How has Covid-19 affected?

The last 2 months have been a challenge for everyone, but perhaps most of all for teenagers. Exams which you had been told would shape the rest of your life have been cancelled, plans you had to travel, socialise, go onto further study or work have been replaced by uncertainty. This is not only an anti-climax, but also a great loss. You can no longer meet your friends and have contact with them something which goes against natural instinct. You have been asked to be mature and make sensible decisions under great pressure. Many teenagers report feelings of grief, loss and sadness. Normal routines have been disturbed, boredom and lack of motivation may have set in. On top of this there are worries about the health of friends, family and yourself. You may have anxiety about exposure to germs and worry about returning to normal interaction as the lockdown restrictions are relaxed. I have heard a lot of people saying thay we are all in the same boat, but that is not true. This is something that affects every person on the planet, but we all have different boats – some strong and robust others small and flimsy. It is important to acknowledge that this experience affects everyone differently – we are not all in the same boat, but we are all in the same storm. Covid-19 had not been a completely negative experience either, for some it has given them the chance to connect with their family, give to others, learn a new skill or simply slow down.

Covid-19 and Loss

With the cancellation of GCSEs and A-levels many feel that their chance to demonstrate what they can do has been stolen. Exams are the focus throughout school life. These exams feel like the whole world and they have been snatched away. When we lose something our natural reaction is grief. An unexpected event or a loss makes us feel vulnerable and exposed, which may lead to a sense of failure, anxiety or despair. The things that we all took for granted have become uncertain. Grief is often experienced in stages – despair, denial, shock are usually the first emotions, followed by feelings of anger and sadness. You might recognise some of these feelings in yourself over the past few weeks. At first it may have felt like a relief not to have to take the exams, but as time passes you might wish you had been given the chance to show what you can do. Whether you are worried about the prospect of going to university, the opportunities to find a job or sad about cancellation of events that you were looking forward to it is natural to experience these feelings of grief. You may even be dealing with the death of someone you know. You may be feeling out of control and the reality is that this situation in many ways is beyond our control, however we can control how we respond to it. The future is relatively uncertain at the moment and this makes us feel out of control. This is made harder to cope with by the fact that we are separated from some of our natural support systems, friends, youth workers and teachers, the people we would usually turn to.

Signs you might be experiencing grief:

  • Difficulty focusing on normal tasks

  • Sleeping more or less than normal

  • Feelings of anger or irritability

  • Headache or stomach-ache

  • Re-experiencing past grief

  • Drinking or eating more

  • Avoiding talking

It’s ok to feel this way

Remember that no matter what the loss is your feelings are valid. At the moment it may seem really hard to care for yourself, but it is still important. Give yourself time and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be your usual self. With any loss it takes time to get used to the change. There are things you can do to help yourself to cope.

  • Reach out to family and friends, even though this has to be virtually in many cases

  • Try to eat healthily, rest and take exercise

  • Keep in a routine – teenagers naturally feel alert late at night, so it can be difficult to get to sleep, it can be tempting to stay in bed especially with no school to get up for. Spending too much time in doors means that you may be missing out on Vitamin D (also known as the sunshine vitamin). Teenagers need more Vitamin D than adults and lack of vitamin D has been shown to have a negative effect on mood. So it might be worth talking to a pharmacist or doctor about taking extra Vitamin D.

  • Have a go at meditation or relaxation exercises there are lots of Apps (such as Head Space and Insite Timer) that can help you get started

  • Keep a journal –  not only will it help you to relax, but it will be amazing to be able to look back on this experience in years to come

  • Get support –  you can call The Zone’s Youth Support Service in confidence (07936362908) speak to your doctor or get help online (you can find information at mindwell)

Boredom and lack of motivation

The restrictions imposed during the lockdown period mean that it is easy to become bored. In reality many of the ways we would usually be occupied are unavailable. However some teenagers have found that helping others is a really good way to help yourself. When we do something for someone else it makes us feel good because of the release of natural chemicals called Endorphins. Endorphins are produced naturally by the body to relieve pain and cause feelings of happiness. They are released when we laugh, exercise or do something for others. When we feel good we are able to concentrate more and feel more motivated. This can also be a time to learn a new skill and there are many opportunities.

  • Learn a language. There are many Apps Available such as Memrise and Duolingo.

  • Learn to cook. Have a look for the How to cook everything App.

  • Learn to  Dance. You can even learn with the Strictly professionals!

  • Learn to draw.  Check out Draw Space.

  • Learn about photography. Look at Udemy for free tuition.

  • Learn to Code. Udemy again.

  • Learn to do makeup. There are literally hundreds of tutorials on YouTube. 

  • Learn about Arts and Crafts. YouTube and Pinterest are great sources of ideas. 

This is a time when tension may be high at home and for some it is difficult to be in lockdown with family members. However for others this has been a chance to connect with family and support each other.

What will the new normal be like?

The government has just begun to ease the restrictions we have been living with over the past few weeks. You might be looking forward to the time  when you can resume normal life, but for many of us the thought of coming out of lockdown causes some feelings of anxiety. AnxietyUK conducted a survey in which they found that 67% of the people asked experienced increased feelings of anxiety when they thought about the end of lockdown. You may have concerns about going back to school,  college or university. Will I be safe? Will I still fit in with my friends? Things have been strange for the last few months and it looks like there will be a lot of changes still to come. It is natural to feel nervous and have concerns about safety. If we feel threatened or unsafe our bodies respond by making us feel panicky (this is also known as fight or flight). There are ways that you can control this feeling.

  • Give yourself time to adjust and take small steps to begin with.

  • Remember you can stay safe by observing social distancing rules, washing your hands regularly for 20 seconds.

  • Prepare for going out by practicing relaxation, breathing techniques and visualising yourself out and about before you go so that your brain can get ready for the experience.

  •  Talk to friends, family, youth leaders and support workers.

  • Reduce the amount of caffeine that you have and avoid substances such as alcohol and cannabis, as they may increase feelings of anxiety and can have a negative impact on mental health.

You may find that you have become more concerned about germs. Of course it is sensible to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, but of you are finding that this is affecting your day to day life, making your hands sore or causing you to avoid certain situations then it is important to talk to someone you trust about it. Here are some stratergies to help you cope.

  • Limit your exposure to information about Covid-19.

  • Do things that you know help you to feel calmer.

  • Distract yourself with things that you enjoy doing.

  • Try to stick to a daily routine.

  • Ask for help from your GP or someone you trust.

This is a challenging time and those challenges are different for everyone, but we will get through this and we will be stronger in the end.

Hypnotherapy is suitable for children and young people over the age of 8 years. If you would like more information about how hypnotherapy can help you to feel calmer you can call me on 07769892376.


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