

>> Coping strategies: get them before they get you!

In my diaries, I didn’t plan to develop OCD. And I definitely didn’t plan for my coping strategies to be excessive hand sanitizing, starving myself or skin-picking. The problem was, I hadn’t been equipped with better strategies before these ones came along! Of course, I had plenty of other factors going on that led to my particular mental illness, but I do believe that having better strategies would have helped me to deal with it a lot better.

To find out which coping strategies work for you, you need to test them, and likely practice them a few times. Next time you feel frustrated or overwhelmed, try any of the following and see what sticks.

  1. Counting to ten with slow, deep breaths.
  2. Have a self-care box or notebook where you can ‘retreat’ to
  3. Meditation: learning how to clear your mind and allow new thoughts to pass by
  4. A creative hobby, like cooking, playing a musical instrument, or doodling
  5. Long walks or an enjoyable exercise – move for joy!

>> Find your boundaries.

Contrary to what a lot of motivational videos and self-help gurus may say, we all have different tolerance of stress and change. While we can practice to become more flexible over time, there are some personality differences that affect how much stimulation we need to thrive. An introvert needs less social contact than an extrovert, for example.

Your twenties is a great time to test out how much work you are comfortable doing, how much sleep you need to live well, and how much social interaction gets you buzzing! Find your own unique boundaries, and then respect them. You are allowed to be honest and say no – because always bowing will lead to resentment, stress and exhaustion. I once did a two and a half hour commute each way for an ‘opportunity’ in my career: it was a great opportunity but it completely overstepped my boundaries and I had to quit after just a few months! As you can probably imagine, this didn’t do my confidence or self-worth much good. 

Don’t overstretch so you are giving too much of your wonderful self.

>> You know what? LET YOURSELF REST!

It is totally fine to give yourself some space as you get used to adult life. Don’t feel guilty about needing quiet alone time in your room, or needing a day of doing absolutely nothing. Hustle culture tells us to ‘never settle’, but to that, I say: ‘settle sometimes’. You can, amazingly, have both a great time and time to relax.

So, while you learn your boundaries, strengths, and coping methods, don’t forget to also find the self-care routines that benefit you most. A long bath, a good book, TV, a face mask: allow yourself this restful, switch-off time. Life is all about balance, and we can be tempted to tip the scales towards chaos – I certainly did. But it’s a far more stable long-term plan to get used to saying yes and no on your own terms. There is always another house party, another pub night, another gig. If you need a night in bed with a cuppa, honestly, enjoy it free from guilt.

I feel like I could keep dithering on about balance and calm forever, but honestly they are the most important things to keeping my mental health on an even keel at this stage of my life. I am still career-hopping every few years, always chasing something new and exciting – and I know now is a good time to do that. But I am also finally insisting on my boundaries and letting myself feel comfortable sometimes too. It is perfectly okay to be comfortable, in fact I think it’s a great goal. Let’s all work towards lovely comfy twenties, aye?


How have you coped with your mental health in your twenties? What lessons have you learned?

84 comments

  1. Not many people are aware of that which is why I think it’s unhelpful to make people younger than 25 make big life decisions like picking a career etc.
    I hope your 20’s are a good time and remember you are you’re number 1 priority. x

  2. Impostor Syndrome is the bane of all evil. I still feel it today and in every job I go to.
    Sending lots of love and thank you for reading. x

  3. I personally felt anxiety and stress throughout my early 20’s but did all I could to ignore it.
    Bad move on my part!
    Thank you for reading and commenting. x

  4. I’m right there with you girl. I went into a career that, yes I liked, but also wasn’t what I wanted from day one. I wanted to help people and instead I was there to scold people and reprimand them for not following procedure. I was keeping them safe by giving them warnings which were not me at all. If I could go back to my early 20’s I’d tell her to high-tail it out of that course and get into a counselling course where I’m better suited.
    Thank you so much for reading as always pet. xx

  5. I’m definitely making sure to take the time and effort in my twenties to make sure my mental health is as strong as possible. Understanding what works for me, where my priorities are and letting myself rest when I need to. Thank you for sharing!

  6. These are some really great tips for dealing with continued development. I’m only 19, so I found this very interesting. Especially the part about the pre-frontal cortex not being fully developed until 25.

