The COVID-19 virus struck in March of this year causing many changes to everyday life including mental health struggles for many. Although not talked about very much, mental health affects people every day in different ways. Huge changes such as those brought on by COVID can affect it negatively.
“When we are in a good place with our mental health, we are able to balance all the expectations and challenges in our lives. We do not feel overwhelmed, tearful, anxious, or sad constantly,” explains Ms. Jayshree Panchal, LCHS counselor. When someone is in a good state of mental health he becomes happier more easily.
Although challenges may come at teens, they should be able to deal with them in a healthy way; not panicking and fearing them. COVID has changed how students are handling challenges which are apparent when students seem like they are uninterested, undetermined, and unmotivated in classes when in reality it is them dealing with the stress of everything around them negatively.
This lack of handling of stress looks different depending on the person. If someone is in a bad state of mental health, a small challenge could take a big toll on them leaving it harder for them to accomplish a task.
Many teens during these times have been struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation. “I have seen an increase in symptom severity in a number of patients who already had a diagnosis of depression and anxiety.” expressed Mrs. Maggie Classen, a licensed clinical social worker at Antioch Group in Peoria.
COVID has made it harder for teens to reach out to others which is an important part of development Classen explained. This is part of what could lead teens to feel isolated. The unknown of COVID and what could happen along with all the changes could be giving teens a negative view of the situation leading to feelings of depression and anxiety.
Students can start to become overwhelmingly sad and anxious. This can make it hard for students to focus on school work and adjust to the many changes created by COVID in an appropriate way which can be displayed as lack of motivation, the student feeling isolated and alone, increased sadness and/or anxiety, and an increase in negative behavior.
During these times anxiety and depression have become a big struggle for most teens, yet that is not the only thing teens are struggling with. “I am also seeing an increase in patients who would otherwise never feel the need to seek therapy, but are doing so now because of increased negative feelings. I would diagnose these folks with an adjustment disorder (which essentially means, if not for this situation, they would not be having symptoms of anxiety or depression),” explained Classen.
Due to COVID it could be hard for teens to adjust which can lead to negative feelings. Even though anxiety and depression are big struggles alone, situations such as living during a pandemic can increase the negative feelings one is having leading to trouble with mental health.
Classen provides five tips for teens to keep in mind regarding their mental health.
The first tip is to create a schedule. “Create a schedule for yourself (especially if you are doing e-learning). Try to have a study/workspace that is separate from where you relax,” stated Classen. Using a student planner or reminders on your phone can help with keeping a schedule and staying organized. During all this time of uncertainty having something reliable can be helpful to many teens, especially ones dealing with anxiety or adjustment disorder.
The second tip is activity. “Get 25 minutes of increased heart rate every day,” said Classen. Even 25 minutes of increased heart rate a day can help with your mental health and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Working out can give the mind a distraction from all the craze that is happening in the world today. It is also proven that working out can help improve one’s mood.
The third tip is to sleep. “Make sure you are getting enough sleep (lack of good sleep increases depression and anxiety symptoms,” shared Classen. Teens should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep a night which can help improve someone’s mood for the next day and give them a clearer mind. It could also help to improve motivation due to the chances of being less tired.
The fourth tip is self-reward. “Provide yourself with small rewards throughout the day as you accomplish things,” Classen said. This can give students something else to focus on besides all the things they are stressed about. It can also give one more motivation to accomplish tasks throughout the day. Building a list of small accomplishments throughout the day can contribute to a more positive outlook while reducing stress. Small rewards like allowing oneself to watch an episode of a show, listening to music, or even allowing a short break are examples students could try.
The fifth tip Classen shared is reaching out. “Reach out to people. This is the most important. Make a list of people you can reach out to – call, text, write a letter) See if you can make a plan (take a walk together, watch a show at the same time and discuss after it is over).” explained Classen. Reaching out for help when needed is very important when dealing with mental health. Some students may be too scared to ask for help or may not know who to ask for help. Reaching out for help could include a trusted adult, teacher, counselor, or family, but it may also include contacting a hotline. Hotlines are available 24/7. Some hotlines can be reached with a phone call, others may offer a texting option.
Mental health is not something that people should feel like they have to hide and keep a secret. Students need to remember, especially in these times, that it is okay to not always feel or act like themselves, or even go through a rough patch.
Although the COVID virus has brought a lot of changes this year making everyday life very different, it is something that needs to be talked about more and brought more awareness.
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