To act your age is a virtue — but what that entails has gotten a lot more complicated since the pandemic.
The global outbreak of COVID-19 had a detrimental effect on everyone’s mental health, a toll still felt today. Research has shown that kids are still struggling in school, while young adults complain their maturity has been stunted — a phenomenon experts are calling the “pandemic skip.“
Casey Corradin, host of the podcast “Between Us Girlies,” posted a 35-second video on TikTok breaking down her understanding of the buzzy phrase.
“Whatever age you were when the pandemic started is where you’re at mentally,” the podcaster told listeners. “Because three years were wasted.”
Anecdotally, she recalled 20-somethings who fear they’ve taken too long “figuring their life out,” and 30-somethings whose prospects of starting a family feel uncomfortably near now.
The popular search term #pandemicskip has accumulated over 11 million views on TikTok, with countless users sharing the ways a yearslong social lockdown has hampered their personal development.
“I’m 26 now, but I always say I still feel 23,” one viewer confessed under Corradin’s clip, which garnered more than 3.7 million views on the app. “I thought I felt younger for other reasons and I just wasn’t mentally ready to be an adult.”
“Finally, a word to describe how I’ve been feeling. ‘Pandemic skip,’ what a relief to finally pinpoint the phase,” thanked a watcher.
Nova Cobban, a psychologist in the UK, describes the “pandemic skip” as the sense that we missed out on growth milestones and opportunities that would have occurred during the years the world was on hold.
“[People] have lost so many of the experiences that make up our sense of time passing that it feels like life was on hold instead of moving forward,” Cobban told The Post. “Days would often pass without any new stimulus, significant change or progress. It altered our perception of how much time was passing.”
“As a result of this ‘missing time,’ there is a sense of disconnection between the stage of our lives we feel we are at and the reality of the age and stage we are in,” she explained.
Furthermore, Cobban continued, anxiety about one’s own fleeting existence “can lead to people wanting to reset the clock and go back and still have the experiences that are associated with their life stage without judgment.”
When the natural desire to remain young at heart is met with the psychological upheaval of a deadly global crisis, the result — leaving us feeling motionless — hampers inner growth and inspires us to adhere to more juvenile impulses.
Last year, a report published in PLOS One discussed a “bend [in] the trajectory of personality, especially in younger adults” following pandemic lockdowns. It found that positive traits associated with psychological maturity, such as conscientiousness and agreeableness, had decreased among young adults, while neuroticism — the thing that makes us anxious and fearful — increased since 2020.
However, Cobban reassures that while this hiccup in personal and professional arenas may feel isolating for some, they’re not alone.
“Everyone’s life went on pause, so we are collectively experiencing the need to recalibrate and realign — this means that your peers are more likely to be in the same time-lapse state as you, and in this way, we aren’t behind on anything,” she said.
Just ask your friends, advised Smriti Joshi, chief psychologist at Wysa, an AI-guided mental health app.
“Connecting with others who share similar experiences can provide validation and a sense of community,” she said, “fostering resilience and adaptive coping strategies.”