Anxiety in our young adults - The Pandemic Strikes Again...
We are all going through the pandemic, but it is important to acknowledge to each age group what has been lost, and to give them permission to be angry or sad about it.
There are two groups of people who have come to the attention of many therapists, including myself, recently due to significant levels of sadness and anxiety; the high school senior and the recent or soon to be college graduate. In discussions with patients and colleagues, it seems that the root of this anxiety is uncertainty of/in the immediate future. Many seniors are experiencing a loss of the excitement that goes along with walking the halls as a senior; that strut of confidence gained from navigating a place for 3 years, and now feeling confident and ready for the next adventure. High school seniors who are going off to college, have had to make a decision on their school without the benefit of the in-person college tours, except for maybe their top one or two choices. From spring or fall 2020, for recent college graduates, there has been the disappointment of a disruption of their last year in college as well as a huge change in life circumstances. Many soon to be grads had jobs waiting for them, only to have that all taken away by the results of the pandemic.
The late teens and early 20's have become a “normal” time for a significant number of people to begin therapy. High school seniors often deal with separation issues while the twenty-somethings are faced with underlying doubts and fears of entering the “real” world. Typical questions we address as therapists are: “Can I make it out there?”, “Will I have a career that allows me the life I am used to?”, “Will I meet a partner?”, etc.
So while these years bring up some normal, time tested struggles, 2020-2021 presents a whole other level of stress. It‘s important for parents to talk with their kids about perseverance while also acknowledging the unique aspects of what has been lost in their experiences over the last year. Yes, we have all had to deal with setbacks and potentially suffered as a result of COVID-19, but let them have their time to discuss how they feel. It is important to help young adults put their feelings into words and resist relating their struggles with your own.
Patience will be a prerequisite for life
The last 10 years were of a prosperous economy and relatively peaceful world. High school and college seniors were told “work hard and good things will happen.” While that is still a good message, one thing they will have to also be told is “be patient.” The world they grew up in was also one of immediate gratification and unprecedented access to information. Add to this the social media platforms where people constantly post their successes, (and it must be said an unrealistic depiction of their lives), it can create a very frustrating environment for those whose plans have not been realized as quickly or as easily as they have been accustomed to. When a senior hears from an adult that we are aware how cheated they feel by all these losses, it is very helpful as it normalizes things for them, helps them feel understood. And don’t be afraid to remind them, things WILL most likely get better. They always do.