By Sloane P.
Think back to a time before Covid-19. A time when we could wander like birds, and talk to people as if it wasn’t a luxury. You there yet? It’s hard for me to remember not giving thanks for every roll of toilet paper; it’s been so long! What were some phrases you used often? There are a few sentences that I think I can put my finger on, that varied but more or less were said on the daily, and I’m sure I’m not the only one:
“I don’t want to go to school.”
“I want to stay home!”
“I’m too tired.”
“I want a break.”
You know, something along those lines. Truth be told, I think I said the latter about two months ago, right before a virus shattered the world. Oh, I got that break. And now, all we are saying is the opposite!
“I want to go to school!”
“I want to leave the house!”
Etc. It doesn’t quite make sense, does it, when you put it like that? Do humans just want what they can’t have? No, but I believe we’ve been taught to think that way, and I’m through with it. We once complained about lack of time and now we just waste it moping in our sadness? Not anymore. Now is our chance. We have this time; we have our mental break; we have all of our wishes. Although we never wanted this pandemic, which we can all agree is truly a tragedy to so many, we wanted this break. And as busy kids, with overflowing schedules, our mental health may have wanted it too.
I’m Sloane, and today I’m going to dive deep in the world of self-isolation, and how it really might not be so bad after all.
I’m going to explore how this quarantine is giving kids a crucial mental break, time to explore fun activities, and also share some tips to protect your mental health while stuck inside.
Before quarantine, lots of kids, including myself, were feeling overwhelmed and over-scheduled. With six to eight hours of school every day and approximately one to two hours of after-school activities and at least two hours of homework daily, it doesn’t give us much time to relax, wind down, and get enough sleep. We all know being busy and stressed is annoying, but we never really think about the toll this is taking on our health. Yup, there was a pandemic going on before the coronavirus: over-scheduled children. Believe it or not, being overwhelmed and over-scheduled are both top causes for anxiety, depression, and other mental diseases in children and teens. According to NBC news, kids are constantly reporting rising stress, and, “That’s no surprise to experts who work with teens. They say that the pressures of schoolwork, social life, sports or other activities — combined with a relentless media culture — mean that young people may be more tense than ever before.”
Well, lots of those things that are tensing up teens these days are unavailable. This doesn’t mean that sports and activities are bad, because they definitely aren’t. In moderation, activities are beneficial to kids’ learning and future assets. But there’s a line dangerous to cross.
Even summer and other breaks don’t really do the trick. Break time is often packed with vacations, activities, and friends. It’s rare–once in a lifetime, actually–to have such a complete and total break from absolutely everything. We have it now, and instead of being sad, we can take advantage of this time to relax and care for ourselves in ways we simply were too busy to a few months ago. Now, there is no school drama or stress, no friend issues and comparison, no overly demanding sports, and really no stress. By the time quarantine is over, we will all be excited to see our friends and do our activities because we will be totally reset and ready to enjoy our busy lives again! Let’s hope we can learn from this quarantine experience by being a little more appreciative of our action-packed lifestyles before the routine gets a little old and we complain once more.
Now, like I said earlier, not only are we getting a complete break from the stress, drama, and work of average life, we are also getting time to put our boredom to use and work on other things! Ok, that sounds rather contradictory, doesn’t it? Me saying that quarantine is the perfect time to rest mentally and take a total break, but also to find new hobbies, get work done, and build routine? Well, if you think about it, it’s really not that contradictory. We filled our old lives with so many people problems that we didn’t have time to do activities that are actually beneficial to our mental health. I’m sure there’s something you’ve always thought you should do, but always got to use the excuse of “I’m too busy” for it. This could be painting, journaling, exercising, stretching, reading the Bible, cooking, or yoga, which is specifically beneficial for physical fitness and mental cleansing. These things are wonderful for your body, mind and soul. Calming activities like those will make this mental hold even more effective, and a little more fun for you, anyway. I mean, self care and mental relaxation doesn’t mean sitting around being lazy, it still means being productive, but in ways that benefit your future. Self-isolation is our chance to isolate specific concerns and stress patterns and relieve them with quality work, fun new hobbies, and a little relaxation, too!
Now let’s look on the other side of this argument, towards people that say this quarantine is dangerous for our mental health. It’s true! Although this break is very beneficial to us, it can also be dangerous if we don’t handle it the right way. Which is why I’m going to share a few ways to keep yourself from getting depressed and anxious during a time like this!
First, take a break from news articles or broadcasts regarding the virus. Although it’s good to stay updated, in order for this break to be healthy, it can’t be stressful. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to “Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.” If you can’t keep yourself from watching news and reading the latest articles, at least try to abide by one rule: No virus news between 6 pm and 9 am! This will ensure that you have a calm and peaceful night, which will improve your sleep, and a relaxed morning, which will set the tone for a healthy, calm day.
Ok, so now that you’ve got a peaceful night’s sleep and a slow, soothing morning, let’s talk more about ways you can take care of your body throughout the day. It might seem oddly easy to stuff down everything you’ve got stocked up in the pantry, but that’s not your fault! Did you know that when you’re in a time of stress, you release cortisol? Heavy amounts of cortisol, which may come from things that stress you out like virus news, elevate hunger levels. But now more than ever it’s important to eat a suitable amount of nutritious foods to boost our immune systems! Try not to hoard groceries, which may lead to overeating. Additionally, plan out your meals and snacks times, because during our mental self-care break, we need not be thinking about our next meal. Don’t under-eat either. This will also damage your immune system and getting Covid 19 may decrease hunger cues, so you want to be in a healthy place before you get sick.
Another way to take care of your body is to move it. With sports, dance, and activities like that cancelled, we have the excuse to be lazier than ever! Try going on a walk which not only is an excellent way to get up and moving but also gives us healthy nutrients, like Vitamin D, which comes from the sun. Whether it’s just getting up every hour for a quick stretch or going on a few walks a day, there are lots of uncomplicated ways to keep our bodies well cared for during our relaxing break!
The last tip I want to address is to stay in touch with people! I know I sort of made it sound like friends are the enemies to our mental health, but in moderation, talking with people is crucial! You can also be selective with who you will call or text, so it’s a splendid way to ease out of an unhealthy friendship without being overly obvious. Try to reach out to a friend or relative at least once a day, this’ll help keep you sane for sure.
Ok, now that we’ve got these few things covered, quarantine will be good for us. Just be cautious!
In summary, we’ve got a break, so let’s take it. We’ve got time, so let’s use it. Here’s our chance to better ourselves as people and come out of quarantine with improved mental health and well-rounded interests. We can’t control this virus in any way but staying home, and we can even use that as a vessel to ensure that coronavirus goes down in history with a touch of good in the books. After all, a smooth sea never made a superb sailor. If we can handle this, we can handle anything.
Sloane P. is a Level 3 student at Alpha in Austin, Texas.