Change

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The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  Col 1:15,17

 The past couple of weeks have been a study in contrast. On the one hand, life has slowed down due to stay in place orders. At the same time, the news cycle about the pandemic moves at lightning speed.  The situation changes daily.

I have been witnessing the transitions being made by people to extraordinary circumstances. A transition is a personal reaction to change, which is an external event. A transition is how you respond to what happens to you.  It is how you adjust to change.

Last night, we had a Zoom small group experience with 5 other couples – one of whom lives in Minnesota. One after another, they detailed how life has changed and how they are adjusting.  A family celebration of the first birthday of a grandchild has now been put on hold due to transmission issues.

One person has a new job which is supposed to start in a week, but he is wondering whether or not it will materialize as more stringent orders to be isolated are being enforced around the world.

He also said that he is seeing a level of anxiety in people who never experienced it before.  His friends were experiencing a physical reaction with tightness of the chest and an accelerated heart rate.  The symptoms are very real.

In two weeks, almost 10 million Americans filed for unemployment. That’s a record.  So, besides being worried about their health, these people are worried about their financial condition and getting jobs again.

A friend in Chennai, India runs a Christian school. The government has put out lockdown orders which happened so fast that food stores were closed before people could get to them. Another friend sent me an email describing the conditions which are chilling and scary.

India has 1/6th of the world’s population (1.3 billion) but a woefully inadequate health system with only one government doctor per 10,000 people. Given that a country where 200 million people live in slums in the cities, it is only a matter of time before the pandemic explodes. Keeping social distance is impossible.

Yet, my friends in India are positive even in troubling circumstances. He wrote me last week admonishing me to “stay at home” and at the end he said,  “let us keep exchanging emails as often as possible in a world that is falling apart and looking for a Savior who will save them from this deadly pestilence”.

My concern here is for the next generation – particularly Gen Z who are in college and high school.  They are the most vulnerable when the world seems to be in total chaos. Most don’t have social safety nets, and the isolation of staying at home is a concern to their mental health.

As an example, a friend has a son at the Air Force Academy which shut down due to the Coronavirus and two of his classmates committed suicide. It goes without saying that even before the pandemic, the suicide rate of Gen Z is triple of any prior generation.

Gen Z has gone from a structured life at school, to an unstructured life at home, and many of them don’t have a good healthy environment.  Schools in rural counties in North Carolina have continued to provide food – two meals a day. Instead of picking up students, the bus drivers deliver the food to children.

That provides some structure.  There are several things we, as adults, can do for Gen Z in these times.  The first is to keep our wits about us – if they see or sense panic in us, it will only make matters worse. Keep your wits about you and things in perspective.

Secondly, educate yourself and communicate with them what the facts are – you can go to the CDC Website for updates, or read the Guide published by the University of California a Berkley.  Gen Z are likely to get their information from social media which has proved to an unreliable source.

Exercise healthy habits – social distancing, hand washing, staying away from crowds. You can model what they need to do. If you do it, they are more likely to follow your example.

Above all, stay connected with them, even if it is in a virtual manner through Face Time, WhatsApp, Zoom or whatever. Staying connected to social networks – family and friends – can be a stabilizing force.

If you sense that someone is not coping and making a good adjustment, suggest that they go to the bulletin board on Reddit which has a discussion board of people supporting each other due to the pandemic. Sometimes just knowing you aren’t alone is helpful.

The challenge here is that the next generation has been thrust into a world that has lots of scary things going on – economies possibly collapsing and a pandemic. These are big issues for any generation, but especially for one that is ill-prepared to cope with this kind of change.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  This is a time to be more connected to your mentee as possible. They need support and assurance to navigate through troubled waters.

