How to Navigate the Pandemic – A Guide for Young Adults

Young adulthood can be a very challenging time in life. Especially these days. The decisions, changes, pressures, expectations and hurdles toe the edge of overwhelm. Adding on a world pandemic with shut-downs, social distancing, economic concerns and so much uncertainty makes all of us, and especially those in this stage of their life, feel lost, anxious, depressed or hopeless. If your plans just shifted to a sudden halt and you’re mourning the loss of your social life, your job or your classes, stuck on the cusp of your future while you wait to see what the world will look like on the other side, here are a few ways to navigate this new and difficult time.

Take Some Time to Breathe
Let yourself take advantage of this break. The stress you feel from all directions has lessened, at least in one aspect – be it school or work, and you now have a little room to breathe. Instead of feeling like you need to be moving forward when the whole world is paused, allow yourself to feel relief. Everyone else is struggling, too, and there is a unity in that, as well as an allowance. Let yourself breathe and give yourself this time to heal and recover. There’s nowhere to go right now, so you don’t have to keep pushing.

Stay Connected
So many are struggling with the loss of social connection lately, which may have functioned as an escape from the pressures of school, parents or society as a whole. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating that it’s so important to remain socially connected while social distancing. Continue to have the interactions with the people you were engaging with on a regular basis via Facetime or Zoom so that you’re seeing people face to face and connecting in a more meaningful way. Think quality over quantity. Maybe this is the time to delve deeper; put some more energy into the relationships that are most important to you and bring value to your life. If you’re struggling to find connection and support, consider finding an online support group. Tap here to learn about online support groups offered by The Lovett Center.

Evaluate Online Interactions
Along these same lines, consider the value of how you’re using social media. Is it adding meaning, worth and connection to your life, or is it simply wasting time, maybe even causing distress or making you more worried, more anxious? Reevaluate the ways you’ve used social media in the past, and if you’re not using it to connect with others in a positive, meaningful way, if it’s not adding value, then there’s no reason to be using it at all.

Consider This a Blank Slate
Something else to consider in terms of reevaluating during this transitional period of your life is really taking this time to reexamine the plan you were following, or maybe the one you were in the process of forming. It’s okay to feel as if this has wrecked your plans, but try to see it as a blank slate. What were you doing that wasn’t working, and how can you change that? Who are you really trying to be? Consider your values. Was the direction you were chasing authentically yours, or was it someone else’s?

Honor your Accomplishment
Graduation is an exciting and meaningful milestone; walking the stage, accepting the diploma and having your family and friends honor what you’ve earned and accomplished. If you won’t have this chance, know that it’s okay to grieve for it. Recognize it as a loss, and feel it, but after that, it’s important to still signify and acknowledge your accomplishment. This is a unique opportunity to create your own ritual to honor this important and difficult thing you’ve done. You get to decide what it looks like, whether it’s with your family, your friends or just yourself. It won’t be quite the same, but it’s yours. You’ve earned it, you’ve worked for it, and you deserve to have that moment of honoring it. 

Maintain Structure
So many of us are struggling right now to maintain structure without the daily activities that helped us adhere to a routine. Keeping a calendar can be helpful. Whether it’s written or digital, it can keep you on track and help you stay productive. Keep your day organized into time-blocks like work or school, downtime, meals, rest, etc. You can reevaluate this schedule as well; if something isn’t working, figure out a new routine that works better. In the blocks of time where you had things going on, but now you don’t, pull out that list of things you always wanted to do, or to know, or the people you meant to call back and never did. Make sure your time is still structured and there’s a good balance of routine and relaxing.

Practice Mindfulness
Speaking of relaxing, spend some time just being, breathing and practicing mindfulness.

Allowing yourself to be present and in-the-moment is a lot easier right now, and maybe, if you practice, you can pull that skill back in when things get busy again.

Be Authentic
Finally, here’s a tip that never expires: It’s okay to be who you are. We all spend time struggling to be something or someone we’re not, trying to prove something or live up to something. We’re so afraid people won’t like us or will hurt us, that our parents will be disappointed or we won’t get that job, that we struggle to be authentically us. Try to get to know who that is, and spend some time telling yourself that it’s okay to be, and to love, him or her.

If you or a loved one could use our help or support during this time, please contact us confidentially.About the author:
Kimberly DiBiase is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at The Lovett Center serving individuals, couples, and families. Kimberly’s mission is to create a safe environment in which her clients can experience non-judgment, care, compassion and connection, and it is her greatest hope and privilege to watch her clients embrace their most authentic selves.

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