10 tips for supporting teen mental health during coronavirus outbreak

Dr Nihara Krause offers some simple tips for teenagers to follow during self-isolation

Dr Nihara Krause, a consultant clinical psychologist, says many teenagers – who are now isolated from their friends and older family members – may experience feelings of anxiety about the coronavirus outbreak.

Some may have trouble adjusting to the new routine of working from home and miss the structure of a school day to help them maintain focus.

But Dr Krause, who is chief executive of a teenage mental health charity stem4, is encouraging teenagers to confront their anxiety rather than the discomfort created by it.

Here are 10 tips for those teenagers experiencing anxiety about the pandemic:

  1. Focus on the facts rather than on any ‘catastrophic’ thoughts.
  2. Minimise what you watch on the news and what you read on social media.
  3. Remember that news needs to be repeated so everyone can access it, but repetition can make someone on the receiving end feel overwhelmed. Watch the news once a day when you feel ready to.
  4. Understand the ways to effectively reduce risk, for example by practising the proper handwashing technique with soap and water.
  5. But, aim for a balance in safety behaviours – don’t over-do things. By properly self-isolating, you minimise the risk to yourself and others and reduce the amount of safety precautions you need to take.
  6. Try to get adequate rest. This might be by listening to your favourite playlist or playing with a pet to help you wind down at the end of the day. Sleep is important for maintaining positive mental health.
  7. Use the ‘Take Five’ technique when you feel physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heart. Stretch out your hand and trace your thumb with a finger from the other hand. Breathe in as you move upwards and breathe out as you move downwards on the inner side of your thumb. Repeat for each finger.
  8. Make a list of fun things that you could do, ensuring some of them include things you can do on your own – in case you take a break from others. Examples include playing a board game, gardening, baking, creating your own quiz, arranging your photos in albums or making a storyboard.
  9. Eat well and regularly. We use more energy when we are anxious.
  10. Note down potential triggers (for example, being bored) and make sure that you have a list of things you can do to protect yourself.
  11. Remember, parents get anxious too but that doesn’t mean the world is unsafe – it just means that they may need to read and apply some of these tips too!

 

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