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Mental health problems

Excessive sensitivity makes problem-solving and critical thinking challenging for Gen Z, psychologist says

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Materiały Prasowe,
04.11.2023 13:32

Gen Zers are definitely more apt to speak about the inner chaos undermining their emotional well-being. However, mere talking is not a cure for mental health problems. Besides, the explicit inclination of Gen Z representatives to share the challenges they face is often met with mockery and bitter comments regarding their excessive sensitivity. During an interview with Delfi psychologist Gintarė Buinikaitė provided some advice on how to help oneself not just through talking but by taking certain steps. Most problems that cause emotional distress for young people are the reflection of some past mistakes, she thinks.

Largest mistakes are made during upbringing

As Buinickaitė has previously mentioned, Gen Zers' sensitivity is evident in their inability to handle inconvenient situations. Young people often try to escape from them as soon as possible or avoid them altogether. The psychologist suggests that this behavior is mainly determined by certain upbringing practices.

"In fact, their upbringing was focused on protecting them from everything that was perceived as negative, including unpleasant emotions and challenging situations. Their parents did their best to ensure that they did not experience any pain or discomfort, as they believed it would be too much for their sensitive hearts to bear. As a result, these individuals find it difficult to handle any sort of awkward situation. Whenever they encounter something unpleasant, their first instinct is to escape, engage in something enjoyable, or simply distract themselves with their electronic devices in order to avoid the uncomfortable feelings that arise," says Buinickaitė.

The psychologist argues that Gen Z's aversion to discomfort is evident in even the most basic examples.

"In case they feel uncomfortable during a meeting, they will leave. Similarly, if they find the discussion uninteresting or boring, even if it is a virtual meeting, they will switch off their camera and watch Netflix instead. They prefer to remove themselves from situations that make them uncomfortable or that do not interest them," she says.

However, the criticism by other generations directed towards the so-called exaggerated sensitivity of Gen Z representatives can be explained by the fact that Gen Z is the first generation to be taught to pay attention to their feelings, argues the psychologist.

"It’s good that people do not try to suppress their feelings. Past generations have learned that hiding emotions such as sadness, anger, or even joy is detrimental to our mental health as it creates stress. However, now we have gone to the other extreme. We encourage our children to feel what they feel, yet we have missed an essential aspect – we have not taught them how to be resilient and self-sufficient in managing their emotions," says the psychologist.

The extent of emotions, as everything in our lives, should have its limits, says the psychologist.

"One cannot submerge oneself in emotions for five days in a row. The test carried out by one US professor showed that people can be categorized into two groups – those who are guided by emotions and those who follow logic. Although these groups should be almost equal in number, the professor found out that over 80% of her students belong to those who are inclined to listen to their feelings. While this may seem unusual, it can be explained by the fact that from the very childhood, young people were encouraged to express their emotions," Buinickaitė explains.

However, such a parenting strategy has a certain underlying problem.

The professor made an insightful observation that relying solely on emotions or logic is not a sustainable way of approaching life. Instead, we should strive to strike a balance between the two. However, Gen Z representatives seem to lack critical thinking skills and logical reasoning. While they may have strong emotions, they struggle to find solutions to problems that require a rational approach, says the psychologist.

Importance and types of resilience

In order to overcome the challenges that life throws at us, it's essential to have strong resilience, which is unfortunately lacking in the Gen Z population. Resilience, as defined by Buinickaitė, is the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. In simpler terms, it means not getting too emotionally overwhelmed when facing traumatic situations.

"In the beginning, stress management, constructive feedback, and resilience-fostering techniques can be a hard job. However, later it becomes a habit that does not require excessive thinking," explains the psychologist.

In fact, there are several types of resilience, according to Buinickaitė.

"People often think that resilience can be either emotional or psychological. In fact, there are five types of resilience. Psychological resilience is the ability to solve problems by thinking things over during complicated situations. Emotional resilience is the ability to control one’s emotions without suppressing them," says the psychologist.

It is important to understand that when managing and controlling one’s emotions the feelings should not be neglected, emphasizes Buinickaitė.

"Forcefully repressed emotions are quick to resurface at most inappropriate moments. That’s why one should be prepared to confront feelings like shame and guilt, no matter how unpleasant they can be. Only by doing so can we effectively get rid of them," says the psychologist.

When speaking about the ways to build our resilience Buinickaitė revealed several other types of resilience.

"One more type of resilience is community resilience. It is defined as the ability of a particular community to respond to, withstand, and recover from adverse situations. Here in Lithuania, we had a chance to undergo a couple of tests, such as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. I always ask people if they think we’ve passed the tests. In my personal opinion, our resilience level is quite high," the psychologist notes.

One more important type of resilience is physical resilience.

"Physical resilience refers to the body's ability to maintain stamina required for challenging physical tasks such as traveling long distances. It also is a person’s ability to quickly recover when faced with illness. So, the body should also be resilient," says Buinickaitė.

And the last but not least type of resilience is spiritual resilience.

"Spiritual resilience refers to values and purpose. It can have nothing to do with religion. It is about the purpose of life, the driving force behind the actions that are being taken," explains the psychologist.

Alas, it's not sufficient to simply understand what resilience means. To truly integrate resilience into our lives, we need to take specific actions. Buinickaitė has identified the aspects that we must develop to achieve true resilience.

"In order to cultivate all types of resilience we need to pay attention to seven things, namely, confidence, competence, connection, contribution, coping, control, and character. Coping in this case is the ability to cope with stress effectively, and it is the basis of the resilience model. It is not a separate thing though. In order to be resilient, one should have competence and many other things," argues the specialist.

Buinickaitė admits that these ideas may seem quite complicated, but we should understand that one change often leads to other changes.

"These seven points are complementary. Whenever one of the aspects is being cultivated others are also getting stronger," says Buinickaitė.

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