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Managing your feelings about changes to lockdown – for 11-18 year olds

Information for 11-18 year olds who are struggling with their feelings about coronavirus restrictions changing. Includes tips on how to cope.

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg. This link will take you to a Welsh translation of this page.

Managing your feelings about changes to lockdown

The coronavirus pandemic has been hard for lots of us

We’re here to help you understand your feelings, and give you some positive ways to cope.

This page covers:

To find out what the rules are right now, see the UK Government coronavirus guidance, in English, or the Welsh Government coronavirus guidance, in English and Welsh.

The rules aren’t clear and are constantly changing and I’m scared I won’t adjust quick enough.

Feelings about the rules changing

Everyone will be experiencing different feelings about changing government restrictions.

You may feel relieved when you hear about the rules changing where you live, or you may feel worried or angry. You may not know how you feel, or feel a mixture of emotions.

For example:

  • You might be feeling sad about things you’ve missed out on. For example, everyday social things, like parties and sport. Or exciting plans, like travelling or work experience.
  • Or you might be worried about missing more things in the future.
  • You might be feeling isolated or low because you’re not able to see or meet up with family, friends or partners.
  • You might be feeling lonely because your friendships have changed during the pandemic, or you might have been through a break up.
  • You may also feel low or lacking in purpose because your future study plans have been affected or you’ve lost your job because of the pandemic.
  • Or you might feel like you’ve lost motivation to do the things you used to.

"There is just always something holding me back from feeling or enjoying that it’s going back to normal, as if I am still in the mindset of last March but living now."

  • You may be feeling worn down after nearly two years of living through the pandemic. Especially if you’re not getting on with your family or the people you live with.
  • Or you may have been hiding parts of your identity from the people you live with, like your sexuality or faith, and want to be yourself again.
  • You may also be feeling fed up because of changes to the rules and the compromises you’re having to make.
  • Or you may feel frustrated if you think that the government are handling things the wrong way.

"Very fed up, exhausted with life, feel like there aren’t many good things in life to keep me going."

  • Perhaps you’re feeling pressure from friends to meet up when you don’t feel comfortable with it, or pressure to not wear a mask around them when you want to.
  • Or you may feel angry that your course grades and exam results weren't decided the way you expected.
  • Or maybe you feel frustrated because you don’t have any private space to be yourself or talk about how you feel openly.

I’ve been feeling very agitated. I’ve started to snap at people for no reason because I just want to be alone.

  • You may be scared or upset about the rise in coronavirus cases again.
  • You may have new or existing difficulties around coping with germs or hygiene, which coronavirus has made worse.
  • You may feel worried about how coronavirus will affect your education, career or other parts of your future. For example, you might be feeling sad that you’ve missed a lot of time in school. Or you might feel that college or university isn't what you hoped for, or that you’re missing out on things.
  • You may feel scared about getting the vaccine or booster, or worried that you haven’t had it yet.
  • You may have worries around money or finding a job, to support yourself or your family.
  • You might also feel anxious that your relationships have changed during lockdown, like with your friends or partner.

My social anxiety has increased with going into shops, especially as I’m exempt from wearing a mask due to anxiety.

  • You may be feeling annoyed because the government guidance for young people isn’t clear. Or feeling powerless, like you don’t have a say in what’s going on.
  • Or you might feel annoyed that young people are being blamed unfairly for rises in coronavirus cases.
  • Maybe your mental health support has had to change or even stop during lockdown. Or you’re frustrated because lockdown has caused you to take steps back in your recovery.
  • Or your family might be going through difficult money issues, and you may feel pressure to provide support, or fear you’ll lose your independence.

As a sixteen-year-old, it makes me feel like the most important years of my teenage life have been wasted away and it’s time I will never get back.

  • You may have gone through something very stressful, frightening or upsetting over the pandemic. For example, if you’ve had to stay somewhere that wasn’t a safe place for you.
  • Or you may be recovering from coronavirus or helping a family member to get better.
  • Someone you love may have died, and you might be grieving and also feeling afraid to lose anyone else.

