How adolescents & young people can protect their mental health during COVID-19
Supporting one another can bring hope
(Adapted from article on www.unicef.org)
Being an adolescent or young person is difficult no matter what, and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is making it even harder. With schools closed and many events cancelled, adolescents and young people may feel that they are missing out on some of the biggest moments of their young lives — as well as everyday moments like meeting and spending time with friends.
For all those adolescents and young people facing life changes due to the outbreak and who are feeling anxious, isolated and disappointed, know this: you are not alone.
Here are 7 strategies to adapt in facing a new (temporary) normal.
1. Recognize that your anxiety is completely normal
If schools closing and watching the news are making you feel anxious, you are not the only one. In fact, that’s how you’re supposed to feel. For a long time, psychologists have recognized that anxiety is a normal and healthy part of our lives. It is what makes us alert to threats and helps us find ways to protect ourselves. What is important is that you recognize your anxiety and try to use it to keep yourself and others safe - washing your hands and not touching your face, not spending time with other people or in large groups, and social distancing. By being in control of your anxiety and your feelings, you can help to care for yourself and members of our community.
If you are worried that you are experiencing symptoms, it is important to speak to your parents or an adult that you trust. Keep in mind that illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. It’s also important to remember, that many of the symptoms of COVID-19 can be treated and this is a temporary situation - things will get better.
2. Create distractions
Psychologists recommend that when faced with a difficult condition or situation it’s very helpful to divide the problem into two categories; (1)things I can do something about, (2) things I can do nothing about. By doing this you can separate things that you have control over and things you don’t.
You can then create distractions for yourself, such as doing homework, reading a book/novel, watching a movie or series, doing some online or E-Learning, praying, drawing, dancing or singing - all these activities will help you to find balance in everyday life.
3. Find new ways to connect with your friends
If you want to spend time with friends while practicing social distancing, social media is a great way to connect. Get creative: Take part in social media challenges like #safehands on Tik-Tok, and find innovative ways to connect with others online. People around the world are even dancing together, or playing games online!
Be sure to limit your screen-time though, as having unlimited access to screens and social media is not healthy nor smart and may amplify your anxiety. It is also recommended to discuss a screen-time schedule with your parents or family.
4. Focus on yourself
Have you been wanting to learn how to do something new, start a new book or spend time practicing a musical instrument? Maybe you want to learn a new language or learn a new skill? Now is the time to do that. Focusing on yourself and finding ways to use your new-found time is a productive way to look after your mental health. Make use of the opportunity to make a list of all of those things and see how your progress goes.
5. Feel your feelings
Missing out on events with friends, hobbies, or sports matches is incredibly disappointing. The best way to deal with this disappointment? Let yourself feel it. When it comes to having a painful feeling, the only way out is through. Go ahead and be sad, and if you can let yourself be sad, you’ll start to feel better faster.
Make art, talk to your friends and use their shared sadness as a way to feel connected. Others may revert to humor - whatever works best for you. But most importantly do what feels right for you when processing your feelings.
6. Be kind to yourself and others
For adolescents or young people facing bullying and abuse in school, as well as in the community due to coronavirus, please know that you are not expected to confront bullies but rather encouraged to turn to your friends or adults for help and support.
If you witness a friend being bullied, reach out to them and try to offer support. Doing nothing can leave the person feeling that everyone is against them or that nobody cares. Your words can make a difference. And remember, now more than ever we need to be thoughtful about what we share or say that may hurt others. Many people may be fighting a battle you know nothing about - always remember to be kind and treat others like you would like to be treated.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
As adolescents and young people, you may be hesitant to reach out to others and ask for help. You are not alone. Part of dealing with difficult times is finding people who you can trust to be there and support you along the way. It could be your family, a good friend, a teacher, or a neighbour. Whoever it is, it is important to be able to trust others and reach out when you need it most - they will most likely also reach out for your support when they need it.