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Coping With Coronavirus In Your 20's    

Coping With Coronavirus In Your 20's

BY ELIZABETH SEGRAN

Elizabeth Segran is the author of The Rocket Years: How Your Twenties Launch The Rest of Your Life. She’s a senior staff writer at Fast Company Magazine. You can follow her @LizSegran on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook.

Hey, friend. I just wanted to check in to tell you it’s ok to feel whatever you are feeling right now.

Yes, there’s a pandemic sweeping across our planet, causing tragedy in its wake. The death toll is rising. The country is in a state of National Emergency. These are monumental, unprecedented events. But the coronavirus has also disrupted your life in smaller ways. You’ve been kicked out of your dorm. You will probably not have a graduation ceremony. You’re worried that if a recession hits, entry-level workers like you will be the first to get laid off. Your dream job is beginning to feel out of reach. You’re apart from your significant other. You had to postpone your wedding. 

Let’s start by acknowledging that your personal feelings of loss, anxiety and disappointment matter. If you’re lucky enough to be a young, healthy person, the coronavirus may be less fatal to you. Your role right now is to prevent it from spreading to more vulnerable people, like your grandparents or a relative with underlying health issues or a friend whose immunity has been compromised. If these people catch the illness, their outcomes could be far worse than they would be for you.

Still, as a young person, the chaos caused by the coronavirus is likely to have an impact on your future. As I describe in my new book The Rocket Years: How Your Twenties Launch The Rest of Your Life, the years between our late teens and early thirties are when we lay the foundation of our lives. The weeks of self-isolation and the potential economic impact of the pandemic could change the course of your future.

It makes total sense to be anxious about it. I’m here to tell you: You’re not alone in your worries. You’re part of a community. If this virus has taught us anything, it’s that humans are connected to one another in ways that are profound and beautiful. Let’s be here for one another as we go through this difficult time. 

Harness The Chaos

In my book, I talk about how our twenties tend to be characterized by turbulence. On the one hand, you want to make the right decisions for your future. But on the other, you want to enjoy the freedom to make mistakes and be impulsive before career and family responsibilities kick in. Over the next few months and years, world events are conspiring to introduce even more twists and turns into your life.

While you’re living through it, this chaos feels miserable. But in my book, I try to offer another outlook. You can try to harness the chaos and use it to propel you forward. You can realize that each new experience can teach you something about who you are and what the world is like. You can take stock of how you deal with uncertainty, disruption, solitude, working from home, long distance relationships, and the many other new circumstances the crisis has created. These insights will be valuable when you need to make important life decisions further down the line. 

But perhaps most importantly, you have an opportunity to build resilience. The coronavirus has already forced us to change our immediate plans for the next few weeks and months. You’re learning how to be flexible and to make the best of the situation you’re in. This might mean using the free time we now have on our hands to build new skills at home by taking an online course or doing freelance work. It might mean nurturing a hobby or passion. It might mean deepening relationships in new ways.

Community Is Everything

This brings me to my next point. Remember: We’re in this together. Let’s turn to each other to deal with the stress, depression, and loneliness that social distancing creates. 

Many of us already struggle building relationships. Even though millennials grew up with social media that plugged them into a large network of people, 30% say they feel lonely and 22% say they don’t even have one friend. With the current outbreak, it’s going to be easy for us to spend our days scrolling through Instagram or TikTok out of instinct. Psychologists say these platforms can make us feel connected to the world outside on some level, but if we use it as our primary form of emotional connection, it can be bad for our mental health. 

Let’s use this time to go deeper into our relationships. If you’re home with your parents, use this time to bond with them. While you may occasionally get on each others’ nerves, remember that this may be the last prolonged period you’ll spend with them for years. I spent six months at home in my mid-twenties when I was between jobs and those are some of the sweetest memories I have with my family.

Check in with your friends and significant others through text, calls, and video chats. It may feel awkward at first, especially if this is not the primary way you usually communicate with them, but don’t give up. Over time, it will begin to feel normal. I personally love using Marco Polo, a free app that allows me to send video messages. My friend Tara and I leave each other several messages a week, and I always feel better after telling her what’s on my mind. 

Finally, think about all the people in your community who might need your help. If you’re young and healthy, you could volunteer to go on grocery or pharmacy runs for older neighbors or friends who are terrified of getting sick. Small acts of kindness and friendship go a long way in times of anxiety.

We’re living through a historic time. Experts predict we’re only at the beginning of the crisis. I know you’re worried about what this means for your family and for your future. I’m scared too. The pandemic is driving us apart physically, but we can knit ourselves to one another emotionally. We can strengthen our bonds to one another. And as a community, we’ll continue to support each other long after this period of social distancing is over and the ripple effects of the coronavirus begin to appear.