Unsafe living environment at times – gangs with knives entering my building block and intimidating me in the communal staircase.

  • You may be struggling with things you see or hear on social media and the news.
  • Or you might be overwhelmed with the news of rising coronavirus cases.

Adjusting to life returning to more normalcy after a year of being at home can sometimes feel slightly overwhelming and strange.

  • You may be feeling positive about the people you love getting their vaccinations.
  • Or you may feel like you’ve grown as a person during this time and feel proud of yourself.
  • You may feel hopeful about getting back to normal soon.

The pandemic has forced me to face a lot of my demons, which I think is a good thing.

These are only a few examples of what you may be feeling right now. You may be experiencing several of these feelings, or be going through something completely different.

If you’re still struggling to understand how you’re feeling, you can visit our page on understanding my feelings.

I find it hard to speak about how I feel so I keep it to myself which doesn’t always help.

What are positive and negative coping strategies?

Coping is our ability to respond to, and deal with, unpleasant, difficult or stressful situations. Our ability to cope with things can vary – we can cope well one day and poorly the next.

Coping strategies are things we choose to do in unpleasant situations, to manage our emotions and help us get through them, or to lessen how it will affect us. There are both positive and negative coping strategies.

Positive coping strategies are healthy ways of coping that are good for our wellbeing in the long term. You can find some ideas and examples of positive coping strategies in the tips for coping and adjusting section below.

Negative coping strategies are unhealthy ways of coping that can harm our wellbeing or cause other problems. They may feel impulsive or urge-driven. We also may not realise at the time that we’re using negative strategies to escape from something.

The negative coping strategies young people have told us they’re using during the coronavirus pandemic include:

  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Self-harming
  • Spending too much time online, or on social media
  • Eating too much or not enough
  • Spending too much money
  • Working or studying too much
  • Drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs
  • Smoking cigarettes or vaping.

To get support from organisations who can help, go to our coronavirus useful contacts page for young people.

What could help me cope and adjust?

While things remain uncertain, we can focus on what we can control and take positive steps to look after our wellbeing.

We asked young people to tell us what they’ve been doing to help themselves cope during the pandemic. You might find it useful to try some of the positive coping strategies they suggested.

Here are some ideas:

There are things you can do to help you understand and accept how you’re feeling, like:

  • Use an emotions wheel to help name feelings that are hard to pinpoint.
  • Talk to someone you trust about how you feel right now, to help you accept what is happening. This could be a parent or carer, a friend, a partner or a helpline such as Childline.
  • Write, draw, run, or do something else that will give you space to feel everything you’re currently feeling. Even the really unhappy, angry stuff.
  • Recognise and challenge unkind or unhelpful thoughts. Try to do this by talking to yourself as you would to a good friend. You could ask yourself: ‘How might someone else see this?’, ‘Is there anything that suggests this might not happen?’, or ‘What would I say to a friend who was thinking this?’ Answering these questions may help you to think more rationally and calmly.
  • Visit our page on understanding my feelings if you’re still struggling to understand how you’re feeling.

Find a way to release your emotions… write it, sing it, do it through art. Just find a release to let go of everything in your head.

Spending time with friends, family or partners, whether in person or not, can help us feel better and boost our wellbeing. You could:

  • Invest time in the relationships you want to grow and build – those which you rely on for support as well as fun.
  • Keep in touch with friends, family or partners, and make plans to see each other or catch up.
  • Share how you feel with someone you trust – this can help strengthen your friendship as well as giving you both a chance to support each other.
  • Connect with others who understand – for example, you could try The Mix's community message boards.

Talk to friends and family. Practice self-soothing and mindfulness. Focus on one thing at a time, at your own pace. Try to be honest and set boundaries with yourself, work colleagues and friends and family if necessary.

