Becoming an adult, however you define “adult,” doesn’t happen overnight. It’s weird — we age naturally without effort, yet “adulting” is something that certainly doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us. It requires learning, not just learning how to be a “real” adult, but also learning how to cope with these new situations and not let adulthood destroy your mental health.
Here are some of my tried and true tips for some of the most stressful aspects of adulting: bills, health insurance, apartments, and jobs.
Any adult will tell you: bills are basically the worst part of adulting. They can become a major source of stress, and obviously, they’re big money suckers. However, there’s really no avoiding them. Let’s break it down and explore a few ways to manage the stress that comes with paying your bills.
Remember: This isn’t the time for an “ignorance is bliss” mindset
Sure, ignorance is bliss when it comes to things like exes, but we can’t avoid bills the way we avoid exes. Face things head on — you’re an adult now, and a big part of that (unfortunately) is paying bills. Don’t wait until the last minute to open your bills or check your online bank accounts. Actively work to pay bills on time, so you don’t face negative consequences (like late fees, collection agencies, poor credit, and more bills to pay).
Assure that you’ll pay bills on time by staying organized and face your financial situation head on. If you aren’t set up for automatic payments, set reminders or alerts on your phone and computer for all the dates your bills are due. Keep all files (whether physical or electronic) organized so that you can easily reference them and keep track of past spending.
Seek financial assistance
iIf you’re in dire financial circumstances and need help paying bills, you can find different types of financial help through government programs. Additionally, you can see if any of your bills can be broken down into payment plans rather than big lump sums.
Be a responsible spender
When more and more bills start rolling in, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you have no money left for yourself. Use this as an opportunity to become more responsible with your spending. Reevaluate the way you shop and live and see where you can cut costs. Even little things like making coffee at home before work instead of buying a cup at Starbucks will make a difference in the long run.
When we’re adulting, at some point or another, we’ll be kicked off our parent’s health insurance plan. Health insurance in this country is pretty wild, and there’s a lot that we’re left to fend for on our own.
Get help from insurance brokers
Many insurance companies or state government health insurance agencies will have brokers available to talk on the phone or meet with you in person, free of charge, to discuss different insurance options. They can help you choose the plan that’s best for you, help you make sense of benefits, and determine if you qualify for financial assistance.
Figure out what’s most important to you
A lot of plans seem the same on the surface, but when you take a look at all the benefits and coverage, you might notice some big differences. Determine what’s most important for you — is it having a low deductible—the amount you have to pay before your insurance will take over—most important? Is having vision and dental insurance included vital? Low copays for mental health professionals? Knowing what is most important to you can help you narrow down your options to find the plan best for you.
Apply for financial assistance (if applicable)
If you make under a certain level of income, you can apply to receive assistance from the government towards your monthly premiums on the health marketplaces, or possibly qualify for Medicaid. If you don’t qualify for medicaid, you might still be able to qualify for advanced tax credits and assistance with out of pocket costs. You can learn more about this on the government’s healthcare site.
If you’re moving on from your parents’ house or a college dorm and need to find your own housing, there’s a lot to consider. Aside from work, you’re probably going to be spending most of your time in your home, so you want to make sure it’s the right fit for you and your lifestyle.
Go with your gut
Oftentimes, your gut knows best, so listen to it! When you’re looking at apartments or meeting with potential roommates and something just feels off, it probably means this isn’t the right fit for you, and you’re likely dodging a bullet by passing on this housing opportunity.
Do your research
Learn as much as you can about a potential home. Research the neighborhood and the building and the landlord. Here are some things to look for:
- Crime statistics
- Walkability scores
- Public transportation options
- When it was built
- Safety features
- Who else lives there (your new neighbors)Amenities
- Housing department violations
- Typical cost of utilities
- Online reputation, ratings, reviews
- Lawsuits from former tenants
- Bad press for housing issues
Having this information about your potential new home will empower you to decide which place is best for you. As mentioned above: trust your gut.
Determine what’s most important to you
Is it more important for you to have a short commute to work, or to be closer to friends and family? Do you need to live somewhere with great public transportation options or somewhere with easy parking? Do you want to be within walking distance to grocery stores and coffee shops? Make a checklist of the things that are most important to you and reference it often when going about your search.