  7. I agree so much with that first paragraph! My childhood was so full of imposter syndrome and not feeling like I should be where I am! I found this to be so insightful and helpful! Thanks for sharing

  8. This is such a timely post because a lot of people in their 20s are experiencing stress and anxiety

  9. I am 23. i totally understand the messy and challenging encounters. this is an important message and i totally agree !!!

  10. Omg yes. Such an important message and couldn’t agree more about finding what coping strategies stick for you.

  11. I love that you have a number of coping strategies always at hand to choose from! Good point about self-care, too. It’s easy to talk about, but often we take care of others before really taking care of ourselves. Having a few favorite self-care activities makes it a little easier to do.

  12. This is so insightful. Honestly I can say i had a lot of the same fears. But I’m glad I pushed through them.

  13. This was a great read. Honestly, looking back at my 20s, the biggest thing that I wish that I had done differently was to focus on what I needed instead of what I thought society said I should need. I chose a career because I thought it was ‘acceptable’ and started working a 9 to 5 job because that’s what I was told I should do. Unfortunately, it was a job that I really didn’t enjoy and it made me miserable. I wound up going back to school at 30 and changing careers, and I’ve never been happier in the professional side of my life!

  14. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment pet. Yaya did an excellent job on this! I couldn’t agree more. x

  15. I think most of this is true. But I have a feeling that now Immore stressed maybe because I’m a Mom and thinking too much about my son’s future

  16. Such a great post! I am also in my 20s and can relate so much to this weird feeling where you’re in the transition of not wanting to be an “adult” but wanting autonomy and independence.

  17. I absolutely loved this post – it’s so relatable! I really wished I’d focused on my mental health and took the offer of medication when it was first put on the table as I feel my OCD wouldn’t have gotten to the point it did especially. I’ve also learned that I shouldn’t been so stubborn either when it came to my career choices – just because I had a degree in something I kept trying and failing to get a job in that field and it was only around the age of 26 or so it wasn’t actually what I wanted anymore even though I’d known it deep down for years, It’s taught me to focus on the goals that I actually do what to achieve and to cut myself some slack if something doesn’t quite work out how I wanted. Thank you for sharing 🙂 xxx

  18. Such an important post, I’m in my early 20’s now and I’ve found since leaving uni I’ve not had as much to work towards so these tips are really helpful!

  19. This is such an important post! I find that long walks help me so much, I come back with a much clearer head than when I left.

  20. I really loved how you addressed mental health in the 20’s. I remember going through so much at this time but felt like there was no guidance. Align with you values is key. They will be more comfortable exploring within their path.

  21. Great post. When I was in my twenties I check myself into out patient therapy. I was depressed, angry and down right unhappy. Therapy did help though. Now I am doing better.

  22. I literally have zero knowledge about mental health when I’m in my twenties but gradually started understanding about how important it is for overall happiness!

  23. I think it is an all too underestimated topic, even more in this historical period in which this lockdown has influenced in this sense.

  24. Mental health is always a priority now and always, no matter what age

  25. It feels amazing to share your mental health caring tips to many. Not many of us can handle it and cope up easily.

  26. I wish I would have cared more about my mental health when I was in my 20s. I really didn’t think about it, and treated myself awful lol.

  27. My 20s were the heydays in my life. Though I moved to another country in my mid 20s, it was really a game changer, but it was just ok. Looking back it was a good decision. Whatever the bumps, I survived.

  28. I am trying to remember what life was like in my 20s. I don’t recall ever feeling like I didn’t want to grow up. I was looking forward to adulthood. You are right that there are way too many decisions to be made about life, career and love during your 20s.

  29. The post is brilliant, I found my days in these line. This was the days when many changes were observed in life, faced adopted and rejected many moments are rememberable.

  30. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I can’t say the same. My 20’s have been a mixture of extreme highs and low lows!

  31. I always say I should have as well but in the moment survival was all I had in mind. We can’t blame ourselves for not realising.
    Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. x

  32. My mental health was awful in my early 20’s and ultimately led me to where I am now.
    Thank you for reading and commenting. x

  33. My entire 20’s feel like one disaster after the next. Extreme highs followed by low, lows. It really has been a whirlwind. But as I approach my 30’s I just hope it’ll all fall into place. x

  34. It seems that more younger people are struggling with their mental health. Recognising it in your 20s is so important for coping later in life.