If things get tough, there are quick things you can try to reduce worry and panic, like:

  • A ‘grounding’ activity to stop your thoughts spinning out of control. Sit back and focus on what’s going on around you. Try to name five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.
  • Find a distraction that takes your mind off things, like going for a walk, listening to happy music or talking to someone. These can help you when you notice you’re worrying about the past or future.
  • Find a mindfulness activity to help you stay in the moment. You could try this breathing exercise – breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold it for two counts, and breathe out through your mouth for seven counts. If you repeat this, it can slow your breath and help keep you calm.
  • Ask for support from someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, family member or partner. Or get confidential support from a helpline like Childline or The Mix.
  • If you have the urge to hurt yourself, read our tips on how to cope with self-harm.
  • Find more information on anxiety and tips on how to cope on YoungMind's website.

Use apps or websites as they can be a great start. You don’t have to wait until you get professional support to start getting better.

Taking small steps to recognise what’s in your control right now, and what you can do to plan ahead, can help you feel more settled:

  • Write down your worries before bed and go over them in the morning. This can help you work out what no longer needs your attention, what things you can do to make yourself feel better, and what is out of your control.
  • Workshop ideas with your friends about how to stay calm or cope with anxiety in difficult situations.
  • Be involved in making decisions about how you’re keeping safe, like deciding when you want to wear a face mask.
  • Practice self-care – make time to relax or do things that make you feel good, as well as practical things like showering. For more information, see our page on looking after your wellbeing.

I’ve realised I’m more capable of making my own decisions without pressure from my school.

Looking after your physical wellbeing can have a big impact on your mental health too.

There are simple things you can try to look after your physical health, like:

  • Have a good bedtime and sleep routine. For example, have time away from a screen before you go to bed and limit the amount of caffeine you drink.
  • Eat healthily and stay active – this will look after both your body and mind and help your thoughts to become clearer.
  • Make sure you still follow guidance from the government and NHS on how to stay safe from coronavirus.
  • Be kind to yourself if you find it hard to make changes and do what you feel comfortable with.

Take care of your basic needs – try to eat and drink regularly, brush teeth, have a shower.

How can I support someone else?

If someone you care about is going through a tough time, it’s natural to want to support them. But with everything going on, you may feel like you don’t know how to help.

Here's some tips on supporting someone you care about:

  • Remember that everyone is experiencing something different right now – what might be easy for one person may be really hard for someone else.
  • Ask them what you could do to help, if you feel able to.
  • Offer them a time to talk if you think they need to hear a friendly voice.
  • Keep in contact. If they’re not up to chatting on the phone or meeting in person, let them know that’s okay and try to stay in touch in different ways. For example, you could play a game over video call, share a drawing or some art with them, or post or email them things that will make them smile.
  • Set boundaries – you might not always feel able to support someone else, so find a nice way of suggesting you both check in before discussing how you’re feeling.
  • If you’re worried a friend or partner might be self-harming, support them if you feel able to. You can read our tips on how to support someone who is self-harming.
  • Don’t forget to look after yourself too. It can be easy to focus on other people’s feelings instead of your own.

Reminding them you’re there if they need you and properly listening when they choose to open up, while continuing with your normal lives, is the best balance possible.

Where else can I get support?

During this time, you may find you need more support, or want to connect with people who you identify with.

We have information on taking care of your wellbeing during coronavirus. We also have information on finding support and talking to a doctor which you might find helpful.

For a list of other organisations who can help, visit our coronavirus useful contacts page. Many organisations offer text or instant messaging services for extra privacy.

Stay safe

If you feel overwhelmed, or like you want to hurt yourself, support is available for you to talk things through. You deserve help as soon as you need it.

To talk with someone confidentially about how you feel, you can:

If you feel like you may attempt suicide, or you have seriously hurt yourself, this is an emergency. You can:

  • Call 999 and ask for an ambulance.
  • Tell an adult you trust and ask them to call 999 for help.

Mental health emergencies are serious. You aren't wasting anyone's time.

The important thing is remembering that you can’t control the situation, but you can control how you react to it and how you choose to think about it.

This information was last updated on 21 December 2021.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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