FURTHER RESEARCHKeeping Mental Health During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Guide to Controlling Fears and Anxiety around Coronavirus – U. Cal/Berkley

Reddit Support Forum for Coronavirus

WORSHIP: Listen to You Hold It All Together

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Uncertainty

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I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. Psalm 91:2,3

We live in uncertain times.  There is uncertainty to our health caused by the Chinese Coronavirus, and uncertainty financially because the world’s economies have shut down in reaction.  Travel has been limited, restaurants are closed except for takeout, and we are supposed to be sure we stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart.

It’s as if someone hit “pause” on the TV remote and everything stopped.  It has led to uncertainty which leads to anxiety which, in turn, leads to fear. What is the Christian response to these novel times?

For me, it was when I learned I had prostate cancer several years ago. It was an alarming diagnosis.  I was less fearful when I knew for certain that I had cancer.  Waiting for the medical tests results, on the other hand, was very uncomfortable and nerve wracking because of uncertainty.

Once you have certainty, you can deal with it. Until then, you are in emotional no-man’s land, often being tossed and turned by what you read in media, or worse, what you see on social media. In fact, staying off social media for the near term may be a good idea.

How do you find certainty in uncertain times?  The answer, for me, comes from Psalm 91 (above) which is worth reading in its entirety. My certainty comes from my faith in God – I know that He is in control through good or bad.

I have learned the hard way not to let my circumstances dictate my faith in God.  If happenings, uncertainty or circumstances control your emotions, then your happiness is totally dependent on things outside your control:

If your happiness is based on happenings, what happens when your happenings don’t happen to happen the way you wanted them to happen.”

You might need to reread that a couple of times.

Given that the next generation – millennials and Gen Z alike – are predisposed to high levels of anxiety, I am concerned for them at a time when their world has changed overnight.  School has stopped; stores and offices are closed. People, if they can, are working from home.

Zoom, WhatsApp and Skype have become a substitute for face to face meetings. Congregating together is now limited either by law or voluntarily.   Some places have total lockdowns where no one is permitted out of their homes.

Even in normal times, the next generation was isolated by the digital world. They have few real friends, other than those who put “likes” on social media posts. They don’t really have a social safety net.

That increases isolation and  hopelessness. Calls to 911 about suicide have increased across America. It reminds me of the quote from a man in a halfway house in Connecticut who said: “The mind alone is a dangerous place.”

At times like these, we need to remember that God is in charge and no pandemic or economic condition known to man will change that.  While the chaos may seem like water overwhelming us, I am comforted by the passage from Isaiah 43:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

             and through the rivers,  they will not overwhelm you;

             when you walk through fire, you will not be burned;       

            and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God.”

Even though there is chaos or uncertainty and we feel overwhelmed by “rising waters”, we should never forget that there is One who is walking on the water and waves.  And He loves each of us fiercely.

I mention this because of the anecdotal stories of the Portland police posting on Facebook for people to stop calling 911 because they were out of toilet paper. Or, two women shoppers in Australia fighting each other over paper towels in a store until someone broke it up.

These are adults behaving badly and, sadly, there are many more stories like this.

What do their actions show to the next generation?  Unfortunately, they show panic.

The challenge is to engage the next generation in a way to allow them to have a faith in the risen One. They are spiritually looking for answers at a time like this, and we can supply them, but we need to show them by our actions not jus

We need to be the adult in the room and its our actions that are being seen and watched. Are we acting out of panic or wisdom? They can tell the difference.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can be the calm in the storm in your mentee’s life at times like these. Stay in touch even if it is only virtual.

WORSHIP: Listen to Waiting Here for You  – Christy Nockels

RESOURCE:  Dealing with Anxiety During the Pandemic

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Epic Panic

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“The LORD told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home” Judges 7:7

If you delete the letters “dem” from Epidemic and Pandemic, you get Epic Panic (give or take an “i”).  I haven’t seen anything like the reaction from the Coronavirus spread in the world, and I’ve been around the block a few times.

People bought enough toilet paper to last them through 2021. Seems like an overreaction, but as one commentator noted, it is really a herd instinct, and when some see others stocking up on certain items, the rest are sure to follow. Kind of like lemmings going over a cliff.