Consider your mental health
Since you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your home, make sure it’s somewhere that’s going to foster good mental health. For example, if living with five other roommates and sharing one bathroom is going to give you anxiety up the wazoo, consider looking in a slightly cheaper neighborhood where you can live with fewer roommates. Or, if the potential apartment is super dark consider if it will exacerbate your depression. Evaluate what you need — and don’t need — for your unique emotional and mental health needs.
If you work full time, a lot of your waking hours are going to be devoted to work. If it’s not the right fit, you’ll find that it’s easy to get stressed, overwhelmed, and burned out. Luckily, there are steps you can take to make sure your job doesn’t take over your whole life,
Ask for help
You can ask for help in a variety of ways. It can mean asking HR for a few mental health days off if you’re struggling, or asking your boss or team members for additional support if you feel like you’re drowning in work you can’t complete by yourself. It can even mean asking coworkers for emotional support, if you need to vent. Also, if you’re on the job hunt, ask for help with your resume and cover letter. You can pay for a service to help you, or look into services that your local public library might offer for free. LinkedIn is a great resource, too. You can reach out to people who you admire in your field and network.
Keep a work life balance
When first entering the workforce, or getting your first promotion that comes with more responsibility, it can be easy to get swept up in it and let it take over. However, having a good work life balance is really crucial to keeping your sanity. For some people this is easy. Others have a hard time keeping work at work, and end up checking emails in bed late at night, staying too late at the office, you name it. It can take practice to learn how to have a work life balance, but when you figure it out, it’ll be worth it.
Remember, mental health matters
No job is worth destroying your mental health. Ideally, you want to work somewhere that makes you feel good and is understanding of mental health conditions. If your job, boss, or coworkers are toxic, see if there’s anything that can be done to turn things around. If not, and it’s costing you your sanity, it might be time to consider other options — including a new job.
5 Ways to Protect Your Mental Health While “Adulting”
When figuring out this whole “adulting” thing, it’s especially important to take care of yourself. You don’t want to let adulting get the best of you! Unfortunately, adulting isn’t easy (but you probably already know that if you’re reading this!) and it’s going to take time to get the hang of all the not-so-fun aspects of becoming a full blown adult.
Here are five things to keep in mind as you navigate adulting:
1. Have patience
So many of us hope for transitions to be quick and painless, but with adulting, that’s certainly not always the case. “Becoming an adult is a process that takes time,” says Talkspace provider Joanna Filidor, LMFT. “Understanding this and learning to have patience are two important skills that will help as you enter this next phase. Avoid expecting change to happen overnight, as doing so can create feelings of anxiety and can exacerbate stress.”
2. It’s not a race
It’s way too easy these days to get caught up in comparing yourself to others, especially with social media. You can see what peoples’ jobs are, where they live, marital status — you name it. Often, people transitioning into adulthood may feel like they’re “behind” when they compare themselves to others, or even later if they haven’t hit as many traditional milestones like marriage or kids. Maybe you haven’t gotten your first job yet, or found a job you’re passionate about, had a serious relationship, or moved out yet. Who cares — you’re on your own schedule
“Being ‘behind’ in life is completely subjective,” says Filidor. “For some, having a good job is not as important as traveling, or vice versa. For others, being in a relationship is more important than a job, whereas for others prioritizing their career is more important. Because it is subjective, comparison will only paint half of the picture. If you find that you’re constantly comparing yourself, learn to redirect your thoughts to focus on yourself and what matters to you.”
3. Know you’re not alone
Connecting with others who are in the same position as you can be comforting, because it can make you feel less alone. We’re all going through pretty much the same things, and when we talk openly about what we’re dealing with, it can diminish the isolation you might feel during this stressful time. Plus, you can give each other tips and tricks along the way. “Get close to mentors, friends, people that inspire you and learn to ask for help,” Filidor advises.
4. Ask adults you admire for advice
Determine a few people who you view as “real adults” and pick their brains. Ask them for advice, ask them to share their stories of what they went through when they were your age, whatever your heart desires. People who’ve been adulting for a bit longer than you have, like older family members, will likely have plenty of wisdom to share.
5. Know when to ask for professional help
There’s no shame in seeking out a mental health professional if you feel like you’re really having trouble coping with any (or all) aspects of adulthood. You can try in-person therapy or online therapy. Your therapist can give you various tools to keep stress under control and help you cope with this transitional period.
Adulting can be super scary, but with the right tools, it can be a little more manageable. With time, you’ll get the hang of everything, and before you know it, you’ll be passing along these tips to the next set of young “adulters” trying to figure life out.