Jaeybee Martinito, News Reporter

Young adults are sold a dream that they can do or be anything.

But they face potentially crushing student debt, sky-high housing prices and a lacklustre job market.

“We do not have what previous generations had in terms of a very clear scheduled, structured life,” said motivational speaker Katie Zeppieri. She was on campus Thursday to help students at Humber College and the University of Guelph-Humber to face what could be their reality after graduation.

When I say that when you feel keyed up, it’s like… the switch has been turned on and you can’t shut off your brain”

Katie Zeppieri – Author, mental health advocate

The Toronto social entrepreneur shared life experiences and lessons at a workshop about mental health in the digital age.

The room was packed full of students eager to learn how to build structure in what feels like “a chaotic generation.”

Zeppieri said she uses the Google calendar and a variety of apps to help with time management, a key to keep herself on track. She said cell phones and digital devices can be used as tools rather than be distractions.

“When I say that when you feel keyed up, it’s like, you’ve kind of been like, the switch has been turned on and you can’t shut off your brain,” she said.

It’s important to be mindful of “not just being online, but what we’re doing online. I believe that without structure, you lose a sense of purpose,” Zeppieri said.

Anxiety and a lack of purpose are tied to the amount of time people spend scrolling through social media feeds. Zeppieri advised students to put a limit on the time spent comparing their lives with others.

Students related to Zeppieri at a personal level, when she explained she burned out in 2017, telling them they are not machines.

“If you’re going through a difficult time, struggling with repeated thoughts and feeling really, really low, I want you to have the courage to ask for help, and to seek it because there are resources,” she said.

Harmandeep Gudra, a first-year international student in Computer and Network Support, said coming to these events is the first step to balancing mental illness with student life.

“I don’t want anyone to feel what I felt,” he said.

“I just want to uplift humanity with as much experience as I have and promote the services available on campus,” Gudra said.

Megan Roopnarine, the vice president of IGNITE Guelph-Humber, organized the workshop to kick off 2020 on a positive note.

“I think it’s so important to help implement these healthy mindsets so that everyone can just be their best selves,” she said.

Roopnarine felt that IGNITE has the responsibility to care for students by bringing in experts like Zeppieri, to create a conversation on tough topics like mental health.

“Mental illness is sometimes underestimated because of how busy we get in our classes,” she said. “I think it’s just really important that you take a moment and reevaluate and step back and think this is my life. These are the things that are happening.

“These are the things that I can change and these are the things that I can’t, what can I learn from this,” Roopnarine said.

Zeppieri concluded the session by encouraging students to recognize and respect their feelings.