Until recently, no one had ever heard of the terms flattening the curve nor social distancing. Now they are commonplace as the world searches for ways to inhibit the spread of the virus.

For perspective, here’s Christian advice that was forwarded to me by a friend:
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed, in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me, and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

This applies today.  It was written by Martin Luther 500 years’ ago in a letter to Rev. John Hess in 1527.

The new normal is to stay at home unless necessary. People are trying to reorient their lives to a world where elbow bumping has replaced handshakes and hugs. I personally miss the latter, I must admit.

As Christians, we adapt to changing circumstances. My Friday morning bible study which has been going on in Raleigh for 38 years used Zoom to have a virtual bible study. There were at least 75 people on-line at the same time.

Peoples’ lives and work have to be reoriented. Almost all major sports have been cancelled or postponed.  I would hate to be a commentator on ESPN (the sports network) who now has to fill his time slot with commentary on what is not going on.

Are these steps over the top? Time will tell.  What has been interesting is that the public is totally unsettled by all of this. As one of my African friends says, “It’s alarming how the virus had had a grip on humanity in various dimensions.”

Life in the U.S. and elsewhere has ground to a standstill. But that’s what was intended.  The only group of people who haven’t gotten the message are the millennials and college age Gen Z.  I attribute their lack of social distancing to their sense of entitlement  attitude.

Self-gratification trumps doing something for someone else, like not killing others by infecting people at risk. More recent data indicates that millennials can get very sick after all, contrary to early data.

The next generation is already at a high level of anxiety, often about issues that, in the grand scheme of things, are not something to be anxious about.

But telling someone to be “not panic” in the face of panic and anxiety probably doesn’t help.  It’s like telling an alcoholic to stop drinking.  It’s the correct advice, of course, but not useful to the recipient.

The panic is not justified by facts and research (this article is updated daily and gives a clear picture of the real risk).

The above verse from Judges is instructional in times like these. Picture Gideon facing an army of 32,000 Midianites with only 300 men. That should bring panic to most of us.  Against overwhelming odds, seemingly, but with one caveat: God was on his side.

As Christians, we should take time to get ready and prepare as best we can, and then do as well as we can, resting in the assurance that God is with us with every step.

I remain concerned for the next generation who are more fragile than previous generations. The have had adversity removed by parents and schools, and many are ill equipped to handle these troubled times. On top of that, they reason by emotionalism where subjective feelings often override truth, objective reasoning, and facts.

The challenge is to come alongside the next generation as mentors and parents and be the adult in the room. They need to see calm in the face of adversity.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors should be aware that the next generation may have poor coping skills to deal with this novel virus pandemic. They need someone to be calm in the face of adversity.

FURTHER READING: Evidence over Hysteria – Updated daily and worth reading. 

Covid – 19 – a CDC Primer

The Generational War Over Coronavirus – WSJ

WORSHIP: Listen to I Am Not AloneKari Jobe

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Pandemic

 

fluPraise be to God….who comforts us in all our troubles.  2 Corinthians 1:3,4.

The outbreak of the Coronovirus in Wuhon, China, has been a study of how and how not to deal with an epidemic.  It has caused international disruption on a scale not seen before, including bans on flights from Europe and China, cancelled sporting and musical events, and even cancellation of NCAA championships.  The list of disruptions grows daily.

Just writing this post has been difficult because events have been fast developing. This post was originally titled “Epidemic”, for example. The media hasn’t helped, often describing events in overblown rhetoric. A balanced view of the pandemic is shown in these graphs which are updated daily.

What is known is that the vast majority of cases (80%) result in very light symptoms, often not much more than a common cold. On the flip side, it is extremely virulent and has twice the rate of infection as the flu.

Some that have the virus are asymptomatic (i.e. they show no symptoms) which is what makes Covid-19 dangerous because people can spread the disease without knowing they even have it. That is the rationale behind most of the public cancellations of events, schools and closing of offices. It is unprecedented.

