COVID-19 and Teenage Mental Health

As quarantine-based procedures continue to remain in place in this novel situation engendered by COVID-19, questions regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of teenagers have become increasingly prevalent. Decreased social opportunity, increased cell phone use, and the introduction of new uncertainties regarding extracurricular programs and activities have been instrumental in an overall reduction of teenage mental health. These have been further reinforced by COVID-19 induced anxieties, as many teenagers have developed a severe fear of contracting such a disease and feel a sense of being overwhelmed. However, several practices and activities may serve to mitigate these problems and aid in restoring the mental health of teenagers, and ultimately prepare them for the aftermath of this predicament. While potential extracurricular opportunities in this unprecedented era have been addressed in a prior article, this article seeks to provide opportunities for relaxation and enjoyment, with a goal of providing activities and lifestyle changes to further help teens through their potential psychological struggles.

Writing in a Diary/Journal

Recently, teenagers have experienced obstacles to both their physical and mental well-being, especially due to COVID. However, these teenagers may feel uncomfortable voicing these emotions with close friends or family. While it’s important to voice one’s difficulties, especially to those closest to one, a journal or diary may provide an alternative to allow teens to express their newfound emotions or troubles without the aid of another person, and can eventually give teenagers a sense of emotional relief. Furthermore, journal writing allows for self-reflection through viewing previous entries, which can provide a way to self-monitor one’s mental state. This, in addition to the organization of thoughts that journal writing can provide, makes diary/journal writing a viable option to assuage any mental health concerns developed by teens.

Developing an Exercise Routine

Although many locations for exercise, including local gyms, are closed due to quarantine-associated preventative measures, a regular exercise routine can still be performed on a regular basis within the walls of one’s own home. While frequent exercise provides a great deal of health-related benefits, as expected, it can also provide mental assistance through releasing endorphins, which provides a much-needed energy boost and emotional relief. In addition, exercise can clear any stress and provide a “meditative” experience, in which one can plan for their day, or simply relax and enjoy the benefits of adopting a more healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, given both the current conditions and the closure of several schools during the summer, teenagers have been gifted with an increased amount of leisure time. Doing something productive during this time, such as exercise, will enforce disciplined habits which will be a definite asset both currently and in the foreseeable future, regardless of the conditions. For these reasons, exercise is a strong recommendation to assuage the psychological problems of teens.

Adopting a Regular Sleep Schedule

While the urge to spend long hours texting, playing video games, or binge-watching a favorite TV series may be overpowering at some times, getting to bed early (or somewhat early, at least) and at a consistent time can further provide positive boons to the mental health of teenagers. These benefits include the reduction of irritability and drowsiness, which can further provide psychological benefits, especially when performed in conjunction with the activities previously mentioned. Furthermore, a lack of a consistent sleep schedule can lead to increased anxiety through chronic sleep deprivation, which when instigated in conjunction with COVID, can prove detrimental to young teenagers especially. However, regular sleep at appropriate hours can help reduce these effects greatly. Given these benefits, the question of how to implement such a schedule in one’s daily life becomes increasingly pertinent. To answer this question, waking up at an appropriate time depends much more on what occurs the night before. Sleep is reliant on a circadian rhythm, in which light is a factor in determining sleep time. Therefore, telecommunication and entertainment devices, like cell phones and gaming consoles should not be used 30 minutes before one’s goal bedtime. Instead, a relaxing chapter of a book may be more suited to fix a sleep schedule and allow for mental benefits as a result.

Enjoying a Balanced Diet

While often overlooked due to time constraints or additional factors, a balanced diet is essential to allow for optimal emotional well-being. This is because the use of a balanced diet can result in more energy and improved cognitive ability, both of which can improve the mental state of teenagers. Proper caloric intake and the obtainment of necessary nutritional resources facilitated by a balanced, healthy diet can lead to positive effects both mentally and physically, through decreased health risks and increased confidence. With these benefits, one can experience newfound energy which can be used in a productive manner. To implement a healthy diet, it’s important to stay hydrated, as drinking anywhere from 11-16 cups of water (not soda) is typically recommended. Limiting processed food can also allow for a better diet, and may help one learn a new skill of cooking! However, it’s OK to enjoy a sweet snack or even many sweet snacks occasionally, so long as one feels good and stays consistent with acquiring key nutrients, like calcium and protein, on a regular basis.

The mental health of teenagers, despite a declining trend as a result of COVID-19, remains paramount locally, nationally, and globally. Due to this, it is important that current teenagers do their best, in collaboration with trusted relatives and friends to stay mentally and physically healthy. This can be done by considering the tips above, and by talking to a trusted adult or advisor as needed. Hopefully, these guidelines can offer some meaningful advice for yourself or perhaps for a loved one or close friend. Although the current situation worldwide may seem bleak and overwhelming, a return to more mirthful days is on the horizon.

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