How to Care for Teenagers Mental Health During the COVID-19 Quarantine Period
A different kind of “School Holiday” is here, and slightly earlier & unplanned this time round. Ordinarily, it would mean longer sleeping hours, a rest from heavy backpacks, hanging out with friends and, simply, fun! But this is a different kind of “holiday” – it comes with a new twist and a name – Quarantine!
You are probably experiencing or hearing this for the first time, but it simply means you are grounded. However, it’s not your fault and there’s no call for punitive action. It is a responsible attempt to protect you from contracting the Corona Virus (Covid-19), the pandemic that is affecting people across the globe.
You have to stay at home. You can’t visit or host your friends. Most of your favorite outdoor activities are now out of the question and schools are closed indefinitely. Does it feel like a prison? Yes, it does.
If you are not constantly looking out for your mental wellness, you could end up in an emotional or mental breakdown due to the psychological torture during this quarantine period.
Here are some of the challenges you may experience along the way.
Anxiety: You have become apprehensive of how the situation will turn out and whether you or your loved ones will be diagnosed with the virus? You also have exams coming up later in the year yet everything seems uncertain. Will all this will affect your grades if at all you get to sit for your exams or will you have to re-sit your current class next year?
Fear for your loved ones: You are worried about the state of your loved ones; Family and friends who still have to report to work and run businesses, especially those living in areas which are reported to be highly affected by the virus. Will they catch the virus and maybe transmit it to you? Will you see them again when all this is over?
Lack of tutor/parental guidance: You are used to studying while being guided by your teachers. Your parents/guardians and elder siblings who could step in to fill the role of the tutor might still be physically reporting to work or are already working from home but very engrossed in their work.
Loneliness: Social distancing and the fear of catching the virus have you withdrawn as a survival instinct and this leads to feeling lonely.
Changes in eating/sleeping patterns: In the state of anxiety, you could end up binge-eating or entirely avoid sufficient food intake due to the loss of appetite. You may also develop sleeping disorders: difficulty in falling or staying asleep, fatigue and lack of concentration during the day.
Here are tips on how you can ensure you maintain maximum mental wellness throughout the quarantine period:
Seek adult explanation.
Looking for explanations across the media especially social media will leave you more confused. There’s a myriad of false information (Fake News) about Covid-19 and you may not be in a position to decipher the sources. Direct your questions to your parents/guardians or adults around you to help you with explanations or advice on sources with reliable information.
Develop a time table.
You can do this on your own or guided by your parents/guardians. Generally maintaining focus on a particular activity without the guidance of your teacher or parents/guardians may be challenging especially if you get easily distracted. There is a need to program yourself to maintain focus. Draw up a time table that works for you depending on your capabilities and exercise fidelity towards it.
Get help with your studies.
Make use of your textbooks and past exam papers to revise and read ahead. Many schools are currently mailing assignments to parents/guardians to engage their children and help them study in a guided and more focused manner. Confirm with your parents/guardians if your school has this arrangement. If not, there are apps and sites offering e-learning services that you and your parents/guardians can utilize for your daily assignments and revision.
Utilize sublimation, a psychological skill that requires you to train your mind to flip things on negative emotions or thoughts, as a coping mechanism during this time. The feelings you may have of anxiety, helplessness, and stress during the Covid-19 outbreak create negative energy within you.
However, you can direct this energy towards a positive outlet. Have you watched those movies where a bullied kid learns boxing, trains very hard, and goes ahead to be a champion? That, right there, is sublimation. Use the negative energy building inside you and flip it to work to your advantage. Work on your bodyweight exercises, callisthenic skills, musical skills, art skills, writing skills, etc.
Keep in Touch with your friends.
Human beings are naturally social creatures. Physical social distancing does not mean losing connections with your friends and family. Reach out to them via phone calls, chats, videos, etc, to check up on them and catch up.
Share with them your fears and experiences especially in areas where you feel the people around you can’t relate and there is a need to connect with someone you feel more comfortable with. Social distancing isn’t designed to deprive you of your connections/relationships but rather to keep you and your family safe from COVID-19.
Play Indoor Games.
That you can’t leave your house/compound doesn’t mean you should not have some fun. If you’ve gotten bored with the games you have at home, get creative and practice some DIY (Do It Yourself) tricks with household stuff that is no longer in use. You can also request your parents/guardians to buy new games either on their way back home or order from e-commerce platforms.
How about helping your younger siblings with making some toys? Collect those pieces of old clothing, bottles, beads or buttons and make them a truck, doll or ball. Come up with games you can play within your home environment. Consult the adults; they had fun back in the day just by being creative.
When the quarantine period is finally over (it shall come to pass) and everyone is celebrating, what will you have to celebrate? Stay focused and engaged. This will limit your distractions and prevent you from getting into trouble. Limit your screen time and avoid content that can easily trigger your anxiety and can even cause panic attacks. Eat healthily and get enough sleep.
Breaks are important. Take them.
Now that you don’t know how long you will stay in the house, don’t be on hard yourself. When your timetable allows for a break, do something that you enjoy. Listen to your favorite music, dance, watch a movie, cook, take a nap, exercise, etc. Get into fun activities around the house which bring you some positive energy.
This article has been written by Maurine Oriwa, a Psychologist at Hisia Psychology Consultants. Maurine is a trained cognitive-behavioral therapist (CBT) for Adolescents and Art & Play therapy for paediatrics. She focuses on building relationships between Adolescents & their parents/caregivers and taking parents through individualized and child-friendly parenting approaches.
To speak to Maurine or any other psychologist at Hisia Psychology Consultants about anxiety counseling, parenting counseling, children counseling, drug & substance abuse recovery, relationship counseling, family counseling, suicide prevention, grief support, and self-esteem therapy, kindly call +254 745 562 108 or fill in your contact details in the form below.