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UpLift: Helping Teens Cope with COVID-19 and Social Distancing

The social distancing required to address COVID-19 has particularly strong implications for teenagers. Disruptions to school, sports, and socializing may mean the loss of important opportunities to work toward personal goals and develop as individual. For many kids, this may increase the risk for social isolation, depression, and anxiety. Written by Drs. Amy Mezulis and Michelle Kuhn, UpLift have created strategies to help teens manage their mental health during this challenging time. To learn more about the writers, check out the bottom of the blog post. Also, UpLift created a helpful one-page PDF to share and print for others.

Set a Schedule

Get up, get dressed, and stick to a normal routine. Make a daily schedule that includes activities similar to your normal schedule: schoolwork, sports, friends, meals, and family time.

Normal Sleep

While it’s tempting to stay up late and sleep in, disruptions to normal sleep cycles can cause depression and anxiety. Try to go to bed no more than 1 hour later on a school night and wake up no more than 1 hour later a school morning.

Be the Good

Mr. Rogers said “Look for the helpers.” Research shows that doing nice things for other people helps us feel more optimistic, grateful, and connected. What can you do to be helpful during this time? Ideas: offer to help with house chores, volunteer to run errands for an elderly neighbor, babysit your siblings.

Socially Engage

Find ways to meaningfully engage with friends through text or FaceTime. Reach out and check in on people. Ideas: virtual movie marathon, online games, or study sessions. If your parents/current recommendations allow, consider 1-on-1 outings such as hikes or cookie baking sessions.

Use Your Body

Get some exercise! Aim for 20-30 minutes of physical activity every day. Ideas: go for a run/walk/hike; go to a gym if open, use a free workout app or YouTube videos for at-home workouts.

Use Your Mind

If your school offers remote learning, do it! If not, find ways to keep your mind active every day. Ideas: online classes, that test prep workbook gathering dust, jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku or word games, or read a book.

Manage Anxiety

The news can feel overwhelming and the situation is changing quickly. Manage your own and others’ anxiety by only trusting information from reliable sources (state health departments, your school district website, CDC) and avoid spreading panic-inducing memes or false information.

The Silver Lining

Many of us are facing disappointments this spring – lost sports seasons, school events, etc. But there is almost always something positive in any difficult situation. What is your silver lining? Ideas: keep a gratitude journal of three things you’re grateful for every day, find time for the hobby/skill/activity you’ve always wanted to try, and try to see how your situation is perhaps better than someone else’s.

About the authors

Amy Mezulis, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist who received her BA from Harvard University and her MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology from University of Wisconsin – Madison. Dr. Mezulis provides services to older children, adolescents and adults utilizing an evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral approach that includes mindfulness and acceptance-based treatments. Dr. Mezulis has specialized training in mood and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, suicidality and self-injury, trauma, substance use, and adolescent development.  She is currently on the faculty at Seattle Pacific University, where she chairs the Clinical Psychology PhD program.

Michelle Kuhn, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist who received her BA from The George Washington University and her PhD in Clinical Psychology from Seattle Pacific University. Dr. Kuhn provides services to children, adolescents, and their families, utilizing evidence-based behavioral and cognitive-behavioral approaches. She has specialized training in mood and anxiety disorders, suicidality and self-injury, attention and behavior problems, and trauma.   Dr. Kuhn also researches new treatments for children and their families in the field of neurodevelopment disorders.

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