Being a teenager is not easy, and the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can make it even more difficult. With schools closed and events cancelled, many teens miss out on some of the big moments of their lives — as well as everyday moments like chatting with friends and participating in class.
For teenagers who have experienced the changes in their lives due to the epidemic and then feel anxious, isolated, and disappointed by it, know: you are not alone. We spoke with Dr. Lisa Damour, a teen psychologist, best-selling author and monthly New York Times columnist, talks about things you can do to practice self-care and take care of your mental health.
1. Realize that your anxiety is normal
If school closures and worrying headlines in the media make you feel anxious, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s something you should feel.
“Psychologists have long recognized that anxiety is a normal, healthy function that can alert us to threats, and help us take action to protect ourselves,” says Dr. Damour. “Your anxiety will help you make decisions that you have to make right now, such as not spending time with other people or in large groups, washing your hands and not touching your face.” These feelings help not only to take care of yourself, but also others. This is what reflects “how we take care of community members. We also think about the people around us, you know.”
Feeling anxious about COVID-19 is perfectly understandable, but make sure that you “use a trusted source (such as the UNICEF or WHO website) when looking for information, or double-check the information you get if it comes from less reliable channels. reliability,” advises Dr. Damour.
If you think you are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19, talk to your parents immediately. “Remember that illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially in children and young adults,” said Dr. Damour. It’s also important to remember that many of the symptoms of COVID-19 are treatable. She advises telling a parent or trusted adult if you feel unwell or are worried about the virus, so they can help.
And remember: “There are many effective things we can do to keep ourselves and others safe and feel more in control of our circumstances: Wash our hands often, don’t touch our faces, and practice social distancing.”
2. Look for redirects
“According to psychologists, when we are in a very difficult situation, it can be helpful to break down problems into two categories: Things we can control, and things we can’t control,” says Dr. Damour.
Right now there are a lot of things that fall into the second category, and that’s okay. But one thing that can help us deal with the situation is to find a diversion for ourselves. Doing homework, watching a favorite movie, or reading a novel before going to bed are things that Dr. Damour to find an outlet and find balance in everyday life.
3. Find new ways to communicate with your friends
If you want to socialize with friends in the midst of social distancing conditions, social media is a great solution for communicating. Channel your creativity: Take part in Tik-Tok challenges such as #safehands, #at home, and others. “I would never underestimate the creativity of teenagers,” says Dr. Damour, “I think teens will find ways to [connect] with each other online in a way that has never been done before.”
“[But] having unrestricted access to screens or social media is not a good thing. That’s unhealthy and unintelligent, and can even increase your anxiety,” says Dr. Damour, who recommends that you discuss with your parents a schedule for screen time (time you spend in front of the television/gadget) for you.
4. Focus on yourself
Have you ever intended to learn something new, read a new book, or learn how to play a certain musical instrument? Now is the time to implement it. Focusing on yourself and finding ways to make the most of the extra time you get is a productive way to take care of your health. “I myself have made a list of the books I want to read and the things I’ve always wanted to do,” said Dr. Damour.
5. Dive into your feelings
Missing out on events with friends, hobbies, or sporting events is very disappointing. “This is a massive and upsetting loss, and it’s natural for teens to feel,” said Dr. Damour. The best way to deal with this disappointment? Let yourself feel this disappointment. “When it comes to experiencing painful feelings, the only way out is to work through them. Go on with your life and if you feel sad, dive into your feelings. If you can allow yourself to feel sad, the sooner you’ll feel better.”
Everyone has a different way of processing feelings. “Some children will express their feelings by creating art, some children choose to talk to their friends and use shared sadness as a way to feel connected in situations where they can’t physically meet, while some children choose to find ways to to donate food,” said Dr. Damour. What matters is that you do what feels right to you.
6. Be kind to yourself and others
Some teens are experiencing bullying and harassment at school because of the coronavirus. “Being an active bystander (defender) is the best way to deal with any kind of bullying,” says Dr. Damour. “Children and youth who are the target of bullying should not be asked to confront the bullies head-on. Instead, we should encourage them to seek help and support from friends or adults.
If you see your friend being bullied, approach them and offer support. Doing nothing can make your friend feel that no one cares about her. Your words can make a difference.
And remember: Now, than ever before, is the most important time for us to be wiser in deciding what we will share or say to others.