For many high school students, the last few months of a school year tend to be stressful yet exhilarating times. On one hand, the stress associated with last-minute studying for end-of-the-year exams or simply polishing up one’s final report card can be daunting. But on the other hand, the anticipation of summer — or even graduation — can be thrilling.
After the state of California’s official lockdown order confined all students to their homes, these stressful yet exhilarating times have become more so just… stressful. All of their experiences have been abruptly molded into days of sitting behind a screen in an unchanging environment. By nature, this one-dimensional routine has taken a toll on Bonita Vista High (BVH) students’ mental health. This means that in current times, it’s imperative for students to prioritize their mental well-being.
Psychologically, it is no secret that social isolation is damaging to the human psyche. Humans are inherently social creatures, and craving interaction actually serves as a survival instinct. According to a meta-analysis cited by Business Insider, “People who have weaker social relationships are 50% more likely to die over a given period than those with more robust connections.” In other words, the reason why loneliness doesn’t feel good is that humans aren’t naturally wired to be alone.
With the gravity of the COVID-19 outbreak, people have been forced to resist their natural instinct to interact. Consequently, mental health has taken a toll nationwide. In fact, a survey by Benenson Strategy Group reports that 55% of respondents believe coronavirus has impacted their mental health. As alarming as this may sound, high school students have been especially at-risk to declines in mental well-being.
The American Psychological Association contends that ever since 2018, mental health, depression and anxiety have been worse among teens compared to any other age group. In the crossroads of a public health crisis, BVH students have had to adapt to a routine that only shadows solitude.
For instance, having conversations in a classroom setting has been replaced by staring at a face and listening to a voice behind a screen, or even just staring at a blank screen with peoples’ initials. For upperclassmen, prom has been cancelled. Seniors have been robbed of the exciting experience of going to Senior Grad Nite at Disneyland. All of this disconnect from friends and teachers can make students feel mentally trapped without a means to escape.
However, abiding by social distancing guidelines does not mean students should feel defeated. By individually finding ways to improve ones’ mental well-being, BVH students can reduce the anxiety they may feel about their current circumstances. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers a few tips to overcome COVID-19 related stress.
The first tip is to take care of your body. Whether it be eating healthy meals, exercising daily or even doing something as simple as stretching; being able to have control of one’s body can feel liberating.
The second tip is to make time to unwind. Engaging with one’s favorite hobbies or even developing new hobbies can serve as an entertaining creative outlet, offering an escape from mental hardships.
The third tip is to connect with others. By checking in with friends from time to time, students can feel less alone and more together. While texting, calling or even video chatting is not the same as a face-to-face conversation, it is the closest thing to social interaction that many students have.
During such an unprecedented era in human history, the future of public health is at a great uncertainty. However, the toll on public health does not mean people’s mental health should go down that same road. More important than anything is adaptation — students putting their mental well-being above all else despite the circumstances. That is how students can become stronger and stronger every day.