At first, it might have felt as though people were either overreacting or not reacting enough. Some of your friends may have even turned the whole thing into a joke. Maybe this came from genuine fear or a lack of understanding. Maybe a bit of both.

Then, there were the mixed messages. A few weeks ago, your parents and teachers may have reassured you by saying something along the lines of: “just because there’s a pandemic, it doesn’t mean everything will stop.” But within a matter of days, schools shut down. Public gatherings came to a grinding halt. Seemingly overnight, #canceleverything became a shorthand for this surreal new reality.

It’s an understatement to say these last few weeks have been upsetting. According to David Kessler (a foremost expert on grief and how we process it), the discomfort we’re all experiencing isn’t just sadness. It’s deeper than that. He calls it a collective sense of grief.

Kessler explains that we’re processing a sense of loss for what our lives were like before the pandemic, as well as anticipatory grief over the ways our lives will be impacted in the future. We’re going from this isn’t a big deal (denial), to I’m being forced to stay home and all the things I love are being taken away (anger), to ok, I’ll practice social distancing for two weeks and everything will go back to normal (bargaining), to I don’t know when this will be over (sadness).
According to Kessler, we can regain a sense of power through acceptance: This is happening. I have to figure out how to move forward.

Tip 1

Accept what’s happening and control what you can

You can wash your hands. You can generate hand washing infographics and send them to your friends (side note: the not-for-profit Wash Your Lyrics site was created by William Gibson, a 17 year old high school student and we love his enterprising spirit).

You can keep a safe distance. You can stay home. You can find new ways to keep learning as you adapt to a virtual curriculum.

And just to re-iterate, in case you need a reminder about why social distancing is important: we need to keep away from large groups to slow the spread; flatten the curve. This is because the coronavirus has a very long incubation period. It’s easily spread because you may not know you have it.

Expect that some of your friends may still not be taking self isolation and social distancing seriously. They could still be in denial about what’s going on. It’s also worth remembering that judgement is the last part of the brain to develop (we’re not being sarcastic, promise!). According to psychologist Caroline Buzanko, your friends may be having different reactions because they could be processing risk in different ways. Don’t feel bad if you have to remind them of what’s what. You can point them to reputable sources, like the World Health Organization or the Government of Canada Health Site for impartial, up-to-date information.

Tip 2

Be proactive about your mental health and well-being

Do your best to find a daily routine. Get up and go to bed as you normally would. Sleep. Diet. Exercise. School Mental Health Ontario has some great resources, as well as this handy self-care 101 tips sheet. If you’re feeling anxious, check out this article by Unicef, which outlines 6 strategies to help you process what’s going on.

Tip 3

Talk to someone

A parent, a trusted family member, or a friend. You can also call the Kids Help Phone.

Tip 4

Find meaning

No pressure if you’re not at a point yet where you can see the silver lining. But if you can, try. Have you ever complained about your life being overscheduled? Now’s the time when you can take pause. Ask yourself how can I use the lessons of this moment to find self-compassion and more understanding for others?

If you have the privilege of being able to use this time to reflect and recalibrate, then use this time for personal growth and exploration. The one thing you have a lot of right now is time. How will you want to remember this time in the future? Social distancing doesn’t have to mean social disconnection. Find creative ways to connect to your friends and loved ones virtually. Host a Zoom talent show. Write letters to your future self. Make a time capsule. It’s a good time to explore who you are and the ways you want to grow.

Tip 5

Ask for what you need

Your parents mean well when they recommend loads of things for you to do to keep you entertained and busy. But if you need time to be alone, let them know. We’re recommending loads of things to do too, but don’t feel like you need to force yourself to do something if you truly can’t bring yourself to do it. If all you want is to be alone in your room, let your family know what you need, and if you can, articulate why you need it. On the other hand, if you feel adrift without your usual routine, ask your friends, a parent, or a trusted family member to help you create a daily schedule to reestablish a routine.

And finally, keep perspective. We know this is temporary, even though right now it doesn’t feel that way. Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing N.C.R.C (Non-Coronavirus Related Content), because honestly, we could all use a break from the news cycle.

In the meantime, take care of yourself and stay safe.