The other day I was home alone with my three children. All three of them were learning from home, as I was working from home, and I swear to you — it was everything I could do not to run out into the street, abandon my family, and live a Biblical life.
My 13-year-old son was on a break from homework, and watching some YouTuber. I told him that the dude on the video had an irritating voice, and I kid you not, he said “Okay, boomer.” I got pretty offended, but ultimately, it was just an insult to injury, considering how stressed out I was.
Looking back on that moment in comparison to two recent surveys on pandemic mental health, though, being a Boomer right now doesn’t sound too bad. Because according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, younger adults are among those who have “experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation” during the pandemic.
To be real, I feel this statement in my soul. 2020 has been a heck of a year for my depression and anxiety for a number of reasons. I’ve struggled with the fear of losing my job, while not being able to leave my house, or engage in my usual social interactions. I’ve been schooling my kids from home, while working from home, and all of it has been a chaotic soup of family and work that I, for one, could do without swallowing. And I’m confident that if you are an adult with kids right now, you can completely relate.
Another study, this one from the financial services company Edward Jones and think tank AgeWave, surveyed more than 9,000 people across the United States and Canada and found that 39 percent of the “silent generation” — those age 75 or older — and 33 percent of Boomers reported that they were faring “very well,” when asked how they were coping emotionally during the pandemic.
Now I know what you are thinking, aren’t Boomers and retired folks at greater risk of death if they contract COVID? Well… yes, they are. But it sounds like many of them don’t have the secondary stresses that we younger parents are living with. They don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, and they don’t have to try and educate their children from home while working. Those two factors are setting most Millennials and Gen-Xers up for therapy sessions later on.
According to a recent article in The Washington Post about this very subject, there has been a spike in the following terms on social media coming from 20-40 year olds: “exhausted,” “overwhelmed,” “depressed,” and “pushed over the edge.”
Now naturally, there is one population that is living in total terror that is far beyond anything 20-40 year olds are experiencing, and that is people living in rest homes. According to Ken Dychtwald, president and CEO of AgeWave, the company who performed the second survey, “For those living in nursing homes and similar situations, it’s been a terrible nightmare. Older generations are definitely feeling vulnerable because of the likelihood of contagion and its serious consequences.”
So it sounds like the sweet spot in 2020 is to be retired, and still living in your home: essentially, the position of many Boomers. My parents and in-laws are in that situation, and I have to say, neither couple appear to be feeling the same stress as my wife and me. In fact, I’ve heard both of them say, “I wouldn’t want to be raising a family right now.” And they’re right — it’s all a huge wad of stress.
If you are like me, and not a Boomer, then you are left with one overwhelming question: What should I be doing about all this stress? Melissa Stanger, a licensed therapist practicing in New York City, wrote a pretty awesome article in Talkspace about managing depression and anxiety, and she suggested practicing mindfulness — trying to focus on the here and now rather than what could (or did) happen — can be a huge game changer. Another element is regular meditation or yoga. I am a huge fan of the Headspace app. I use it almost every day, and it really does help a guy like me, with a pretty busy mind, take a moment to just shut that sucker off and be for a time. And naturally, meeting with a therapist right now can really come in clutch. I’ve been meeting with a therapist online pretty regularly during 2020, and I highly recommend it.
Just hearing that I’m very much not alone in trying to manage the stress of living through a pandemic with children does give me some comfort. I’ve spent a lot of nights sitting up in bed, dreading the next day, because I know it will be like all the others before it. There is something overwhelming about right here, right now, that can make a parent feel like they have very little to look forward to. But I do believe we will get through this, my Gen-X and Millennial friends. I think. I hope.
And next time my son hits me with an, “OK, Boomer,” I’ll just reply back with, “Ha! I wish!” At least where pandemic stress levels are concerned.