Hi, I’m Jessie and I’d like to talk to you about something which is really important, especially for people our age right now: mental health.
I’m sure many of you are feeling or at least have felt pretty down over the course of our current lockdown. One of the best things about the summer lockdown was being able to go for walks, but now? Well, I don’t know about you but the weather’s so miserable I’m not really inspired to go get some fresh air. In summer there was also the assumption that we’d all be back to normal by September, but now no one is willing to take a guess at how long Covid will be around.
So, with one thing and another, it’s easy to slip into the repetitiveness of getting up, sitting through Google Meets, doing homework, and going to bed, without thinking about our mental health. In fact, you may not realise how much the lack of human contact and (let’s face it) mostly boring online lessons is getting to you. However, it’s not all bad, and there are plenty of ways you can look after yourself throughout lockdown.
One of the best things you can do is break up the monotony of your day by keeping schoolwork and downtime separate. I always try to go downstairs during break and lunch, to give myself a change of scene and make sure I take advantage of the time off by relaxing. I also try to do my schoolwork in the same place, for me this is a desk in my room, for you it might be the kitchen table or a spare room. Of course, there’s no harm in working somewhere different now and again, but the main thing is keeping the places you relax and the places you work separate. It’s really easy to let the lines between work and rest blur, especially after school hours or when you’re not in a call. At first this may seem great, and for many people it’s instinctive to not work as hard – take more breaks, get caught up on Instagram – and make up for it by working longer to get everything done. However eventually, this makes it feel like you’re getting no real time off, just snatching bits and pieces throughout the day, but you’re also not getting as much done. This is exhausting and disheartening, and it can be a hard habit to break, but keeping work and rest as separate as possible will definitely help.
I’m sure many of you are struggling to keep up with hobbies you had before lockdown. I used to do a lot of ballet, but now I only have one online class a week and I can tell it’s affecting my mental health, especially my stress levels. Now, I’m sure you’ve been given this advice a lot, and I know it’s easy to write it off, but it is genuinely a good idea to try to find a new hobby. There are plenty of common suggestions, like watercolour or learning a new language, although if you’re taking French, German, and Spanish like I did, that last one may sound more depressing than uplifting. However, there’s a wealth of things you can try out, and I’d recommend doing some research into ideas. I’d suggest something which makes it hard to multitask, especially if it makes it hard to be on a screen. Reading is a good option, but it can be hard to stay focussed, especially if you’re worried about schoolwork. Cooking or baking is another good option: it’s physical and enjoyable, and it’s hard to go on your phone if your hands are covered in cake mix, but starting a recipe can be quite the commitment and take a while, so it may be more of a weekend hobby.
Many of us are feeling disconnected from our friends, after all Zoom calls definitely aren’t as good as being in a classroom together, never mind that we’re missing break and lunchtimes when we’d normally be chatting. However, the wonders of technology can bring us together outside of lessons too. If you don’t have one already, it’s a great idea to make a group chat for your friends, preferably through something mobile and widespread like WhatsApp. At this point, many of us haven’t actually seen our friends’ faces for six weeks, especially if you’re in a class where no one uses their camera. However, fear not! I promise not to tell you to turn your camera on if you don’t want to. Instead, an app like WhatsApp that lets you do group video calls is excellent. You can see your friends’ faces without the setting of an online lesson and bring back the feeling you had during breaks at school. After all, a text or phone call just doesn’t give the same human connection. You could try to organise a time for your call each week, or just give the group a call in your free time and see who answers.
My next good way of staying in touch, and even meeting new people (in a very socially distanced and responsible way) is a bit of an unusual one, but it’s helped me and I’m sure it’ll help many of you. Video games! Video games are amazing while we can’t see our friends, as they allow you to communicate and work with other people to accomplish something, be it winning a match or building a base. Just like any other hobby, gaming is a skill which is gratifying to improve and can give you a sense of accomplishment. Of course it’s important to come away from screens, but don’t ignore online hobbies completely.
So that’s it! Mental health is more important than ever now that we’re back in lockdown, and hopefully these tips will help you keep on top of it.
Nb. This article was originally written for LAMDA and Mrs Pears suggested it as an article for Social Media, such was the quality. The links were added later and – needless to say – Jessie was given a Head’s Commendation for her work.