Pandemic Aftershocks: Overcoming the Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19 for Young Adults

Coping with changes and social pressures

You may hear people joking that they "forgot how to socialize" or "how to dress in public". These comments are funny, but also relatable. There is some truth in those statements that we all resonate with.

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Please note, the information in this post is not a replacement for personal medical advice.
By Ali Sheahan, MA, TLMHC

Despite being tech-savvy and willing to jump onto a “Zoom Happy Hour” with friend or colleagues, young adults were still hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CDC, changes in routines, school or work, healthcare, missed life events, loneliness and loss of loved ones were especially challenging for this group. This may have looked like working from home, learning from home, virtual campus tours, canceled graduation ceremonies, rescheduled or canceled weddings, and so on.

With that being said, it’s no surprise that many young adults will be thrilled to transition back to pre-pandemic normalcy. However, transitions are exactly that — transitions. Regardless of how we feel about the change itself, there are still disruptions to what we are used to. So, how can young adults overcome some of the stressors that they may experience as guidelines change and the world opens back up?

Do what feels right for you

First and foremost, move at a pace that feels good to you, while still respecting the preferences of others. If you aren’t quite ready to socialize in the same ways and at the same frequencies as you were before COVID, that’s okay. Likewise, if you are ready and you have loved ones who aren’t, avoid pressuring them. People are different and we all handle change in our own way.

Tips for getting back out there

Some people might be ready for “normal” again, but aren’t sure how to go about it. Maybe there is some hesitancy or uncertainty. You may hear people joking that they “forgot how to socialize” or “how to dress in public”. These comments are funny, but also relatable. There is some truth in those statements that we all resonate with. So, here are some ideas for young adults to try out.

Going for a walk

Invite a friend or colleague to go for a walk. The outdoors can help alleviate some anxiety about confined spaces after COVID-19. This is also a great way to chat, enjoy nature, and get some exercise in, all of which are great for your mental health.

Starting Small

You don’t have to jump right into a busy night out at a crowded venue if you don’t want to. Ease yourself back in with a small game night or dinner party at your home. Work your way up towards larger activities.

Another way to start small is to go out to a public place. Get a coffee in-person instead of in a drive-thru. Go to a sports game or a park. You can always leave if it’s overwhelming, but it is a good way to test the waters of larger events.

Volunteering

This is a great opportunity to seek out something you are passionate about, and give of yourself freely. Volunteering can be a fun way to find purpose and meaning in the midst of everything. This also provides a great opportunity for connection with others in a controlled environment. 

Boundaries

The pandemic created a lot of boundaries for us. As we enter into a more typical lifestyle, we get to choose what we want that to look like. If life before COVID-19 was overwhelming, we can choose to shift what we say yes to and what we say no to. There is no rule that we have to transition back completely. This can be a starting point for better boundaries in your life.

Tips for Coping

Regardless of the level of anxiety a young adult may have about going back to normal, we could all use some coping tools. The last year or so has been difficult. Perhaps you have experienced some grief, whether traditional or disenfranchised.

Exercise

This could look like going for a long run, lifting weights, doing yoga, dancing, stretching, and more. It is important to move your body and release those feel-good hormones. The idea here is to reap those mental health benefits, whether you are partaking solo or with others.

Gratitude

Life hasn’t been the easiest throughout COVID-19. In fact, it is probably easy to dwell on the things that have been difficult. Consider three things you are grateful for each day. Make it part of your routine and eventually you will find yourself noticing the good more often.

Rest

This is always a crucial component in mental health, so it felt appropriate to have on this list as well. Seek to get an adequate amount of sleep each night, take vacation from work/school, and pay attention to what your body needs.

Get Help

If you are struggling with transitioning out of COVID-19 life and into “normal” society, don’t be afraid to speak to a professional. Therapists can give you tools, resources, and insight to overcome fear, manage anxiety, and be the best version of yourself. Reach out to Covenant Family Solutions if you think you could benefit from therapy or medication management services.

Additional resources include:

Ali Sheahan, MA, TLMHC
Ali Sheahan, MA, TLMHC
Ali Sheahan is passionate about working with children, adolescents and adults. She has experience walking alongside individuals working through anxiety, depression, relational struggles, self-esteem, loneliness and stress management.
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Ali Sheahan, MA, TLMHC
Ali Sheahan, MA, TLMHC
Ali Sheahan is passionate about working with children, adolescents and adults. She has experience walking alongside individuals working through anxiety, depression, relational struggles, self-esteem, loneliness and stress management.
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