#YOUthTalk  |  Building Personal Resilience

A Teen’s Survival Guide to Pandemics!

BY DR VICKNESAN JEYAN MARIMUTTU

15 May 2020  |   4 min read

Adapting to the changes wreaked by COVID-19 and staying at home all the time is not easy. Here are tips on how to survive a pandemic (and other natural disasters).

Time to reflect

Being an adolescent is tough. It is hard enough having to cope with schoolwork and friendship dynamics on a normal day. COVID-19 certainly adds to the stress, with the circuit breaker measures not helping matters. While staying home may be difficult or even boring, it has some blessings too. It gives us a chance to slow down and reflect. It is an opportunity to take stock of our aspirations, achievements and worries. This is often missed out in the mad rush of daily life.

Take the time to reflect and write down your thoughts. It is absolutely normal to feel anxious during this period. Anxiety can exist even if it is not at the forefront of our minds. Speak to someone about it, as voicing our worries can help us organise our thoughts and make better sense of them.

Don’t focus on negativity

Pandemics tend to be accompanied by a lot of worrying news. We read, watch and listen to saddening stories from around the world. Before we know it, we have spent the last six hours being enveloped in negativity. It is important to keep up to date. However, spending too much time on negative news can add to our emotional stress.

Limit the time you spend catching up on the latest updates to at most an hour each day. Immersing ourselves in COVID-19 postings – even the positive, inspiring stories – in excess can be emotionally draining. The key is to be involved in a variety of things and activities.

We live in unprecedented times but we can try to make the best and most of it.

Learn something new

You may think: “Argh, not the same advice again!”. Half the world is in lockdown and this is probably the most overused line – learn something new. However, having to stay at home gives us a chance to do something that we have always wanted to do but just never had the time.

We could take up painting again, cook or write the lyrics to a song. It is a distraction and an outlet for our emotions. Some people tend to spend all their time on social media or playing video games out of boredom. But engaging in varied activities can make us feel good as it helps us feel productive. We may even learn something new about ourselves.

Relationships

We may be used to spending most of our time with people outside of our family, so this period is unnatural. We can survive on social networking applications like Instagram and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, but we still need that very human thing called face-to-face interactions.

Being with parents 24/7 has challenges and we may be tempted to never leave our room. No doubt we need a quiet space, but there are benefits in spending time with family (again, a highly repeated, potentially cringeworthy often used phrase).

Consider this situation as the once-in-a-generation event it truly is, and view it as an opportunity to deepen our relationships with friends, parents (oh no!) and siblings (oh nooo!!!). The words in brackets are probably your innermost thoughts. It may not be easy, but give it a try.

Spend time cooking or watching a movie together. Find out what people think about the issues of the world. Ask your parents about their childhood memories and teenage experiences. Family will always be family and having closer relationships will always be a boon.

These are unprecedented times, but we can make the best of the situation. We cannot control everything but we can choose to think, act and relate in positive ways that help us reap emotional health benefits – now and beyond the pandemic.

The contributor is a Head and Senior Consultant at the Child and Adolescent Mental Wellness Service at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.