In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is gradually reopening, and the return to normalcy brings with it a unique set of challenges for young adults. Our clients (whom we refer to as students, even if they are not actively attending school) at Reset Boston usually struggle to adjust to independence, either in returning back to school, reentering the workplace, or finding lasting social connections. At Reset Boston we value our students growth towards living a life that they wish to pursue, our experience in supporting young adults making this transition has offered insight into the unique effects the Covid-19 pandemic has had on young adults and our students in particular. Following is a description of some of the most profound effects the pandemic has had on young adults and some of the ways that we have adapted to serve them in the “post pandemic world.”
Reintegration and anxiety
For many young adults, the prospect of returning to school or work after an extended hiatus can trigger heightened levels of anxiety. During the lockdowns, some young adults even began to feel that engagement with anything out of the house might be dangerous or irresponsible. Once-familiar routines seemed daunting, and the fear of the unknown loomed large. Although it has been sometime since the country has ended the lockdowns and many of us have reentered our “pre-pandemic” routines, many young adults came of age during this time. Professional and personal expectations shifted with the pandemic and rapid disruption to routine and expectation made adaptation back to the normal world particularly difficult for young adults.
Not only has this been difficult logistically, for many it is a great source of anxiety. Many young adults struggle with a sense of precarity and worry about the return of the pandemic, or some other unforeseen event that would disrupt their lives. Our students often struggle to become independent regardless of the pandemic, an increased level of anxiety compiled with rapidly changing personal and professional expectations would be difficult for any person and for those already struggling might feel insurmountable.
Grief and Loss
Many young people are currently navigating the loss they experienced during the pandemic. Many faced significant disruption to important life stages, such as attending high school, school dances, university classes, first jobs, family reunions and social distancing during a time when many of us began maturing and finding robust and groups of friends. Students at Reset often struggle to adapt to an in person world, the online and real world have different sets of social rules and conventions. Many young people are in the process of grieving the loss of formative experiences and grappling with appropriateness of this grief, comparing themselves to others or diminishing their own feelings.
Additionally for many young people the COVID-19 pandemic greatly endangered family members who were older or at significant risk of infection. For some, family members, friends or community members passed away. Many young people struggle to make time for grief after the pandemic and might struggle to relate to their peers or reintegrate based on experiences of loss and or fear of future loss.
Many people, not just young adults, felt that they woke up during the COVID-19 pandemic to a world where they were not allowed to conduct the things that made them happy or healthy. For example, exercise, something that can be difficult to build routine and consistency in, became increasingly difficult during the pandemic. Gyms closed down, exercise groups disbanded and many struggled to maintain their physical health because of these obstacles.
Others found great meaning in their social lives, many found it important to be outside regularly, during the pandemic many began to feel increasingly isolated and rates of mental health diagnosis and crisis increased. For many young adults, the Covid-19 ushered in the significant first mental health crisis of their lives.
Although these social distancing measures were necessary, for many it is difficult to grapple with this nuance and find an appropriate outlet to process or move on.
At Reset Boston we emphasize a life coaching module, in which we work with our students to set goals based on their own life experiences and values. Our hope is that they leave our program with a skillset to be independent and when facing future difficulty they are able to refer to their work during their time at Reset Boston. Upon entering our program we ask our students to identify goals in five distinct categories, analyze what isn't working and what might work to get them closer to their goals and provide support in remaining consistent. These goal areas are as follows.
Often our students work with us to attain holistic growth with the expressed goal of independence. We have found that it is best to support them in finding a therapist in the Boston area, drawing a difference for overtly therapeutic and personal improvement. In drawing this distinction we encourage our students to regard themselves not as patients, but young adults adapting to transition, although seemingly insignificant we hope to encourage balance and remind our clients that they are not different then other young adults.
Many are receiving our coaching support for difficulty related to the pandemic. We have noticed that students are often intelligent, kind and motivated and often a goal of independence requires consistency in our program and their goals. Although it may seem intimidating to receive coaching based on personal goals, they come to appreciate having access to non judgmental support to workshop what's not working and how they might get there.
Additionally, in a post pandemic setting we have found that explicitly communicating professional and personal expectations in a way that doesn't assume that our students immediately understand, allows them to understand that for many the skills leading into independence are not intuitive. Much of our work is out in the community, we take students to local events such as farmer markets, gyms, festivals and museums regularly encouraging reintegration and routine. We are happiest when they tell us they took initiative and attended these events without our support. Many of our students have struggled to maintain a consistent “out of the house: routine since the start of the pandemic and in encouraging this we hope our clients begin slowly reintegrating and moving slowly towards their goals. Any goal seems insurmountable if one focuses on the end and ultimately Reset Boston aids in reminding students that each day they can slowly work towards an independent happy life.