This piece originally published on July 2, 2020.
It’s normal to feel an icky kind of jealousy toward friends or peers who haven’t been impacted by COVID-19. Maybe they still have their full-time jobs. Maybe they were laid off but found new employment within weeks and are now thriving in a newer, better, and shinier work environment. Maybe their live-in partner didn’t lose their job. Maybe their entire family has been healthy and safe from the virus. Maybe they’ve somehow figured out how to thrive during a pandemic whereas you are barely hanging on to the edge of a cliff. While you watch their Instagram Stories which show 3PM yoga sessions in their expensive living room, you have been fighting back full-blown panic attacks in the same sweatpants you’ve worn for five days straight.
It’s hard to take things into perspective when 2020 has been a charred pile of garbage, I get that. I, too, sometimes burst into tears when I see shiny, happy people on Instagram. “How dare you,” I think, before being able to stop myself.
First of all, know that so many people have been affected by the pandemic (approximately 27 million people in the U.S. are unemployed right now). You’re not alone. While it’s unclear how many people were either able to get their jobs back or found new ones, the fact is that the current unemployment rate is actually closer to 16 percent than the previously reported 13 percent. What’s even more concerning is that these numbers are probably not taking into consideration the number of people who technically went back to work, but are now underemployed, or making significantly less than they were pre-pandemic.
But it’s hard to take things into perspective when 2020 has been a charred pile of garbage, I get that. I, too, sometimes burst into tears when I see shiny, happy people on Instagram. “How dare you,” I think, before being able to stop myself. But before you let yourself stability-FOMO spiral, here’s what you can do.
1. Take a break from social media.
This includes LinkedIn too, which has truthfully been my main anguish hub (unless you’re using LinkedIn to search for jobs). I’m sure you’ve heard that people tend to post only the best moments of their lives to social media, and that’s totally true. Social media isn’t the best place to commiserate (Twitter may be the exception — everyone consistently seems equally bummed out or pissed off on Twitter.)
2. Understand that there may be a lot more going on than you know.
Many people aren’t super public about their setbacks or personal losses. Maybe they do still have a full-time job, but their salary was slashed. Maybe their significant other lost their job. Maybe they just had to shutter their business they were pursuing as a side hustle in order to take care of family members. You never know.
3. Make a list of all your accomplishments in the last three years.
I’m not just talking about career success, either. Maybe you successfully painted your living room and it looks super dreamy. Or maybe you let go of toxic relationships in your life, even though it was hard to do. Think about what you have achieved (under normal circumstances) versus what you haven’t. And yeah, it’ll probably be harder to fill up that page if your timeline is limited to 2020 — but remember, that goes for most of us.
4. Make an actionable list you can achieve this year.
It’s probably going to be hard to find a new job, especially if you’re in an industry that’s been heavily impacted by COVID-19. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work on things like refreshing your LinkedIn (just stay away from your feed if it’s emotionally triggering), resume, or website. Working on how you present your career accomplishment sets you up for success when the right job (or recruiter) comes along.
5. Remind yourself that your career is not an extension of yourself.
You are so, so much more than your job and your bank account statement.
6. Know that other people may have resources you don’t.
For example, it’s not fair to compare yourself with people who come from affluent families, or have the kind of careers that can afford them to take a break from work for a while (sometimes, indefinitely). Have I rolled my eyes at many a celebrity who seems to be living their best well-outfitted quarantine life in their Hollywood Hills mansion? Duh. It’s hard not to. But also? Most people don’t live like that, and most people aren’t born with a family trust.
7. Talk to a friend who’s in a similar situation as you are (if they’re comfortable with it).
Even though 2020 has impacted us all so differently, you might have a good friend who’s also facing financial and personal hardship right now. It feels good to talk to people. Another option is seeking therapy if you don’t already. BetterHelp is an online therapy resource, and it might still be offering COVID-19 discounts if you’ve lost income.
8. Try to be happy for friends who are doing fine right now, too.
While it’s totally okay to temporarily distance yourself from the things that are making you sad, depressed, or angry (and that might just include your super successful, happy friends), remember to not be a jerk. If you were in their position (and you will be again!), you’d want the same thing.
9. Lean into healthy and fun forms of escapism.
I personally love binge-watching stressful shows like Ozark and The Americans because a) it distracts me, and b) shows like this make me realize life could be waaaay more complicated. Like, what if I was a KGB spy forced to seduce the FBI director’s secretary? What if I had to figure out how to launder millions of dollars or else be murdered by a drug lord? Like, no thank you. I will take my normal-person trial and tribulations over that kind of drama any day.
10. Remember to take care of yourself.
Just because you’re going through it, doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of giving yourself a break. I fall into this trap of thinking, “I’m a failure, therefore I don’t deserve to take a break, like other people do. Failures keep hustling until they’re not failures anymore.” First, you’re not a failure (I’m not either!). Take a bath, light a candle you already have, rearrange your furniture, take a long walk — whatever it is that makes you happy. Because you deserve that, too.
11. Know that this is temporary.
Hi, hello, remember that we are in the middle of a global pandemic. Even our own parents have never experienced anything like this (back in April, my mom kept calling to tell me that even in the USSR they had enough bread at the grocery store, which definitely put things into perspective). Sure, there was the 2008 housing crisis, but that was different. It was slower and longer-lasting, but the immediate impacts weren’t as devastating as 2020’s pandemic has been, and people also weren’t getting infected with a dangerous virus on top of economic hardship (on the flip side, it’s more likely we’ll surface from this economic dip much faster once there’s a vaccine).
This. Is. Temporary. Your financial circumstances will change, eventually. Everything won’t be terrible forever. You’ll see: You’ll come out of this stronger, wiser, and more resilient. In the meantime, do your mental health a favor, and try not to compare yourselves with others right now.
Gina Vaynshteyn is an editor and writer who lives in LA. You can find more of her words on Refinery29, Apartment Therapy, HelloGiggles, Distractify, and others. If you wanna, you can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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