Guest blogger: Dania Allen, Ph.D.
The current situation in the world is surely one that has us all on edge and feeling anxious/out of control. I am no exception. My training, my education – neither of those things prevent me from feeling anxious or out of control myself. They only give me the tools I need to bring myself back down to a calmer state… tools that I’m going to share with you today, in the hopes that they help you feel more in control too.
I’m sure you’ve heard people talk about the importance of mental health at some point in your life. If not, I’ll give you the recap: maintaining your mental health is important, and you should take it seriously.
But, maintaining your mental health during a pandemic is not easy. Much like your physical health, staying mentally healthy requires daily attention. In the midst of all that’s going on, here are a couple of things to help maintain your mental health.
FIRST – Acknowledge that you’re struggling. Acknowledging and admitting that you’re struggling is not an easy thing, but it’s an important step. Know this – everyone is struggling with the pandemic right now. Your parents, your friends, your teachers, etc. The pandemic has removed a lot of our control over our lives, which in turn, can cause anxiety and sometimes even feelings of depression. We are grieving the loss of our routine, of our “normal”, and that is hard for us all. It’s ok not to be ok.
SECOND – Find a balance between the digital and the “in-person”. While social media and technology have certainly created wonderful ways for us to connect with each other – especially in times of isolation and social distancing, there are negative effects to the constant use of technology. Limit your social media exposure, particularly if it’s triggering you into feelings of anxiety or stress.
That means, don’t check the news multiple times a day if hearing about the pandemic stresses you out. That means, take a break from snapchat if seeing your classmates makes you feel more alone. Make sure that when you’re using social media/technology, it’s to help you feel less isolated – text a friend, arrange a zoom chat, listen to a great podcast… but don’t do things that make you feel more isolated, like comparing yourself to others or thinking of all the things you could be doing, and especially don’t do things that make you feel more anxious or out of control.
Even though we’re social distancing, find ways to connect with your family and friends. Spend time outdoors in the sunshine (especially before temperatures hit 100+!) with your siblings or parents. Try and learn a new skill. Keep your mind engaged in things that have meaning and help you grow as a person. Make sure that you’re balancing technology with IRL activities.
THIRD – Reach out. I can’t stress this one enough. Yes, we are social distancing, but that doesn’t mean we’re alone. Talk to your parents if you’re struggling. Reach out to your friends. Talk to your teachers (I promise, they all want to get back to school because they miss YOU). Talk to Meagan or Miguel, or one of your amazing core members. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We’re all in this together. Please remember that.
And if it really is too much – ask for professional help. It’s ok to need more support during this time, and there are services available digitally that may help. Talk to your parents honestly about what you’re dealing with.
FOURTH – Come up with coping strategies that help maintain both your mental and physical health. A coping strategy is something you do when you are not in a calm state, to bring you back to a calm state. Here are some ideas:
FIFTH – Curb the negative self-talk. Self-talk is exactly what it sounds like – it’s the conversation that goes on in our head. BE KIND TO YOURSELF. You’re doing the best you can. Don’t criticize yourself, but instead, remind yourself of the fact that you’re human, and this situation is tough. Instead of thinking about all of things you are missing, remind yourself of all the things you have.
SIXTH – Last but, not least – PRAY. Prayer calms us, grounds us, connects us, reminds us what is true, and guides us. This is one of the ultimate coping strategies, in my opinion. Join the morning and evening prayers that LT is hosting. Pray a rosary, or a Divine Mercy Chaplet and let the repetition steady you. Ask your core members to pray for you and ask others how you can pray for them. Open your bible and pray through the Word, learning to hear how God has led and loved His people throughout all of time. Put on praise & worship music and find a quiet place to close your eyes and listen, even sing along, to the words. Let Jesus be your anchor.
I promise that God is present through all of this. He’s waiting for us to connect with Him, to seek Him out, to ask for guidance, to ask for peace. Remember that even if we feel out of control, God always has control.
Praying for you all,
Dania Allen, Ph.D.
Former Life Teen Core Member