The vulnerable demographic group are those over age 60 who often have pre-existing medical issues which might compromise their immune system. Those issues include respiratory problems, diabetes, or those undergoing treatment for cancer, among others.

To put this latest virus in context, the previous health epidemic came from the swine flu (H1N1) which occurred in 2009.  By the time the world actually dealt with swine flu, it affected 60 million people resulting in around 274,000 deaths.

We should not forget that the annual toll from influenza is much more severe. At the end of February, 18,000 people died of the flu in the U.S. alone, despite the availability of a flu vaccine. Worldwide, it is estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 people die from the flu every year.

After 2010, the CDC and WHO (World Health Organization) began developing infrastructure to handle a pandemic. Those changes are broad and have global impact and are summarized here.

Under these advances, there is increased capacity for detection, surveillance, testing and prevention.  The latter is particularly important because as cases have popped up, those affected have been quarantined or put in isolation which lessens the potential for spreading.

There has been a heightened awareness of personal hygiene and washing of hands as well as a sensible cancellation of large public events. Companies and churches have increased using disinfectants on public spaces.

Many cases have been caused by contact with surfaces rather than directly from another person. The Covid-19 virus can be potentially dangerous for up to 3 days on surfaces.  The CDC reports that it can be transmitted through the air so actual contact may not be necessary.

Companies are taking precautions, some even requiring employees to work from home. My son’s company closed their office for the rest of March.  My church sent a lengthy email describing what to do including washing hands and the placing of extra hand sanitizers throughout the church.

People are weighing the risk of travel, particularly to international destinations. I was supposed to visit West Africa in late May but have now postponed the trip until later in the fall.

None of these actions occurred 10 years ago.  That’s an improvement, so that I am predicting that this health crises will be handled better than ever before.

An equal concern is that the Covid-19 virus is impacting the world’s economy and stock markets in remarkable ways.   Those impacts may be short-lived, but they have the potential to send the world’s economies into a global recession.

More than 100 universities have cancelled in-person classes, and the number is growing. Teaching is being done on-line.  Local schools are mulling similar cancellations even when no one has been diagnosed with Covid-19.

The next generation that has demonstrated a high level of  anxiety before the outbreak. I think it is time for the adults in the room to help assuage their concerns. First and foremost, they are the least likely to have serious symptoms of Covid-19.

Secondly, creating social space by limiting contact with real persons is a concern for the next generation.  Communicating through the internet is no cure for loneliness for a generation that is already isolated in a digital world.

Thirdly, while the bible is clear in its predictions of plagues in the last days, the Christian response in times like these is not to panic.  God is in control. This is also an opportunity to remain calm when others are in panic mode. It is a ministry opportunity when others are fearful of their lives.

Personal hygiene and keeping social distance to avoid spreading the virus actually does work. The small portion of the population who are old and have unrelated medical issues that compromise their immune systems are the ones who should take the greatest precautions in being around crowds.

As Christians, we know that life on earth is tenuous. We live in a fallen world. But we have the assurance of salvation that provides a basis to remain calm in the face of adversity.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors should be mindful that the next generation may be struggling with Covid-19 and it may be an opportune time to discuss why Christianity matters in times like these.

FURTHER RESEARCHGraphs showing Covid-19’s Effect on the World.

WORSHIPHoly Water  lets us know our need for God

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The “S” Word

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Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame. Romans:10:11

I won’t keep you guessing: “S” stands for Sin, or at least it did.  But is it an outdated term in today’s post-Christian culture?  For those over 40, it is a familiar concept. For millennials and Gen Z, not so much.

To the next generation, the “S” word is Shame similar to the Asian culture which is devoid of any Christian heritage.  It is a shame based culture.  One’s conduct, choices and actions  are limited only by whether it would bring shame to another. It is called ”loss of face”, meaning humiliation or loss of respect.

