Pandemic mental health: Study shows losing phone primary stress factor

The thought of losing a phone is one of the “primary stress factors” for young Aussies, and honestly, same.

There is nothing that can strike fear into my heart quite like the thought of losing my phone. Even a day of leaving my phone at home can throw me off balance — and it turns out I’m not alone.

New research from Medibank has revealed that stress levels are generally high since the pandemic and the main factors come as a shock to no one — finance and money, personal health, the pandemic in general, work, and doom scrolling are all part of it.

Not far down the list of stress-inducing scenarios for Gen Z and Millennials, however, was also the thought of losing a phone.

You may scoff, but phones aren’t just for calling anymore.

Right now my phone is my alarm, my torch, my calendar, my address and contact book, my main way of checking emails, my keeper of sentimental photos I should have saved elsewhere and important notes of things to look up later.

As someone who was born with absolutely zero sense of direction, digital maps are the only way I ever manage to find my way anywhere outside my suburb.

Not to mention that since the pandemic — especially for the many, often younger, people who had to lockdown alone — phones became our main source of connection to the outside world. While couples were allowed to connect with their partners in real life, singles weren’t allowed that same courtesy with a trusted friend or family member for much of the lockdown.

I lived alone for the second pandemic, and even though I happily had a boyfriend who could be in my bubble, he worked in construction and still spent five to six days a week on work sites.

Meanwhile I had been made redundant from my dream job (thanks Covid) and spent a large chunk of time with little to do but contemplate my bad luck.

I still felt a stark difference between this second Sydney lockdown, and the first in which I locked down with the constant company of two housemates.

The added isolation I felt basically manifested in me constantly having a podcast playing at least someone in my apartment was talking, and having my phone in hand at all times so I could still feel connected. It’s hard to let that feeling go, even now.

So yes, the thought of losing my phone is somewhat triggering, and I refuse to be embarrassed by that fact.

How are we coping with stress?

While the general stress is understandable, the survey also showed that we may not be finding the healthiest ways of coping with it.

Over half of us have turned to binge watching, 43 per cent are stress eating (which gets even higher when you isolate Gen Z, at 58 per cent), 22 per cent are drinking excessively and 15 per cent are turning to online shopping.

“While there’s certainly more optimism that we’re moving into brighter times, there’s a huge number of Aussies who are feeling heightened stress,” said psychologist Noosha Anzab.

“In 2022, we have to remember people are facing their new ‘reality’ post lockdowns, which may include changes in finances, relationships, and work and career.”

What can we do about it?

Once again, a “fake it til you make it” approach could be just the thing to turn that mood around, says Anzab.

“This includes getting dressed up for the day ahead and channelling a positive mood through character play, which can be hugely beneficial in helping you start the day right – and ultimately another tool to help manage stress,” she says.

It’s a tool backed up by the survey, which found that 80 per cent of responders could change their mood for the day depending on how they dressed and prepared for it.

Originally published as The thought of losing a phone primary stress factor for Gen Z

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