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How to Make “New” Easier for Young Adults

Remember that this time is not permanent.  And although we aren’t sure how long this new way of life will last, we will get through this together, one step at a time.

One of my favorite podcasts right now is Brené Brown’s, Unlocking Us.  I often listen to an episode while walking my dogs, a favorite pastime for my two energetic Australian Labradoodles, Tucker and Lacey. 

While listening to the first episode, Brené’ introduced a topic called FFT, and I couldn’t help but get excited about how this relates to most of my clients.   Brené can say out loud what FFT stands for in her podcast but censored it means, “F*@#$ First Time.” Or for the G-rating, you can call it  TFT or “Terrible First Time.” She bases the premise on new being hard and how anything new can cause discomfort. So how do we work through the discomfort to get to the other side?   Brené and her team have done extensive vulnerability research and found that when many of us are afraid of vulnerability, we stop trying. We want to be good at what we do the first time, and if we aren’t, well, then why do it?  But as Brené points out, “if we give up being new or awkward, we stop growing. And when we stop growing, we stop living.” We don’t stop living in the literal sense, but we can put on hold, reaching our future goals, and get stuck.   It was an ah-ha moment for me when I realized that many of my clients are dealing with- FFT’s when moving to the next step in their life path!

“If we give up being new or awkward, we stop growing. And when we stop growing, we stop living.”  Brené Brown

If you are a young adult in college, in the workplace, or looking for a job, FFT’s are happening all the time. You may be uncertain about your future, possibly because of a fear of failure, something you may have had a lot of experience in your short life. Academics, friendships, relationships, or holding a job all may have brought their share of failures. And the pandemic can only increase your worries. For many of us, the FFTs can be multiplied, and most probably are happening at once! It doesn’t help that your support systems such as parents, teachers, friends, and family are all dealing with FFT’s of their own with the pandemic. It’s my first pandemic, and I am pretty confident it is yours too.

For many of us, the FFTs can be multiplied, and most probably are happening at once!

Brené suggests that the first step in dealing with an FFT is to name it.  “By naming it, we own it.” And once we own it, we can go to the next step of normalizing it. We can then put it in perspective to change the expectations.  A real-life example right now for a college student is the abrupt shift from living on campus and in-person classes to living at home and taking online courses.  Separately either one of those situations is anxiety-ridden, but together it’s a double whammy!  What was already hard like time management got harder.   Then add to that a different way of communicating with professors and other classmates, alienating friends, and being in the same environment ALL DAY LONG! So no wonder Johnny is a little more irritable than usual. Johnny might say, “I am feeling stressed right now having to be at home and figuring out this whole digital classroom thing.” Now he has named it and can start to own it to work through how to get to the next step.

 “By naming it, we own it.” And once we own it, we can go to the next step of normalizing it. 

Transitions, shifting to another activity, were already hard as well.  Now it is more difficult with distractions of filling in down time-video games and texts from friends-then shifting attention to getting on the next Zoom call with a professor and checking online for homework assignments. Transitions are challenging, so we name it, “I am having a hard time shifting my focus.”  What is your next step? Try putting systems in place to help get you through it.  One idea is to keep the same schedule you had when you were on campus.  Setting up calendar reminders or timers to transition from one activity to another can also be helpful.  

Transitions are challenging, so we name it, “I am having a hard time shifting my focus.”

It is even more critical than before to learn to self-advocate.  Some students use accommodations to have their tests read by an authorized person or need extra time.  Test-taking accommodations are one area that may drop off when going to online classes if you aren’t self-advocating for them.  Going online may mean a new system should be put in place to receive these accommodations, but you may have to ask for it.  Becoming a stronger self-advocate to ask for what you need has to be a regular practice.  Once we get into these habits, guess what? We can make it our new normal and get better with practice. 

 Becoming a stronger self-advocate to ask for what you need has to be a regular practice.  

I don’t want to assume this is a natural process.  If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or frustrated, do a reality check. We are in a time of a new normal, and it might be your FFT. Name what you are feeling and try to work through it. Talk to a close friend, your parents, or someone else close to you. Once you name it and own it, you will have the power to change your perspective.  Make it your new normal. Work through it and reset your expectations.  

 Name what you are feeling and try to work through it.

Whether you are the young adult or the parent of the young adult, I highly recommend that you tune into Brené Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us, and listen to Episode 1.  You may have to listen to it multiple times. Or you can contact me, and I can walk you through your FFT, and together, we can move from an FFT to the next step, which could be what I call your ANT, “Amazing Next Time.” 

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay patient. Remember, we can get through this together.