DR. WALLACE: I'm a 16-year-old girl, and I live with my parents, my brother and my sister. Like almost everyone in America, I'm confined to my home. I have to take my high school classes online, and I can't go on dates anymore! It feels like my whole life has stopped entirely. At least my siblings are both older, and they treat me pretty well, so that's something that is good.
My problem now is that I feel I'm getting more and more depressed the longer I have to stay home and stay inside. I used to be so busy with school, my friends, shopping, movies, concerts, church, hanging out at the mall and everything a normal teen usually does during the week. I've even lost my babysitting job because our neighbors are always home now and don't need me to watch their cute little girl who lives across the street.
What can I do to feel as normal as possible? I don't want to slip into depression. I am finding that I am sleeping more and feeling really lazy and lethargic these days. I sure hope our nation's scientists can find a cure fast for the horrible virus that has caused this world pandemic. — Lazy, Lethargic Teen, via email
LAZY, LETHARGIC TEEN: First of all, I commend you and those of your generation for being so technically savvy to take your high school classes online. I know that is not the optimal way to go about your education, but life throws surprises at us quite regularly, and this pandemic seemed to come upon us out of nowhere. One day, we were all living our lives as usual, and the next, we find ourselves fighting for our lives, concerned about our personal safety and the safety of those around us.
I do have a few tips that have the potential to help each individual stay as mentally strong as possible during these challenging times.
First of all, get dressed every morning as you did before. Dress appropriately for the specific day of the week, and even the time of day. On school days, get up and get dressed exactly as you did before. Groom yourself, too; wear your hair, your face and your smile the way you did before. This will make you feel better, and following your previous routine will be comforting mentally to you.
Second, do not take naps during the day! Fight the urge to be lethargic. Work hard to maintain your previous schedule as much as you can. "Attend" school as you did before and then follow your previous after-school routine. Study and do your homework at the same time of day as you did previously.
Third, be sure to socialize regularly with your friends and family. If you were used to spending time with your friends after school, see if you can garner up a group of your fiends for a video chat at a specific time each day, and have each of them rotate to lead the discussion. Try to make it as much fun as possible! Have each leader announce a topic and then have everyone on the chat share their experiences on the topic. For example, you could go first with the topic, "What are you the best and the worst things about having to be stuck at home with your family?" I'll bet there will be some funny stories that come up that will make you and all of your friends have a good laugh! And from my experience as an educator, I know that teenagers across the world enjoy a good laugh together.
Fourth, exercise at home. Find a routine you can do in your room like jogging in place, stretching, pushups, pullups and so forth. Depending on where you live, you may be able to take brisk walks with one of your family members as long as you maintain proper social distancing while out on this walk. Some people enjoy yoga, and this can be a calming, helpful activity on several levels.
Fifth, do not use your energy to worry. All government and business leaders across our country are working hard in their communities to battle this epidemic and help us return to our previous lives. Instead of worrying about things you can't control, you should use your energy to learn, calm others, encourage others and help others. Take time to call relatives like grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins to keep their spirits up. You could even arrange a time to hold a group family call, where you encourage family members to tell funny or interesting stories about your family's history. Maybe even take notes during these calls and write a family history journal. You could email it to everyone; I'll bet they would really enjoy that! You'd be surprised at how rich and deep some family stories are. Now is your time to encourage your family to use this extra time to connect on a deeper level than ever before.
Lastly, seek to establish and maintain a routine in your life. Set up a schedule, and follow it as closely as you can. Someday, looking back, you might find there were some awesome silver linings that came along with the trauma and turmoil of this time.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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