For many young people, the past nine months have been the most frightening, confusing, lonely, frustrating, sad, anxious and disappointing of their lives. Sure, the vaccine means there is finally an end in sight, and you can look forward with hope, but it’s hard not to think about all of the things (and maybe even people) you will never get back. For some of you, it’s still challenging to face each day, and to manage school and responsibilities as effectively as you did back in the Before Times. It can be even more difficult when the message you’re hearing from those around you is that you should be used to the situation by now, and you should just get on with life in this “new normal.”
If you’re still struggling your way through this pandemic, or if you’re feeling guilty, weak, or immature because you just can’t seem to be okay, even when friends and family are adjusting and moving on, you’re not alone. Plenty of people of all ages and all walks of life aren’t okay right now, and may not be for some time to come…and that’s, well…okay.
There’s never been a situation quite like this in modern history (the Spanish Flu pandemic was horrific, but even the kids who lived through that weren’t trying to attend school via a computer screen), and that means there’s no “right” way to deal with what’s happening. If navigating life in these truly insane times doesn’t seem to be getting any easier, give yourself a break. Instead of judging, do what you can to take care of yourself.
Talk to people. If you don’t have anyone you can trust or feel comfortable talking to, reach out to an organization that will connect you with someone who can listen, either “in person” or via email or text. ActiveMinds, a nonprofit focused on action and student advocacy in mental health, is doing amazing work and has great resources for self-care during the COVID pandemic. They also have a list of helplines where you can talk to a trained volunteer counselor through secure online platforms.
If you’re experiencing significant depression, anxiety, changes in your eating or sleeping habits, or thoughts of harming yourself, get help right away. If it feels safe, tell a family member, friend, teacher, or physician that you are in crisis. If you are in imminent danger, don’t hesitate to dial 911.
To help yourself through dark days, write down your feelings, or express them creatively. Sometimes, just getting difficult feelings out of your head and heart and out into the world can diminish their power and make it easier to get through the day.
Remember that you won’t always feel like this. You are not your feelings. This is just the way things at this particular moment, or this particular day. Everything passes.
This is all too much for any of us to handle alone. It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to have bad days. It’s okay not to be okay.
The folks at ActiveMinds have even made a video about it. It’s worth a watch, especially on those really tough days when you need a reminder that you’re not alone.