'Milestone Anxiety' Is A Very Normal Pandemic Side Effect. Here's What To Do If You're Struggling With It

Even in the best of times, struggling with anxiety around milestones is a very normal thing. Try as we might, it's hard not to compare ourselves to our peers as we watch friends get married while we're still single or advance in their careers while we're stuck in a job we're less than thrilled about.

Still, there's a sense of control in the ability to actively go after the things we want. If you're single and unhappy about it; you've likely gone on dating apps to see who's out there. If your job is what's making you unhappy, maybe you've gone to networking events and applied to jobs that looked interesting. 

Many of those options came to a screeching halt when 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic hit, because suddenly it wasn't safe to meet strangers for dates or go to networking events, and many companies put hiring freezes in place. 

Cue extreme milestone anxiety as many of us sit in our homes, twiddling our thumbs and watching the weeks and months tick by, wondering if we'll able be able to go after the things we really want again.

Rest assured, if you're experiencing this, it's very normal—and there are things you can do about it. 

Give yourself permission to be frustrated and anxious.

Feel like screaming into a pillow? Do it. This isn't fair!

"My advice is to both give yourself permission to be frustrated and anxious, while also doing your best to find small moments of gratitude," says holistic psychotherapist Alison Stone. "Reminding ourselves of the things that are feeling even tolerable, if not enjoyable, can be a valuable tool in shifting our perspective and alleviating anxiety."

Stone also suggests talking to friends and family members as much as possible.
"Due to the pandemic we are spending so much more time alone, and isolation is a big trigger for anxiety," she explains. 

Cherish the small victories.

While you may not be able to go after the things you want in a really big way right now, there are small tasks you can accomplish that can help you feel a little bit of control again. 

"Make a list of small, attainable goals for the week," says Stone. "It can be as simple as incorporating exercise into your day, cleaning out your closet, or tackling a task you've been avoiding or putting off. Accomplishing these small things will help recreate a sense of agency and control."

Reframe the narrative. 

It's hard to feel anything but "stuck" right now. But if there's a way to change the conversation with yourself about what's going on, and that can really help. 

"This is hard, because I think people tend to feel very uncomfortable when they feel stagnant, the irony being that change is equally uncomfortable," says Stone. "I'd try to think of it less like feeling 'stuck', and more like taking a pause, and a reset."

Stone adds that it's important to remind yourself that things are not going to be the way they currently are forever, even if it feels like that right now. "It might also help to get creative and think of new ways to find pleasure; a new decorating/home improvement project, starting a new show on Netflix, reconnecting with old friends over Zoom, the list goes on. It might sound trivial, but these things will help shake up the monotony of the days and weeks."

There's nothing easy about this time, and if anyone tells you they're thriving, it's probably not true. So take a deep breath, embrace the small victories, and remind yourself that this, too, shall pass." 

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