The pandemic has changed the way we live and interact. For teens, it’s impacted everything from schooling to socialising with friends. If you’ve felt stressed, know that you are not alone – there’s support available. To help you cope with stress during these challenging times, here are our top 10 tips.

Accept and tolerate uncertainty

In these times of uncertainty, it is understandable to feel stressed about the changes to the way we live in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  You might be worried about studying alone, a disruption to your daily routines, or feel isolated from the world.  Feelings of anxiety and stress arise when we feel helpless or like the future is out of our control, and right now, this is completely normal.  Try to practice tolerating uncertainty in your daily life.  For example, choose a random Netflix show without knowing anything about it.  Ask yourself, if things turned out okay, and if not, what happened?  What did I do to cope?  Even if things don’t go to plan, you still have the skills and strength to deal with them.

Exercise and stay active

Exercise is a great way to destress, improve mood, and boost energy. It is not only an important part of maintaining our physical health, but also our mental and emotional health. Aim to get 30 minutes of exercise in each day. Be creative! You might choose to go for a walk one day, do a yoga or Pilates class on YouTube, or find a free class online. Many gyms are offering free live streams during this time (see https://mindbody.io for some options).

Practice mindfulness, relaxation or meditation

Stay in the present moment and remember you are not your thoughts!  When we are stressed, we often find ourselves getting caught up in negative stories about ourselves, others or the world around us.  This is not only unhelpful, but causes us to feel more stressed!  Remember to notice difficult thoughts and feelings and practice letting go.  You can try this by refocusing your attention on a hobby, exercise, or a 5-minute breathing meditation. 

Eat & sleep well

It can sound simple, but sometimes coming back to the basics is the most important step we can take to looking after ourselves. Focus on having regular, nutritious and healthy meals that include a range of food groups. To maintain energy levels throughout the day while studying and working at home, trial having a small, nutritious snack at mid-morning and mid-afternoon. In terms of sleep, you may find your sleep cycle has shifted and changed given you are not set to the usual routines of getting up earlier for school. Try and keep to a regular sleep and wake time by setting an alarm to ensure your sleep cycle doesn’t get too confused. 

Reward yourself

Staying focused on your studies is so difficult with so many distractions and temptations at home.  Work out a reward system that helps acknowledge the hard work you’ve put in for the day.  After each hour of study, reward yourself with a call to your friends, an online game, cooking your favourite meal, or watching your favourite TV show.  Not only does this make you feel good, you have also deserved it!

Reduce screen time

Although screens might seem like our best friends at the moment – and they are certainly a great resource to support our study, work, interests, and social lives – we all know that too much screen time is not good for us. It can interrupt our sleep-wake cycle, distract us from what we need to get done, and isolate us from our loved ones. Obviously, we will be spending more time on our screens at the moment, as it is a good way to keep socially connected, but just make sure you monitor it. Take note of how often you’re on your phone, tablet, or computer and make sure you are scheduling time for “screen free” time.

Stay socially and emotionally connected

Make contact with a friend and family member every day.  Talking to someone can make you feel less alone even if there is no easy solution.  Choose someone you can trust about the best way to deal with an issue by working out what to say, selecting a time that is right, and reaching out.  Realising that other people are going through the same thing can help us feel validated and normalise our emotions.  It’s also important to have downtime with friends by making a call, text, and utilising other platforms such as Zoom and WhatsApp.

Create healthy routines and structure

Given you are studying from home, there is much more flexibility to your school day. Although this can sound appealing, it is important to ensure you maintain some sense of structure and routine to your day so that you complete everything you need to get done and support your mental health. Set an alarm in the mornings, have a shower, and choose a time for starting your schoolwork. Ensure there are regular breaks scheduled in as well. Perhaps choose a similar time to if you were at school, to take your recess and lunch break. Make sure you also schedule in regular “brain breaks”, working for approximately 25 minutes and then taking a short 5 min break to visit the bathroom, get a drink, or stretch your legs.

Set a goal

Goal-setting is another way to reduce stress and improve how you feel.  Most of us know what it’s like to feel anxious about an upcoming exam or assignment.  We can worry about it in our minds and it can affect our ability to sleep, eat, and relax.  Take back some control by setting a goal and breaking this down into more manageable ‘chunks.’  That way, a big stress can suddenly feel more controllable!

Seek support

If you feel overwhelmed during these times, even with putting these self-care strategies in place, make sure you reach out to a professional for a chat. Below are some great options for speaking to someone online or via the phone while self-isolating. Remember, you are not alone!

  • Lifeline (13 11 14) has 24/7 phone and online support.
  • Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) has 24/7 phone and online support for young people aged 5 to 25.
  • headspace has free online and phone support for young people aged 12 to 25.
  • Online forums, like the ReachOut Forums, are a great way to anonymously connect with others.
  • If you can’t get a face-to-face appointment, you could ask your health professional if you can have a session over FaceTime/Skype/Zoom.

If you’re feeling stressed due to COVID-19 or are experiencing mental health concerns, please reach out. At Bayside Family Medical, we have a team of psychologists available to offer support via our telehealth service. You can find more information on our website.