We grew up with a concept of original sin from Adam and Eve in the garden. We learned what was right and was wrong largely from Biblical constructs. A lot of that has gone out the window with the next generation who are likely to see right and wrong in relative terms.

A guilt culture is where conduct, decisions and actions were limited by whether or not they crossed the line of right and wrong.  If something was “wrong”, it was called a sin, resulting in guilt.

Shame, on the other hand, requires other people to determine whether something will receive the condemnation of others.

For clarity, God doesn’t grade on a curve.  A sin is a sin; “God has not given us authority to establish values for different sins” argues Jerry Bridges in Respectable Sins.

But what happens when something is no longer seen as a sin?  It becomes a slippery slope.  A textbook example is homosexuality which is biblically viewed as a sin (so is having a sexual relationship outside of marriage, for that matter).

Our culture (and even our churches) have softened the meaning of sin.  People don’t commit adultery; they have an affair. Business leaders don’t steal; they commit fraud. People don’t lie; they “lack candor”. People are not gluttons; they are merely overweight.

Millennials were the first generation that approved of same-sex marriage, and it occurred so quickly that it caught most of the Christian community off guard.  In ten years, a cultural convention of the past 2000 years was overturned.

The reason?  Because the millennials didn’t think it was either wrong or a sin based solely on their collective experience.  Their values are based on social media and groupthink without any Biblical worldview.

Abortion is now accepted, even in the third trimester, even though scripture is clear that it is wrong. The phrase “pro-choice” does not inquire about the wellbeing of a baby, only of the right of a mother.

Having a child out of wedlock is no longer frowned on. Recently, a celebrity proudly announced she was pregnant and that she and her fiancé were thrilled.  Culture has gradually eroded Christian morals. There is now the concept of  The Acceptable Sin according to William Huckaby.

The issue is important to the next generation whose right and wrong is based on their experience and their feelings.  Yet the evangelical culture still uses the concept of sin as a tool of evangelism.

I don’t have an answer for this, but what I would suggest that the approach to evangelism using sin may not be effective anymore with the next generation.  They don’t see sin as an issue, but they will respond to something that provides an answer to being broken, hopeless, depressed, burned-out or worse.

A generation that doesn’t regard certain conduct as wrong and will be turned off by an approach to make it so. Their reaction may label you as judgmental, homophobic or worse.

This is important because Gen Z, in particular, are quite open to the LGBTQ movement. As a result, we are seeing encroachment in our schools teaching things about gender fluidity or celebrating Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Fortunately, biologists are pushing back on the transgender agenda, labeling it as an “ideology” that harms women, gays and especially feminine boys and masculine girls. Still, this pushback is a small effort compared to the liberal narrative there is something called “gender identity” which goes beyond biological or scientific reality.

The challenge here is how best approach the next generation in a culture where “sin” is all but disappearing.

Even the church hasn’t addressed this well in its apparent acceptance of things that are sins too. Christians are often preoccupied with societal sins but may be blinded by their own need to deal with their own subtle sins.

We are all sinners at birth (Psalm 51:5). It is by the grace of God that we live and exist as Christians. It is that same grace that will reach the hearts and minds of the next generation even if they don’t understand the concept of sin.

They are broken in many ways. But grace covers shame, the other “S” word, not just sin.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Grace may be a better avenue to reach the next generation for Christ than trying to convince them they are sinners.

FURTHER READING: Respectable Sins – Jerry Bridges

The Acceptable Sin– William Huckaby

The Dangerous Denial of Sex  Wall Street Journal

Shame and Grace: Healing the Shame We Don’t Deserve  – Lewis Smedes

WORSHIP: Listen to Grace Flows Down  – Christy Nockels

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Hopelessness

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

My last two posts which covered some pretty dark topics for Gen Z: burnout and negative attitudes.  Both involve an attitude of feeling hopeless.  It leads to the question: How do you find hope in a hopeless world?

Hope is defined as an expectation that a certain thing will happen (not “might” happen or “maybe”).  It’s the opposite of hopeless. Why do so many in the next generation lose hope even if they have a faith in the living God. They lose hope all too easily.

