Adolescent Angst in the time of COVID-19
Preeti: I was so much happier in New York with my boyfriend and you had to bring me back home. I hate
Parent: Do you have any idea how many people have DIED in New York? You’re so ungrateful.
Rohit: It’s so terrible to be cooped up in this small apartment. I hate to share my room 24/7 with
this kid. You said he would be in boarding school most of the year and here he is encroaching on my
Parent: At least you have your own room. Look at all those other people on TV! Living 11 to a room.
Farha: I am so worried daddy! Poor Nana and Nani are all alone in Bangalore. I am constantly thinking
they may get the virus.
Parent: Don’t you worry darling. Nothing will happen to them!
Sounds familiar? Probably similar scenarios have happened in your homes or friends’ homes. We are all
holed up in our homes and are anxious as to what is going to happen to us, our loved ones, our city,
our country, our world.
6 TIPS FOR ADOLESCENTS:
- Worry is normal: The first thing to understand is anxiety is normal in this situation – it does
not mean you have a mental illness. Even an occasional panicky feeling is okay. Anxiety is good
for us in small doses. It makes us take the right actions. If you’re anxious before an exam, you
will study. If you worry about COVID-19 you will wash your hands. So hang in there! If you are
too stressed, try mindfulness and meditation – super apps available on the phone!
- Have a worrying time: This is my favorite way of reducing my anxiety. Every day keep half an
hour (or less or more) when you do all your worrying. Try to “read, discuss, think” about the
virus only at that time. After that 6 pm to 6.30 pm slot is over, put a lid on it and put the
worry box away. Open it the next day at the same time. In between, all thoughts have to be put
away on a shelf and brought out the next day.
- Routines: Everyone’s talking about routines so there must be some truth in it, right? Most of
you have on-line classes, so some structure has been put into place for you. Do you know why
routines are important at these times? They give us a sense of normalcy in this totally ‘out of
control’ world we are living in right now. Don’t be obsessive about routines but do try to
follow some pattern.
- Find Happiness: We find happiness in small things like playing with your dog (or looking at dog
videos – my daughter is constantly seeing those), making a meal for everyone, splashing paint on
canvas, and using your hands to make your masterpiece! Chatting with your lonely Dadi and if she
doesn’t live with you, a video call would be lovely! Kids go out there (metaphorically, of
course!) and find your happiness.
- Categorize your thoughts: There are certain things that you have control over and some that you
don’t. Those you have control overdo something about it. You can wash your hands (obviously!!),
you can start a Facebook page to collect money for medical expenses for the underprivileged,
learn that dance or language you always wanted to! Thoughts about what will happen due to the
pandemic or when will we be out of this social isolation are situations we have no control over.
Let them go or think of them in your worry time.
- Don’t blame mom and dad: They brought you back home so you could be safe. Yes, it does get
annoying when you feel nagged and controlled by them. Unfortunately, sometimes caring is seen as
control. If you are having a hard time with them, communicate this to them. But not when they
are angry or you are in a bad mood! Bad time to express your emotions. Find a time when both of
you are in a “listening” frame of mind and express how you’re feeling. You could even fix a time
to discuss this, maybe after dinner. We can do a whole session on communication later.
This situation we are in is not going to change in a hurry so we all need to make peace with that.
Make the most of it! It’s not going to last forever, either.
And if you’re a LOTR fan (and even if you’re not), here’s a passage I liked – “I wish it need not
have happened in my time” said Frodo. “So do I” said Gandalph, “and so do all who live to see such
times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is
given to us” J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings.