Generation Z and Pandemic Stress: Life Under COVID-19 & Growing Up in Quarantine
Growing up is tough enough ordinarily. Growing up alongside the coronavirus? That’s another story entirely. Members of Generation Z don’t have to guess what this feels like — they’re currently in the midst of this experience first-hand.
Even without a global pandemic underway, adolescence and young adulthood are both fraught with insecurity, self-doubt, confusion, and every other emotion, all running sky-high. Political unrest and a changing world only heap on the fear and uncertainty.
Pandemic stress is the latest buzzword describing the experience of Gen Z during the pandemic. If you happen to be a part of this age group or if you have a child or a loved one that falls under this category themselves, read on. There’s plenty of advice that we can share when it comes to loosening the vice-grip of pandemic stress when you or somebody you know is struggling.
What Is Pandemic Stress?
We’ve been living with COVID-19 for nearly two years, and young people are being hit the hardest emotionally. According to the experts, cabin fever doesn’t even begin to cover half of it.
MTV, in collaboration with the National Option and Research Center Youth, released one groundbreaking youth culture poll recently based on input gathered from survey participants during September of this year.
It found that over 80% of polled Gen Z-ers feel overtly worried, agitated, or fearful of the pandemic or the possibility of themselves or friends and family contracting the coronavirus. According to the survey, this puts pandemic-related stress on par with financial stress, interpersonal and romantic stress, body image stress, and even stress concerning the safety of the home and the family.
The terrible truth? Young people in Generation Z worry about the coronavirus more than they worry about all of the normal trials and tribulations of adolescence.
These results also show that, as a direct result of the pandemic, many in Generation Z believe that they are much less capable of the following key aspects of maturing into adulthood than they would be under ordinary circumstances:
- Maintaining their own mental health, levels of happiness, and physical well-being
- Meeting their academic and professional goals
- Planning for the future and beyond
- Staying connected with friends, peers, colleagues, and family
- Dating and the pursuit of romantic companionship
- Immersing themselves in hobbies, projects, and entertainment
The fact that pandemic stress exists and persists for many members of Generation Z is enough to have many parents and mental health specialists concerned. How can Gen Z cope when pandemic stress rears its ugly head?
How to Ease Pandemic Stress: Tips and Tricks for Mental and Emotional Well-Being
The plight of Generation Z is unlike any that previous generations have had to contend with — this most certainly includes the millennials that came before them, stepping into their own shoes at the peak of the internet-driven digital singularity.
What are some strategies for relieving pandemic-related stress? Every young person is different, but there are a few general go-to’s that we can recommend for everybody.
Step Away From the News Momentarily
One of the Centers for Disease Control’s top tips for Generation Z: take a break from the news when you feel especially stressed about the pandemic.
While many Gen Z-ers are already adults in the workforce who prefer to stay informed, avoiding COVID coverage temporarily may help you stay focused and engaged for the rest of your life.
Maintain Your Physical Health
During those first uncertain months in quarantine, many definitely found themselves packing on a couple of pounds. We weren’t ready for the change, and when our bodies became an afterthought, they responded with weight gain, sometimes without us even realizing it.
Now, we’re all quite used to living in more confined spaces, so to speak. Even if you’re not stuck at home this holiday travel season, ensure that your activity levels are high enough to keep you happy, healthy, and motivated. Eating well is also one of our top tips for pandemic stress — we’re all more than familiar with the occasional devilish DoorDash, but, when you can, it’s always better to cook your own meals at home.
If you’re of age and love to rage, avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and other illicit substances will only improve your pandemic disposition. And, of course, one of the surest solutions for stress, depression, and anxiety under any circumstances is adequate, restful sleep.
Practice Meditation, Mindfulness, and Gratitude
When feeling low, it’s always helpful to remind ourselves of all of the good that we still have left in our lives to enjoy. Some time to yourself before the day has begun or after the day has concluded is our recommendation; even meditation sessions as short as twenty minutes work well, depending on your schedule.
The daily meditative practice may include yoga, journaling, and guided meditation, anything that you find to be effective. To get the ball rolling, find a quiet, pensive bit of space in your home and make yourself comfortable. You can play soothing music or rain sounds and even incorporate candles or aromatherapy into your meditation routine.
Cultivate a Healthy Sense of “Resilience”
This notion argues that resilience, academic resilience, in particular, is imperative to a young person’s ability to overcome challenges and adversity in life, especially at the undergraduate level.
Experts claim that resilience is one of the best lines of personal defense against extenuating, uncontrollable circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic. Resilience training might be one way to build morale during transitive periods, such as the transition from high school to college, or the threshold between student and professional.
Our ‘New Normal’ and the Young People of Tomorrow
Generation Z has certainly got a lot on its plate. Puberty, adolescence, college, and career development are all enough of a nightmare on their own. When you toss a global pandemic into the mix, things only become more complicated.
If you’re a part of Gen Z yourself, we commend you. With any luck, these tips will all be able to help you stay afloat. For more recommendations on dealing with COVID stress, you can find plenty of info on the CDC’s site.
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- MTV/AP-NORC Youth Culture Poll 2021. (n.d.). [online] Available at: https://apnorc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/MTV_APNORC_Topline_covid.pdf [Accessed 22 Dec. 2021].
- AP-NORC. (2021). Gen Z and the Toll of the Pandemic – AP-NORC. [online] Available at: https://apnorc.org/projects/gen-z-and-the-toll-of-the-pandemic/ [Accessed 22 Dec. 2021].
- Anon, (2021). Coping with Stress. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/stress-coping/cope-with-stress/index.html [Accessed 22 Dec. 2021].
- NCCIH. (2017). Meditation: In Depth. [online] Available at: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth [Accessed 22 Dec. 2021].
- Ang, W.H.D., Shorey, S., Lopez, V., Chew, H.S.J. and Lau, Y. (2021). Generation Z undergraduate students’ resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study. Current Psychology. [online] Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12144-021-01830-4 [Accessed 22 Dec. 2021].
- Van Breda, A. (2018). A CRITICAL REVIEW OF RESILIENCE THEORY AND ITS RELEVANCE FOR SOCIAL WORK. Social Work, [online] 54(1). Available at: https://socialwork.journals.ac.za/pub/article/view/611 [Accessed 22 Dec. 2021].