While we find ourselves grappling with the new norms of our changing world, a return to a regular school year for our students is imminent. Youth are transitioning back to a traditional classroom-based academic year with regular school-based and extra-curricular activities. This transition is certain to have implications for resocialization and for the ever-shifting identity development that naturally occurs in childhood and adolescence. School provides important opportunities for critical development, not only for academic advancement, but also for socializing, peer support, experiencing memorable events and moments, and self-expression. Certainly the increased isolation and removal from typical socialization that has resulted from the pandemic may have short- and long-term consequences that we still cannot fully know.
As a society, we can certainly acknowledge the serious impacts that COVID-19, quarantine, and social distancing has had on all of us. However, in my psychology practice, I have been particularly concerned with the rise of mental health issues in older children and adolescents. This age range thrives from being with peers, connecting through social outlets, and feeling validated by their social interactions. In the midst of school closures and stay-at-home orders, adolescents in particular have faced the challenges of continued virtual learning, minimal face-to-face peer interactions, a significant rise in depression, suicidality, and drug use, and uncertainty about their future.
In order to best appreciate how our adolescents are faring during these unprecedented times, it is necessary to understand this phase of development. Adolescence is a pivotal period when their relationships begin to reorganize. Older children and teenagers desire to have more independence and emotional distance from their parents, so they shift their focus to social interactions and broadening and deepening their friendships. Likewise, their sense of identity becomes strongly associated with their peer group as they develop a greater sense of self and learn who they are, what they like, and what image they want to portray. Continue reading “COVID-19 Impact: Spotlight on Older Children and Adolescents”
1. Make Time for self-care and stay positive – Get rest, strengthen your immune system, and be sure to attend to your mental health needs. It is a well-known fact that mental and emotional stress have a direct impact on our immune functions. On the flip side, we also know that a positive outlook on life and self-compassion are associated with a stronger immune system. In addition, be sure you are getting enough sleep and limit the use of alcohol to manage or escape your stress. Should you find your mental health symptoms escalating, consider teletherapy. Teletherapy is a great way to maintain mental health and to process the many emotions that we are all facing with a therapist, right from the comfort of your own home. Continue reading “Top 10 Things To Do While ‘Safer at Home’”
The coronavirus has triggered surprising behavioral responses, including panic buying and convincing yourself that a throat tickle might mean a fatal illness. But equally concerning is the increase in mental health symptoms.
Self-isolation, loss of freedom, uncertainty and fear about what is ahead, and a change in routine and schedule are all contributing to increased stress, anxiety and feelings of helplessness.
Uncertainties can instill a deep sense of fear. They include such questions as:
What protective steps can I take?
How extreme should we be in our response?
Are increased hand-washing and avoiding crowds sufficient, or should we self-quarantine?
Should we move forward with our planned vacation?
Should I close down my office or business?
Should I cancel my spring wedding?
It is this uncertainty that drives anxiety, because people fear the unknown. When we don’t know what steps to take or we have a substantial shift in our routine, we feel vulnerable because we all like to plan ahead. Yet we are faced with significant and unpredictable disruptions to our routine and way of life. Uncertainty exceeds the medical issues at hand, and these disruptions have broader implications. Continue reading “Take Steps to Protect Your Mental Health in Stressful Times”