Since the pandemic, many young people and their parents have reported struggling with their mental health.
Mental health charity Young Minds found that 51% of young people in the UK said that the Coronavirus pandemic made their mental health a bit worse
32% said the situation has made their mental health much worse
The pandemic is an uncertain time for many young people. Young people have expressed anxiety over feelings of uncertainty, fear, loneliness and isolation, alongside a constant feed of negative news stories.
As lockdown measures begin to relax, young people will naturally be nervous about what happens next, creating overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety.
We have put together 5 ways parents, carers, and safeguarding professionals can support young people with stress and anxiety.
Facing their Fears
During stressful or threatening situations, our bodies react with the ‘fight-flight-or-freeze’ response. But under sustained threats, we can overthink potentially dangerous situations until our anxiety makes us avoid the situation or thought itself. Sometimes, these thoughts can be more frightening than the perceived threat. In situations like this, it can be helpful to encourage young people to discuss their fears and anxieties about the return to the ‘new normal’. If a young person with an existing mental health condition has established coping mechanisms laid out in a support plan they should be encouraged to engage with them.
Use Breathing Exercises
Being aware of and controlling our breathing is a highly effective grounding technique that helps us relax our mind and body. Teaching young people in your care to focus on breathing in slowly through their nose and exhaling through their mouth can help them relax. It also builds their capacity to cope. When using breathing techniques, it can help to visualise themselves succeeding. For example, if a young person is stressed about going outside or to school, encourage them to think things like ‘they will be ok, they will get through this’.
Practice Daily Mindfulness
Finding just 10 minutes a day to focus on mindfulness can make a major difference for young people. It could be when they wake up in the morning, before they sleep, at lunchtime or even on the way to school. There are lots of apps that play relaxing music, sounds, or guided meditations which are designed to help people practice mindfulness and relaxation. Any activity can be mindful, which involves being present and calm. Some young people use creativity such as colouring, painting or making music to help practice mindfulness.
During the Lockdown, young people in the UK have relied on their screens to keep in contact with their support networks and to stave off the boredom. Playing Fortnite, watching YouTube and scrolling through Instagram can be fun but it is important to get the balance right. You should encourage young people in your care to take regular breaks from screens. Switching off allows young people to connect more with the people they are with, and this simple change will work towards making them feel less stressed.
For more information on managing screen time, check out our recent blog.
Talk it Out
Talking about our worries can help us make sense of them and see things from a new angle. Remember to regularly check in with young people to see how they are feeling. Ask open questions and take the time to listen to their worries. Having someone take the time to listen can make a big difference. It’s important that young people are able to engage with their support networks if they are struggling with their mental health. Make sure they know who they can talk to about anything that worries them.
Information, Advice and Guidance
Parents and professionals can contact Family Lives (formerly parent line)