It may seem, at best, entitled to imply that you’d need to “survive” living with your parents when there are people who are either less fortunate or more independent than you are making it work on their own. But since living with the parents is a stressful reality for the 6 million of us doing it, and our parents too, I figured it was worth discussing.
As of 2009, 24% of us aged 20-34, and 43% of those under 25, have moved back home. This is not surprising given that the actual unemployment rate for 18 to 29-year-olds is nearing 17% and outstanding student loan debt currently exceeds a trillion dollars. For those of us in this situation, the projections that we will be the first generation that may not prove wealthier than our parents feels less pessimistic than it does undeniably accurate.
So if you, like me, spend most of your days crawling into the dark hole of rejection that is applying for jobs, thwarting off student loan induced anxiety attacks, and trying to answer the ultimate quarter-life crisis-y question of what you should do with your life, all while living under your parents’ roof, here are some tips on how to stay sane:
1. Pick a stress-reliever.
Since I finished grad school, I’ve been confronted with an extremely unwelcome introduction into the world of stress-induced anxiety. The kind that appears to come out of nowhere and chooses to manifest itself in the most frustrating of ways — stress vomiting, lack of sleep, eye-twitching, and my personal favorite claustrophobia, which has made navigating a city of crowded underground trains an absolute delight. While symptoms may differ, apparently I’m not alone.
According to a study by the American Psychological Association, millennials are the most stressed demographic, beating out Baby Boomers and what the study refers to as “Matures” in almost every category. Dubbed Generation Stress, 19% of millennials in the study have been told they are suffering from depression. Unemployment and student loan debt have proven to be contributing factors to stress and even suicide in some cases.
Since many of us still do not have access to health insurance, we’ve been forced to come up with ways to combat this stress on our own. Personally, I’ve taken to exercise to get my daily dose of endorphins and help release stress. Yoga has proven to be a very effective option for some, while others prefer to indulge in mindfulness and meditation exercises. Even simple breathing exercises can help and oddly enough chewing gum has been a saving grace for me. Whatever your symptoms are try to carve out some time to research stress-relieving exercises, try them out, and find the ones that work best for you.
It should go without saying that you should see your return to your parent’s home as an expression of their generosity rather than a free ride of home-cooked meals and laundry services.
My mom jokingly refers to me as her intern as I’ve taken on all household duties while she’s at work. In addition to cleaning up after myself which is something I’ve always done, I clean the house, do the laundry, run their errands, walk the dogs, and try to do anything that will lessen the burden of having an extra person at home. And while sometimes I feel like a housewife without a husband or any children, it really doesn’t take much to help out in these small ways. Remember that your parents didn’t have to take you in so before you revert back to your teenage angsty self, remind yourself that you’re an adult and it wouldn’t kill you to cook them a meal once a week or to offer to do the grocery shopping from here on out.
3. Set a flexible schedule.
It’s often said that applying for jobs is a full time job so in order to make sure you aren’t taking too much advantage of your funemployment you should try to stick to a regular schedule that is dedicated solely to looking for a job.
Since you are in the unique position of not having to be somewhere for your set work hours, you should allow yourself to be flexible within reason. One way I’ve been able to do this is to set weekly goals. I generally take a more quality vs. quantity approach when it comes to applying for jobs. I take the time to search for jobs I actually want and am appropriately qualified for, I write each cover letter from scratch, I tailor my resume for each role, I research the organization I am applying to work for, and utilize my networks to try and build a connection to someone on the inside. Given that this is a more timely approach, I set my goals at 2-3 completed job applications and 2 networking meetings a week.
Call it too few if you like, and keep in mind this is not a post on how to get a job, but having realistic tangible goals in place on a weekly basis allows you the freedom to have lunch with a friend or go to the beach for a couple hours while still making sure you’ve reached your goal by the end of the week.
4. Accept rejection.
It can be hard not to get down on yourself after endless hours trying to convince potential future employers and yourself that you are undeniably the perfect person for the job and then hearing absolutely nothing back in return. While the first bites of interviews are always thrilling and ultimately a great learning experience the rejection that comes from being so close yet so far away can be an even harder pill to swallow.
It’s in these moments where we can decide to be bitter and angry or realize we may not have wanted the job that badly after all, or that we really did and are a little bit sad, and move one. In any case, this exercise in developing thicker skin can help put your goals in perspective a bit.
Whether it is trading in your 5 year plan for an 18 month plan, improving your job search approach, switching industries, broadening your search to different cities or countries, or even deciding to go back to school everyone will have a different outcome. But you have to hope that eventually you’ll be the right fit for the right job for you, seek constructive feedback on where you can improve, remind yourself that you are smart and capable person, and make time to surround yourself with the people who think so too.