Mental health as a teenager in lockdown

As a teenager in lockdown, the things I am struggling with are not what would meet the eye. My biggest struggles aren’t missing my friends or even boredom (although that could just be because I’m a bit of an introvert). When you go from spending at least seven hours a day with other people your age to just a few hours over facetime, you are left completely alone with your thoughts. At first, this seems like a blessing. Over time, it becomes really difficult to not let negative thoughts take over, even if just for a few minutes. That could just be cringing about something you did in year 7, or obsessing over what people think of you. With others around you there is always something else to think about, so we can distract ourselves from our negative thoughts – alone, this just isn’t possible.

Despite all this, there are still ways to make lockdown somewhat enjoyable. I find that exercise is a good way to feel as if you’ve accomplished something, even if you just jump around for twenty minutes. I’ve established a new ‘one thing a day’ policy where I try to do one non-school thing a day like doing a few doodles, reading a chapter of a book or just rearrange a shelf. I find that this makes my days feel like less of a waste, because at least I’ve done something.

School work is still a big part of my life. My exams are next year, and I am expected to be doing four online lessons a day along with revision. And our school is still setting us ‘challenges’ (stuff like take a picture of you exercising, draw a happy picture) in an attempt to raise our spirits, as if any 15 year old will find them helpful. There is also the extreme fear of your entry being put in the assembly emails – who wants to be seen by hundreds of people doing burpees? No teenager really wants to be recognised as being hardworking at school and likeable for teachers, however much we try to hide it. Mental health (particularly in lockdown) is one of the biggest issues in teenagers, and it feels as if schools think drawing a rainbow will help solve it.

In the media, teenagers are being completely left behind. All of the tv shows about banding together and creating a sense of community are completely lost on people my age. For the most part, they are not at all relatable to us and hard to identify with. The people on the shows are all celebrities and at least university age, often with established careers, partners and families. It is really difficult to feel anything they are saying applies to us.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that lockdown makes it so much easier for your mental health to spiral. When you’re around others, there is always something to distract you. In lockdown, your thoughts are left to bounce around your head 24 hours a day, everyday of the week. For me, a lot of these thoughts are of our lives being wasted, and it doesn’t feel as if this is being recognised anywhere, particularly in mainstream media. I feel like teenagers are always told to cherish their long summers and to enjoy their time in senior school before they have to face adulthood, so I’m finding it really difficult to sit back and watch as this time trickles away. I find it so easy to let negative thoughts like that take over and affect my mental health.

Isobel, 15

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