Advice to children and young people worried about coronavirus

These are strange times. If you’re feeling concerned or overwhelmed by the news that is understandable, especially if you are struggling with your mental health or you have a physical illness – but remember you are not alone.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a new and an uncertain time for all of us and will affect our sense of wellbeing and mental health in different ways. It might be that you’re anxious about your own health, the health of someone in your family, or what impact the virus will have on your life – including school and college work, family finances, routines and how you will stay in contact with friends. However what you are feeling right now is valid and OK. Remember, it will not always be like this, and we will move forward with help and support from others.

Here are some things you can do if you are worried about current events:

Talk to someone about how you’re feeling

While it is normal to feel worried, if you are starting to feel overwhelmed, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings and speak to someone you trust. Talk to your parents or family, and give them a chance to help you. Talk to a trusted friend, and think of ways you can help each other. Talk to trusted adults around you and remember there are lots of helplines and advice to support you from Start Now Cornwall.

To talk to someone about your mental wellbeing you can call the 24/7 NHS mental health telephone support, advice and triage helpline on 0800 038 5300.

Support is available to anyone, regardless of age, all day every day. If you or someone you know feels they need to access urgent mental health support, they will listen to you and asses how best to help.

Name your feelings

First, recognize what you are feeling. Some days will be better than others. Some days, you’ll feel scared. Others days you’ll feel better. It may change throughout the day. That’s completely understandable at this time and different people will have different feelings and reactions to the same information. Why should we bother labelling our feelings? Because we now know that doing this helps us feel calmer and in control of our feelings – in other words, once you can name your feelings, it becomes easier to manage them (when you name it, you can tame it).

Stay connected

Wherever you are when self-isolating, think about who you can keep in contact with and how you can use apps such as WhatsApp, Zoom and FaceTime to talk to someone face to face. It’s important that you talk to people you trust during this time and continue to stay connected with friends. They might be in the same situation and could help you understand what you are going through. You can help them too. We know that staying in contact with trusted friends and family members is helpful for us. If you need extra help, there are lots of very good advice and helplines out there. Use the Start Now Cornwall Youth in Mind section to find something that you feel you could use.

Arm yourself with the facts

There is a lot of misinformation about the virus out there and false reports can make us feel more scared and worried. Stay on top of what’s actually happening by using a trusted source: www.gov.uk/coronavirus. It has the most up-to-date and reliable source of information. You might see stories or posts on social media that makes you feel anxious. It can be very hard to know whether or not social media posts are true, so try not to rely on updates from there. Social media can be helpful, but it is important to know what you can trust and to take a break from social media.

Young Minds also have loads of tips on cleaning up your social media feed for a more positive time online. There are also books available for children about coronavirus, just search for titles including ‘Coronavirus books for children’.

Take a break from the news

Staying informed can make you feel in control but the constant news reports could also become overwhelming. Try to get your information from reputable websites (like those mentioned above). If you do want to read or watch the news, try to limit the amount of time you spend and stick to regular intervals in the days. If you are finding it hard not to think about the news, plan some activities that you enjoy and which will take your mind off things. For example, text or FaceTime a friend, watch a film, read a book or go for a walk whilst following the national guidance on exercise. Do things you enjoy. Limit the time you spend checking the news and try to follow social media accounts that keep you positive and make you smile. Accounts like @the_happy_broadcast on Instagram only post good news stories.

Stick to routines (and plan new routines)

Being at home and social distancing can be tough and very hard to manage. Think about things you can to do during this time, including trying out new things, learning new things, or doing the jobs you have put off. Think about how you will stay connected with friends and family, and how you can take care of your wellbeing - mental and physical. Plan days that include some school/college work; relaxation and things you enjoy; healthy things like exercise and getting a walk; and staying in touch with friends virtually. Think about new things you can do and try your best to make the most of this time at home – there are lots of ideas online like those of www.annafreud.org/what-we-do/anna-freud-learning-network/coronavirus/. Routines give us a sense of purpose, structure and normality, and make our lives predictable. Have regular meals and get enough sleep. Have fun keeping yourself fit and active – there are lots of ideas online.

Take good care of yourself

There are lots of useful things online that help you care for yourself, some of which we have already mentioned. If you're feeling scared by coronavirus, remind yourself that there are practical things you can do using the links in this guidance. If you have existing mental health problems you can get helpful advice here. There is helpful advice on anxiety, OCD, eating disorders and other mental health problems.

Get advice on mental health problems

Find things that help you feel calm

Like at any other time, it’s important that you look after your physical health and your mental health. Think about some activities that can help when you are feeling overwhelmed, like breathing techniques, writing down how you feel, playing music or talking to a friend. You might also do activities you like that are relaxing, such as: listening to music, or playing a musical instrument; singing; dancing; baking; drawing; sewing; knitting; playing games; puzzles; watching films or TV; reading; listening to audiobooks; colouring.

This might also be a good time to try new activities and learning new skills. There are lots of things online that help with relaxation, yoga and getting exercise. Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins. These ‘feel-good chemicals’ trigger positive feelings in your brain. So by exercising and being active, you are tapping into a natural way to improve your state of mind. After a long run or an exercise class, your body might be tired, but your endorphins are running high. You don’t have to run far to get it, either. Any type of movement will do this.

Practice gratitude 

There’s a lot of research around gratitude, which shows that feeling grateful improves your psychological health and wellbeing. It helps you connect to others in positive ways and helps you see good things despite the problems around us.

You can take a few minutes and write down a few things you are thankful for. If you find it challenging at first, focus on just two or three things. It doesn’t have to be significant - it could be that you’re grateful for how the sun feels on your skin, or that your friend makes you laugh, or that your mum made your favourite meal. Or it could be big things, such as being grateful for your family, for good friends people who love you, or support you. You can write them on a slip of paper and put them in a jar. That way, you can physically see them all. Or you could take strips of paper and make a paper chain of gratitude that you hang in your room or you can write them in a journal. 

It's good to enjoy things in the moment – a kind word from a friend; a funny post on social media; noticing acts of kindness in others; enjoying nice meal; having a fun moment learning something new. These things are good for your mind, good for your sense of wellbeing, and help you connect with others.