One Teenager's Guide to Mental Health During Quarantine
At this point, many of us are either on self-dictated or government-dictated quarantine for COVID-19. My mood is very dependent on my social life, so being unable to leave my house has been detrimental to my mental health. Without any set schedule or routine, and without any socialization outside of my family, I began to feel isolated and unlike myself. As I’ve been staying home for the past week and a half, I’ve developed some strategies for taking care of your mental health while in quarantine. Routine and structure are very important amidst the irregularity of life, school, work, etc. In order to regain my sanity, I’ve attempted to mirror my normal daily routine as much as possible within the new context of COVID-19 quarantine. I physically wrote down a schedule for myself based off of my normal routine, which I encourage all of you to do. Below I show an example of my two schedules side-by-side, to show visually how I am regulating my life in order to take care of my mind, body, and soul during quarantine.
*Behavioral Activation Activity
By providing structure, I was able to not only able to maintain my productivity levels, but I was able to fill my seemingly endless and boring days with meaningful work. I know not everyone has access to their classes online, but I encourage all of you to take this time away from school to pursue your interests and passions. Is there a hobby you’ve always wanted to have, but never seemed to have the time? Is there a skill you’ve wanted to learn or improve? Is there a class you’ve always wanted to take, but it wasn’t offered at your school? Take this quarantine period to learn to play an instrument, create art, learn to cook, take an online course in something you’re interested in, or whatever makes sense in your own life.
To take care of our minds, I’ve found that Behavioral Activation Activities, which were originally developed as a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for individuals dealing with depression. The key part of Behavioral Activation Activities is finding a list of activities that improve your mood when there are life factors triggering your mood or anxiety, or if you are having a difficult time finding enjoyment and purpose in your day-to-day life. When I was struggling with depression and anxiety disorders, my therapist helped me create a list of activities that genuinely made me feel joy. Even when I told myself I was too “busy” to do an activity on my list, I forced myself to do a Behavioral Activation Activity, because I knew that my mental health was more valuable than anything else in my life. You don’t have to be struggling with your mental health in order to do Behavioral Activation Activities, because all people benefit from self-care. Each day, especially during quarantine, designate a time for your Behavioral Activation Activity and prioritize it in your schedule.
On my schedule, I decided that from 4-5 pm and 8-10 pm were the best times for me to take care of myself. Today from 4-5 pm I finished a painting I was working on that was very meaningful to me, and then from 8-10 pm I watched a movie that I had been wanting to see for a long time. Usually, my go-to Behavioral Activation Activity was to hang out with friends, but due to quarantine, I’ve had to get creative. I created a list of activities that improve my mood, which also follow quarantine rules, as seen below, and I encourage each of you to do the same. At the beginning of each day, I select which activity I’ll do, and I stick to it. The COVID-19 quarantine is unprecedented, and during this time it is more important than ever to be taking care of our mental health.
As we all live through day-by-day, taking each day of quarantine as it’s own, I encourage all of you to identify what aspects of your mental health you are struggling with. If you’re struggling with any aspect of your mental health, I recommend creating a structured schedule with time for things you love and are interested in, as well as creating a list of Behavioral Activation Activities that apply to your own life. Taking care of your mental health is so important, especially during a global pandemic; the best thing you can do for others is to take care of yourself.
About the author: Hi, I’m Mia Hanley. I’m currently a Junior at a private high school. I have had my own journey with my mental health, and I now love opening up about my experiences with others in hopes of contributing to a world where mental health is not stigmatized.