Student mental health has been very prominent since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Recently, I’ve felt like my hope has worn thin and any optimism that I had before the pandemic has whittled away into nothing but stress. The recent COVID-19 outbreak has sparked a global contagion effect that is bound to impact more than just our health: the economy, our education, our employment, our whole lives are at risk of being completely turned upside down. How can we, as individuals, possibly respond to this massive existential threat with resilience and hope? For many, it seems as if the small handfuls of faith we were holding onto have run out. News companies are churning out morbid articles every day; telling of the millions that have lost their jobs, the stories of those that have passed, and sobering statistics that look like they’re out of a science fiction movie. While everyone is struggling, teenagers seem to be trapped in the middle – too young to have to worry about keeping a job or paying rent, yet old enough to understand the scary magnitude of this global crisis and have their lives completely disrupted. So, how are teenagers supposed to manage their mental health during this pandemic?
First, it’s important to acknowledge that there is no right way to be feeling right now. Any emotion – anger, sadness, fear, hope, optimism – is valid. Every person responds to trauma and catastrophe differently, so don’t feel like you have to be feeling a certain way.
Second, it is important to remember to reward yourself for small successes. It’s hard to feel motivated enough to get up and start your day in the middle of this crisis. For many, it’s already hard enough to get ready for your 8 am class on a regular day. So, even if you don’t finish all the work you needed to, give yourself some credit: did you stay calm all day? Did you check in with your loved ones? Did you wash your hands? No matter how trivial those acts may seem, they are truly important and deserve recognition.
Third, nurturing yourself and taking care of your well-being does not mean staying completely isolated and trying to figure things out yourself. Reach out for help. Take your time. Make space for your own feeling and thoughts. Just because we are physically isolated does not mean that you have to be mentally isolated, too. As much as you hate to admit it, your parents and teachers really are there to help.
Survival during times like this is hard, to say the least. For some, it may not feel like you are having to ‘recover’ from anything at all. Nevertheless, everyone is adjusting and it is crucial to remember that recovery is not linear. There will be bad days, good days, and in-between days. There will be days where it feels too hard to even turn on your phone because the news is too disheartening. Unplug. Limit your exposure to the media. Life will go on. There will be days where the work you have to do feels like too much; online school is already hard as it is. So, meet yourself where you are and take your time. You are not alone.