It was an ordinary Wednesday for 2020: I woke up late and rushed all the way across my living room to my kitchen table to make it to class. I got on the Zoom call, hesitant to turn on the camera as I still looked and felt asleep. My professor was unaware that he was muted. Later, I ran into a friend. I couldn’t tell if she was happy to see me because of her mask. The inside of my mask smelled like pizza. She shuffled toward me in slow-motion, as if to hug me, and then retreated. Our conversation nailed the basics: online school, an election, pay cuts, quarantines. You know, the usual.
We’re all too familiar with the “ordinary” 2020 moments–the wearing-pajamas-to-Zoom-meetings moments, the drinking-water-with-a-mask-on moments, the talking-to-people-through-plexiglass moments. And I’ll admit it: it feels really heavy sometimes. I feel stressed, exhausted and uncertain.
Gen Z, Stress and Spirituality in 2020
As it turns out, I’m not alone. A recent study reported that Gen Z has experienced more stress this year than any other age group. And, being on the cusp of Gen Z and Millennials myself, I have a cozy cubby in that statistic. One of the biggest stressors for us Gen Z-ers is the paralysis of our plans. It feels impossible, almost laughable, to plan for anything further than a day in advance.
Covid-19 has forced us to slow down. Most of us, however, aren’t used to this. We can barely stand waiting five seconds for our Internet to buffer. We want to expect everything. We want to be in control.
Personally, when I feel like I’m losing control, I draw upon my spirituality. Most spiritual practices embrace the belief in a higher power that maintains a degree of control over the world. Therefore, as the universal sense of control has deteriorated in 2020, the need for spirituality has increased.
I had a discussion with some friends about what spiritual rituals have helped them gain insight for purpose and peace amidst the pandemic. Everyone is on a different spiritual path, so the following are only suggestions. As you develop your sense of spirituality–even, and especially, in 2020–I encourage you to explore and run with what carries you.
- Pray or meditate. Prayer can help you release thoughts and seek help with your struggles. Praying can be as simple as listing what you are thankful for. You can talk with the divine the same way you talk with a friend. Another form of prayer is meditation. A pandemic has made every day an opportunity for solitude–no thousands-of-dollars retreats to Bali needed! Anxiety only exists in terms of the future, and meditation will help ground you in the present.
- Read or watch hopeful messages. Often, inspiration comes from what others say. Even if what you read or watch doesn’t apply specifically to you, it can initiate a chain of thoughts leading you in a hopeful direction. And sometimes, it’s just nice to hear someone share their hope for the future. Choose to surround yourself with goodness by following uplifting accounts on social media.
- Connect with others. We would all prefer to be in-person, but you can still get creative virtually. Try to have meaningful conversations about what you’re feeling and experiencing. Come up with virtual games to play with friends and family (or just look it up–seriously, there are so many ideas online). And even when you aren’t with them on video chat, you can still feel close to others by remembering that we are living this crazy year together.
2020: A Collective Spiritual Experience
Do you remember the beginning of the pandemic, when we thought a quick two-week quarantine would quell this virus forever? We were still sharing “I don’t have 2020 vision” memes, unaware how painfully true that sentiment would be. We had never even heard of Zoom, but we were excited to demand people to mute themselves. School and work were put on hold as we tried to adjust.
But do you remember how unified we all felt? There was this indescribable synergy that flowed through borders and oceans and connected people all over the world. We were all going through the same thing. We expressed hope in a higher power that would carry us through this, “back to normal.” We knew the future was uncertain, but we didn’t feel despair yet.
I think we started unraveling when our expectations collapsed for the thirty-third time. The pandemic was no longer the only thing to worry about. We lost jobs. We lost family. We lost “normal.”
You can fill in the gaps. You can feel, so acutely, exactly how it all felt as history unrolled itself before your eyes–how it felt when graduation was canceled. When you couldn’t be with your wife as she delivered your baby. When your wedding plans were destroyed or postponed. You’re still feeling it. You’re still living it.
What if we turned the clock on our emotions toward all this? What if we went back to how we felt in March–still hopeful, still a bit worried, but still together? We are all, in fact, still experiencing this together. We are undergoing a collective grief as we mourn an old life and welcome (or at least attempt to welcome) a new normal. This grief can magnetize us to each other rather than rip us apart. Even if we can’t physically be together, we can build a home in the knowledge that we are spiritually together in this 2020 experience.