Last week I spoke with a student who was finishing up their third year at Embry-Riddle. The student didn’t start counseling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; they were already an established client. However, the focus of our work quickly shifted direction as they began to talk about the future and fears around their health, safety, feelings of isolation and their career. These fears of what the job market will look like for them when they graduate are real and valid.
This past semester, the oldest members of Gen Z, graduated from college, my daughter being one of them. These students, some 3,898,000 of them, may either move on to graduate programs or will attempt to enter the workforce during one of the most perilous economic environments since the Great Recession. As people are trying to adjust to the “new norm” in a post-pandemic world, it is more important than ever to learn ways to help cope with fears and anxieties. Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming, so learning to cope with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. It will also help prepare you for work life.
According to the CDC (2020), stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:
- Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
It’s also import to note that how you respond to the pandemic can depend on your background, culture, and the community you live in. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, so it’s important to understand that your reactions and feelings, can be completely different from your friend’s; there is no right or wrong way to react.
Looking for a job is stressful, but if you can learn in incorporate wellness and self-care, you can cultivate a regular practice that will renew and restore your energy. When you engage in self-care, you can place yourself in a position of greater well-being and vitality, which will help you reach your true potential.
The four areas of self-care are emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental.
- Take time to talk with a close friend
- Be kind to yourself
- Seek out support from a professional – coach, counselor or therapist
- Write your feelings and thoughts in a daily journal
- Go have fun with a loved one or friend – laughing is healthy
- Eat healthy and drinking plenty of water
- Get plenty of sleep
- Exercise to keep your energy up and stress down
- Take time with yourself to think and write
- Get outside and enjoy nature
- Pray, meditate, or be grateful for all the wonderful things in your life
- Be creative: paint, photograph, dance, sing
- Volunteer for a worthy cause
- Read a great book or see a great movie
- Develop a skill or hobby
- Take a class or join a group about a topic that interests you
- Challenge yourself to learn something new – get out of your comfort zone
Taking the time to take care of yourself can seem impossible at times, but it is such a positive thing to do, especially during a job search. It takes commitment and discipline, so take small, doable steps. The benefits you will reap are so worth it and may even land you a job!
Dr. Teresa Michaelson is the Director of the ERAU Counseling Center in Daytona Beach, FL. She is a graduate of Barry University and holds a Doctorate degree in Counselor Education. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and has been practicing psychotherapy for over 24 years in the Central Florida area.