Teens and COVID-19: Protecting their mental health

With schools closed for at least the next several weeks in an effort to continue to flatten the curve of coronavirus, many teens are struggling to adjust to a new (if temporary) normal away from the classes, social activities, and extra-curriculars that gave them a sense of structure and community.

And while this situation will not last forever, experts say it’s still important for teens to safeguard their mental health as they navigate through this uncharted territory.

Even under the best circumstances, being a teen is a difficult journey, and our current circumstances are far from ideal. Combine that with the fact that many teens may not have yet developed healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stressful situations, and this period of social distancing can be a real challenge for them.

Here offers a few tips to help teens adjust:

Recognize that anxiety is completely normal

School closures and the constant barrage of negative headlines are making people of all ages feel anxious, and that’s completely normal. Anxiety is a normal and healthy response to uncertainly, and helps us make decisions to keep ourselves safe. These decisions include not visiting friends or gathering in large groups and washing hands regularly. All—teens included—turn to reputable sources such as Unicef or the Centers for Disease Control for accurate information.

Recognize what is out of your control right now

It’s normal to want to take control of a situation to help assuage our anxiety, but experts say it’s important to understand that beyond taking the recommended precautions, much of this current situation is out of our control. Watch a favorite movie, read an uplifting book, or spend time on a favorite hobby to help find some distraction.

Find new ways to connect with friends

Get creative! Join a TikTok challenge like #safehands or schedule a regular Zoom conference with your closest friends. But it’s also important to limit time on social media, as this can actually increase anxiety and feelings of isolation.

Focus on you

Now is a great time to turn your focus to learning a new skill or finally finishing that stack of unfinished books on your bedside table. Just make sure it’s something you actually want to do, and don’t feel obligated to do. Now is not the time to add more stress to your life by pressuring yourself to constantly be productive. Instead, take this time to hone in on what really brings you joy.

Take care of your physical health

Good nutrition and adequate sleep are not only crucial for keeping a healthy immune system but can also be very effective ways of controlling anxiety. Meditation, yoga, and regular exercise can also provide many mental health benefits.

Feel your feelings

Missing out on vacations, graduations, sporting events and other milestones are large-scale losses for teenagers, and they should be encouraged and feel safe to express those feelings of grief and loss. Some kids will want to talk through their feelings, others might want to write or make art, and others might find comfort in doing something to benefit others, like donating to a food bank. There’s no right answer, but teens should be encouraged to work through those feelings productively.


Call UofL Health – Peace Hospital’s Assessment and Referral Center if you think you are in need of a crisis assessment at 502-451-3333 or 800-451-3637. Or contact the 24-Hour Crisis and Information Center Line at 502-589-4313 or 800-221-0446.