It’s the start of term two, and things are pretty hectic at the moment.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives. We’re socialising differently, learning differently and relaxing differently. Everyone copes with changes in their lives differently; it’s normal to feel stressed or frightened, but it’s important to keep supporting yourself the best you can, and find ways to cope with our new normal.
We asked headspace Dandenong and Narre Warren to answer our questions about how best to support our mental health, and asked young people how they have been looking out for themselves recently.
What recommendations does headspace have for dealing with stress/anxiety around COVID-19?
headspace has created an awesome guide for dealing with stress and anxiety about COVID-19 (you can find it here). They recommend that you:
- take breaks from the 24-hour news cycle
- do things that make you feel physically and emotionally safe
- spend time with people who are helpful to your wellbeing
- engage in activities that promote a sense of calm
- talk with a trusted adult when things feel overwhelming.
You might also find that you’re having trouble staying focused, like one of the students we spoke to:
Recently I have found it hard to stay focused on my studies and not be drawn away by phones or just chilling and having no priorities.
I have been using apps such as Forest to lock my phone for a certain amount of time and have bursts of productiveness and then chill out time.
~ Michael, year 12
What are some of the best things we can do for ourselves at the moment?
There are still a variety of things we young people can be doing to support our health, even for those of us in isolation. headspace recommends their guide ‘7 tips to a healthy headspace’ and to apply these tips in our lives in a way that complies with current restrictions, and is comfortable to you.
They also recommend taking breaks from being online, and moderating time spent on social media and news apps. Charging devices outside the bedroom, making apps less appealing and taking a temporary break from your accounts are some of the strategies they suggest.
Young people we spoke to have experimented and found strategies that suit them, such as taking plenty of small breaks, writing daily to-do lists and relaxing with video games.
Olivia, year 11, has been making time to check in with her mental wellbeing:
I have been making time for myself to check in with myself, either by reading or going for a walk. I’m making sure I try to eat healthy and get some exercise in everyday to make sure my mental health is ok.
What steps can adults take now to empower young people?
There’s a lot of information around and it can be confusing to sort through. It’s important to talk to young people about what is going on and taking time to listen to their views and opinions. headspace recommends this resource from ReachOut, and for a younger audience UNICEF Australia has a great resource about starting a conversation.
What are some of the best people and places young people can reach out to for further support and information?
Many of the organisations that support young people are now operating in an online format (and in some cases in-person) and have increased their services to meet a growing need. headspace recommends young people reach out to organisations that provide free online or telephone support, such as Lifeline (13 11 14) and Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), as well as their own service, eheadspace.
At the moment, there are some headspace centres are offering in-person and remote support, while others are running online/telephone only. It’s a good idea to ring your local headspace centre to find out what is on offer. headspace national is running digital services, to help young people connect online in a safe space. More information about headspace national services can be found here.
Beyond Blue has recently created a dedicated mental wellbeing support website for the coronavirus, and have set up a dedicated hotline (1800 512 348).
headspace also recommends making sure you use reputable news sources for information related to the coronavirus. The Department of Health and Humans Services’ website has daily updates from the Chief Health Officer, and VicHealth has hygiene tips and up-to-date information.
Many of the students we spoke to have found reaching out to friends and extended relatives over the phone or through video-call apps such as zoom a great way to stay connected and deal with being in the same space with the same people all the time.
During this tough time my family and cousins have been the biggest support as they keep my day fun, call me, set challenges for each other, and play online games together.
~ Sonany, Year 10
Young people have also recommended apps like ‘Balance’ for meditation and ‘Elevate’, which provides daily activities to promote mental wellbeing.
It can be hard to stay calm and not get overwhelmed, even when things are going well. But with the right strategies and supports, you can maintain your mental wellbeing, even in tough times.
Got any tips we haven’t covered? Let us know in the comments or head to the Student Forums!