Two of our young co-producers opened the chat with their own personal experiences of how COVID-19 has effected their mental health, opening up the topic gently to the wider group and to get the conversation started. We wanted these sessions to feel informal and conversational so that everyone attending felt that they could open up and ask questions if they felt comfortable.
The session included two different sections, the first half being “Talking about mental health and COVID-19”, including a presentation of facts, research and top tips for Mental Health and COVID-19.
Followed by “Topic 2: Getting Support“. Each topic had a Q&A session, which included a panel of young people, researchers and a healthcare professional; facilitated by the young co producers.
This gave an opportunity for attendees to ask questions, many of which we collected here:
How do you open up to people?
- People still have issues of opening up and being vulnerable of their secrets and their thoughts and issues with themselves and family.
- A Suggestion was to trust your gut and open up to the friends that you have chosen to be around.
- If you get to a place where you are comfortable to share your thoughts, then you’ll be in a better place to cope (even if that person shares your private issues with others)
- A problem shared is a problem halved.
- Think about the timing of sharing, if it feels safe than share further. Small steps. Then add more if you feel comfortable.
How to cope with bad news:
- Try and make a positive out of a negative situation. Try and appreciate the small things, like getting 5 minutes of sunshine
- Favourite words “but” and “yet”, that can really help if you feel low, but x makes the day a bit better.
- It’s good to protect yourself sometimes from too much news, which can be damaging. Delete news apps or notifications from your phone and stop watching the political briefings.
- Gratitude journaling is good especially if you enjoy writing and it can also act as a creative outlet.
- Filter the news down to a manageable level. Otherwise it can make you feel overloaded.
- “What do I know to be true to me today?” – helps to cut through the crappy stuff or the fantasy thinking (of seeing what’s happening to other people in the world).
- Get a family member to update you with any positive (so that you don’t have to watch the news)
Stressed around exams and assignments, how can I reduce this?
- “Had an assignment to do one evening, but ended up sleeping instead. Just looked at what I could do in the time left in the morning.” Focus on the things you can control and the information that you know.
- Teachers are there to help you – open up to them. University might not have the same support from your tutors!
- “Although I didn’t do my GCSEs due to COVID-19, it gave time to think about my priorities outside of education. It helped to look at the bigger picture and how important each assessment is”.
- Different destination point for everyone and it’s not just the education system that is going to get you there
- Always remember that you are not defined by your grades.
If you find people and socialising difficult?
- Students who have social anxiety, baby steps, you could reach out on social media first and see what that feels like. Bank that (in your brain as a win) and then do the next step. Get out of the room, the lockdown space. Start a conversation and say hi. Don’t have to bear your soul.
- Interactions can help to stop people getting stuck in people’s own head.
- Try and “get out of my head and come back into the hear and now”.
Has lockdown helped people to recognise that the things the people need to take care of?
- ” I Realised in lockdown what my anxiety was. Lockdown has help to make me address my mental health and realise what is good for them. MH is something you have to work on and make improvements on.”
- People with a toolkit at start of lockdown might have coped better, than those without.
How do you start making those changes from a negative place?
- Look at the bigger picture and look at the small steps and take one step at a time. Small things you can do to change or understand what you need to do.
- People stressed about physical and mental things (like losing weight etc), starting small and working your way up. Next week try the next thing. Don’t overwhelm yourself about trying to get better.
- Often in a state of change from school to uni, as well as changing in yourself of what you like and don’t like. Everything you need is within yourself. You know what you need, try to realise that.
- Writing a poem, a song, journaling. Write down your thoughts/yourself/feeling; express it in a different way. You know what the words mean to you and it helps you get it off your chest.
- “Felt like I was wasting my time and wasn’t doing anything meaningful. First lockdown I learned to do sowing”
- Weekly, achievable goals were important.
- Bullet journal – journal that you draw yourself. Write down favourite thing that day e.g. walk or lunch with friend.
- Get a book to read before bed instead of scrolling through your phone. Reading can be a form of escapism, help to put your mind at rest about other things.
- Digital art pages, colouring, relaxing.
- Music – collate a list of albums that wanted to listen to, then you can pick an album to listen to and then write notes about track he likes or doesn’t. Can do it anywhere, like from bed.
- Lists – pick a few things to accomplish that week. The list itself can motivate you. (It might stress people out with tasks, so do manageable things).
- Find the thing that personally helps you to destress and calm down – like sport helps to get energy out.
- When you are in a group setting, try and put your needs first. Don’t be afraid to say “no or yes” if you don’t feel like going out. Don’t always try and please other people. Just do what feels right for you and take care of yourself. Invest that time in yourself.
- If you don’t have the energy to do those tasks/goals, we can all have bad days. There’s “A New Tomorrow”, so just try tomorrow.
- Don’t pressure yourself to do all the things in lockdown e.g. run/yoga. Be kind to yourself and recognise when you can’t do those things.
- Duvet day can be a good not to check in with yourself.
- Have a duvet day, not week. Celebrate getting up, brushing your teeth etc. Walk in daylight – is fantastic for you.
- Try not to compare yourself to others.
- Mental health governs everything on the inside.
- People put pressure on yourself. You need to take sometime for yourself, as it’s not about getting everything done. Do optional/realistic things on your goal list.
A few interesting resources about time and structure that might be useful:
- From the archive: Why time management is ruining our lives (Spotify)
- The Pomodoro Technique- why it works & how to do it.
- Pomodor-no! Here’s the best way for engineers to time block their work days.
- Balance (a guided meditation app similar to Headspace and Calm, free for a year).
- The Kind Mind Series: Imperial Students
Our first event was a great success, working collaboratively with other young people, researchers and professionals offered a wide range of experience and expertise. Although I was involved with the planning and production of this event, I learned so much and the session genuinely did positively affect my mood and mental health, it made my week!
A New Tomorrow Episode 2 – Getting a good routine and sleep (March 18th)
Our second session was all about sleep and routine, two things I’ve never quite got the hang of, but only made worse due to COVID-19. To read more, click here-
A New Tomorrow: Co-produced online symposium event. COVID-19’s impact on youth mental health. (25th March 2021)
If you’d like to watch our online symposium events. click here-