A 2008 study showed that hopelessness is a root cause for anxiety, depression and suicide. Another study of adolescents living in high poverty inner-city neighborhoods led them to engage in high risk behavior such as substance abuse, violence and gang participation.

In the same study, hopelessness produced promiscuity or even trying to get pregnant.  This is not just an American phenomenon.  An African friend was dismayed to learn of a relative who turned to prostitution because of hopelessness – the feeling that no one wanted her and the inability to find a way out.

My African friend reached out to her wayward relative. She took her under her wing. She affirmed that God had a purpose for her life and that abusing her body was not the way forward.

This is important stuff.  As a casualty of depression, I personally know how hopeless one can feel. What helped me?  Well, my spiritual life took off when things got dim. My close friends surrounded me when all looked bleak. I turned to God and friends when I didn’t have any other solution.

The power of friends in your life can be a remarkable source of hope.  Some people exude hope. Take Dean Smith, the storied coach of UNC basketball. He permeated hope.  He gave a positive quote for his players to contemplate at every practice. He personally wrote notes of encouragement to many of his players long after they graduated.

In 1974, when the fourth ranked Tar Heels were down 8 points with 16 seconds left against their rival Duke, Coach Smith called a time out and said, “We’re in great shape! We’ve got them right where we want them. Isn’t this fun?”

While the score looked insurmountable, his players made an unlikely comeback, including a last second 30- foot bank shot by Walter Davis to tie the game. UNC won in overtime and the game is viewed as one of the all-time great comebacks in college sports.

I remember it well. I was sitting about 25 feet from Walter Davis when he made the game-tying basket.  I will never forget that moment. Hope fueled a victory against overwhelming odds.

Hopelessness is a delusion which has an enormous effect on our belief system. It can suck life out of us. Hope can provide resilience where others fail.

Most of the surviving POW’s of the Vietnam war attribute their survival on their faith. Those without faith often didn’t survive.  Faith gave them hope when all seemed hopeless despite inhumane treatment by their captors.

In fairness, there is no one-size-fits all cure to finding hope.  But coming alongside someone in the next generation who is facing adversity and feeling hopeless may be the best thing that one can do.

Paul, in the midst of troubles said, “may [we] be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 13:3-4). He was right. My friends could not feel what I was feeling, but they never left my side.

Social media actually isolates heavy users from developing close confiding relationships.  Isolation leads to negative thoughts and it goes downhill from there.

Tony Dungy quit football in high school due to a conflict with his coach. Leroy Rocquemore, a junior high teacher who believed in Tony’s well being, came alongside to mediate a solution with Tony’s coach.

Tony went on to become an All-Pro defensive back and coach of an NFL team that won the Super Bowl. The trajectory of his life would have been very different if someone hadn’t taken an interest in him.

Even when Tony felt hopeless, God used someone to inspire him not to give up. There are a lot of Tony Dungy’s in the next generation, but not many Leroy Rocquemore’s who come alongside when life seems hopeless.

The challenge here is that the next generation and particularly Gen Z are especially vulnerable to feeling hopeless, often because they are isolated and without a good support network.

It’s easy to see the world as a hopeless place without input from close friends or mentors. You can be a Leroy Rocquemore to someone in the next generation. All you have to do is develop a relationship with someone in the next generation.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Telling a member of Gen Z that you “believe in them” and that “they are not alone” speaks volumes.  That’s not complicated; you don’t have to be a Dean Smith or a Leroy Rocquemore to be an encourager.

FURTHER READING: Kingdom Nuggets in Dealing with Depression  Faith Magazine

WORSHIP: Listen to Yes I Will – Vertical Church which has the following lyrics:
“I count on one thing
The same God that never fails
Will not fail me now

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Gen Z Burnout

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Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. ……….But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiasts 4:9-12

This topic is in my wheelhouse – I experienced Burnout – not once, but twice.  I have seen the movie and got the T-shirt, which made me interested in why this was something affecting Gen Z.

I wrote materials on Burnout which I hand out to those that I come in meet who are experiencing symptoms of burnout.  My return to normalcy was aided by friends and family who surrounded me and loved me when I hit the wall.

While I know that Burnout is not limited to any particular age group, the fact that the next generation, and Gen Z in particular, is a targeted demographic should not have surprised me.

I should have connected the dots better. Given their high levels of anxiety, isolation and depression, the next generation is in the bulls eye for burnout.  They are stressed out about everything, even things they shouldn’t be.

While burnout has been viewed as being a millennial phenomenon, it is now an epidemic in Gen Z.  They are “on track to be the most stressed-out generation” according to the American Psychological Association.

Burnout is insidious and misunderstood. Even so, it’s hard to imagine what stresses could impact a demographic group who are all under the age of 22.

So what’s going on?  Stress is not new – it is universal and timeless, but Gen Z faces some “unique challenges” similar to millennials who suffer work-disrupting anxiety at twice the average rate of adults.

Those challenges include constantly changing political and economic climates, 24/7 access to social media which fuels social pressures and competition and leads to isolation. Add to those a  focus on personal achievement both academically and professionally.

All of these occur at a developmentally vulnerable time. They don’t have the proper social, emotional and interpersonal supports to help navigate the through the thicket.

Having friends on Facebook is not the same as having a real friend to help you cope with life.  In fact, the lack of confiding relationships increases the risk of depression (or worse).

A stress inventory test that I have in my materials assigns “point values” to events of life – things like death of a spouse, divorce, financial changes, moving to a new location, or even taking out a loan.  It’s called the Holmes-Rhae test – there is now one for non-adults.

Almost all of the events in the inventory are not within the control of the person being tested. A cumulative score of 300 points in a year puts one in the red zone with a high likelihood for some illness or burnout.

One needs to look for other symptoms too. Things like “errand paralysis” where small tasks get put on the back burner for no reason.

Postponing mailing a letter or registering to vote, or just feeling paralyzed doing particular tasks. One Gen Xer described it as feeling like they had a straitjacket on all the time.

For me, one symptom was the inability to focus on certain activities, even though I was able to maintain focus in other areas. I functioned well professionally. But if you asked me about going to dinner next Friday, and I literally couldn’t respond.

For the record, this is a warning sign – a red flag. It is actually a chemical issue where your body’s defenses prevent your synapses from working as a protective mechanism because you are in overload.

Anthony Rostain, MD notes, “Today’s world may be a more competitive and less forgiving place, but when that assessment yields a constricted definition of personal success, it fans the flames of destructive perfectionism.”

Rostain goes on to provide an antidote for parents and mentors alike. It involves helping young people acquire the skills to avoid obstacles and manage stress in a healthy way.

One of my antidotes includes building “margin” into your life by finding healthy ways to unwind. Exercising more, for example, is a natural antidote to stress. In my materials, I suggest “fishing without bait” or “running without keeping time”.

Sometimes competing is counterproductive particularly if you are stressed out in other parts of your life.

The challenge is to help the next generation and especially Gen Z develop real  friendships and develop “grit” in order to cope with a changing world.  Grit is the sine qua non of success. It is the ability to maintain motivation and persist in spite of hardships, anxiety and stress.

Grit isn’t just manufactured out of thin air. It often requires friends to come alongside when things get tough. Close friends are an invaluable source for maintaining a healthy mental outlook when adversity strikes.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Spending time with a member of Gen Z can be instrumental in helping them keep a healthy perspective on life and building “margin” if they don’t have it.

FURTHER RESEARCHHow Gen Z Can Swap Burnout for Breakthroughs, Penn Medicine News

Holmes-Rhae test for Gen Z  A helpful inventory.

Kingdom Nuggets in Dealing with Depression  Faith Magazine

WORSHIP: Listen to Lord I Need You – Passion

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