Family Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.
Think back two years ago to the start of the pandemic and you may remember a sentiment that quickly began circulating: We’re all in this together. Although that is indeed true, experience has shown something else: large groups of people are experiencing the event differently. Middle-age professionals telecommuting to work have a far different experience than one of their parents in assisted living. A stay-at-home parent supervising grade-school kids on a computer is dealing with a variety of challenges their high-schooler can hardly relate to — and vice versa.
Research and polling are revealing that one group in particular is having a uniquely rough time — Gen Z. Young people between the ages of 13 and 24 are feeling stress not quite like any other age group. As to the reason Gen Z is feeling such stress, social science researchers point to the simple fact that adolescence is already a stressful time, so piling a pandemic on creates a predictable overload.
Some stress actually helps us learn and grow. The problem arises when a new type of stress is introduced. Writing for Healthline, Nancy Schimelpfening says, “when stress is intense, unpredictable, and prolonged, we can’t prepare for it and we can’t predict when it will end. This can lead to physical and mental health challenges like anxiety, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, fatigue, insomnia, headaches, and other bodily discomforts.” Count that “prolonged” as crucial to today’s situation — the two-year pandemic is a huge percentage of a young person’s life.
A silver lining to the situation — albeit a modest one — is that a young person can grow in positive ways if they react to the stress in healthy ways. That’s a pretty big “if,” though, and it requires work.
According to Schimelpfening, there are several things a young person can do turn the stress they’re feeling into a growing experience.
“Validate your feelings and emotions.” To do so, first focus on your emotion and name it — without judgment. Live with the emotion as long as necessary, then move on. Don’t get stuck in negativity.
“Employ empathy.” Thinking about others is an effective way to take your focus off of your own troubles.
“Stop dwelling on what has been lost.” Acknowledge what you’ve lost — anything from opportunities to experiences — and then focus on the future. You’re young, with your whole life ahead of you.
“Live in the now.” Learn from the pandemic that the future is unpredictable. That’s okay. Today is certain — do your best to enjoy it.
“Practice gratitude.” A wonderful habit is to start your day by simply finding a few things to be grateful for — the list is long.
“Connect with others.” You need your friends and they need you. Keep in touch.
“Communicate what you need.” If you need to talk to someone, let them know. Honest communication helps you connect on a more intimate level.