  35. I loved having you on the blog! Your writing is wonderful & throughout this post I was reminded of my own early 20’s!
    I couldn’t thank you more for this one! xx

  36. I’m glad you’re coming out of that. It’s hard to go through a crisis at any age, 20’s, 30’s or beyound.
    Sending much love. x

  37. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. It’s a wonderfully written post and sums up how I feel 100%!

  38. I wish I had been more aware of my mental health and wellness before now. I feel like I’ve wasted so much of my life continually hurting myself over things that weren’t mine to begin with.
    Thank you for popping in and reading. x

  39. I can relate! I never liked the idea of having to figure out so much at a young age. And mental health is so important, especially during these uncertain times.

  40. When I think about my 20’s, I can hardly believe all the change and growth that happened over that decade. Finding ways to cope with all of it is absolutely so important! I had a MA degree in Counseling Psychology by 23 and worked as a therapist for my 20’s, so I spent a lot of time thinking about my mental health on a daily basis which I am sure benefitted me in many ways. Your ideas are so helpful, and taking life as it comes is really all we can do sometimes!

  41. I wish I would have focused more on my mental health in my twenties. I have raised my children to address their mental health issues and hope that they continue through there twenties and beyond. Important at all ages and stages in life! Kelli A

  42. Loved this post. Looking back on my 20s I realise that, through all the uncertainty, trying to figure stuff out, coping with changes, I had a fantastic time. Each decade is unique and should be enjoyed with all the good and bad.

  43. I didn’t focus much on my mental health in my 20s. I was busy being a mom and one of my kids had special needs, so I was focused on that. I should have focused more on my mental health!

  44. I am in my late 30s and I remember when one is at this point things seems to be very intense, then you get to 30 and realize you can actually do this -life!! You have captured this period quite well, great advice too.

  45. I wish this piece was available to read when I was in my twenties, but we practically had no access to such information and words of wisdom to deal with stress. I guess life would have been a little different only if I knew how to deal with my stress in that age.

  46. This post is totally relatable the twenties are an era in which we have to adapt from young to adults.I would like to see ths in the 30s perspective.

  47. I’m no longer in my twenties but I remember it clearly and can totally relate. Great advice for those currently in this stage of life.

  48. Although I’m not in my 20’s it gives me insight into my grandchildren’s thinking.

  49. Great post. My anxiety disorder started when I was 21 (I think), so my entire 20’s until now have been spent with a crippling anxiety disorder. And I can’t even think about that sometimes because it scares me how different my life and my prime would have been without it x

  50. The constant pressure to be so successful so young is draining on mental health. Like you said it’s like people expect us to know exactly what we want to do with or lives the moment we turn eighteen and that’s just crazy! Great read

  51. Also just realised I hadn’t updated my link on wordpress – if you click through on my name to a dead end, apologies! Anyone interested can find my writing at yayatales.com 😉

  52. Haha I can see why, you’re right, this is SO relatable and it’s so great to know we are not alone in this world. Thanks for the great tips and advice, especially love the boundary setting! Something I struggled with fir a long time!

  53. Thanks so much for the opportunity, Nyxie! I loved writing this post. The twenties can be so challenging but I think I’m coming out of them stronger than ever – still a couple of years to go but I’m quite excited for 30, that seems to be a really life-changing milestone too!

  54. My twenties were the best years of my life! I had so much fun! It was during my 30’s that I had a crisis. Still somehow in it, but slowly getting out.

  55. Brilliant guest post Nyxie. I look back now, from my late 30’s and realise that a lot of what is written here is true of my 20’s.

    I have to say though, turning 30 was like a light bulb moment, my whole view on life just changed overnight. I think other than losing Mum and the obvious effect that has had, my mental health is a million times better than my 20’s.

  56. I wish I would have focused more on my mental health when I was in my 20s. I feel like I may be more mentally strong now had I don’t that. I think it’s amazing you’re sharing this and focusing on being more mentally strong.

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