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Understanding my experience of the pandemic – for 11-18 year olds

Information for young people on coping with difficult feelings and experiences during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

My mental wellbeing after the pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for many of us. And lots of us are still learning how to cope with our mental wellbeing, feelings and experiences.

We're here to help you feel validated in whatever you've been going through and give you some ideas on how to cope after the pandemic.

On this page, we use the term ‘pandemic’ for the Covid-19 pandemic, also known as coronavirus or Covid. The UK and Welsh governments said that this illness was a pandemic from March 2020.

In May 2023, the pandemic no longer had a global emergency status. While things had already started changing before then, some people think of this as the end of the pandemic.

When we say ‘after the pandemic’, we mean the time after May 2023. However, we don't see it as the ‘end’ of the pandemic because Covid is still around and affects our lives in many different ways.


Warning: on this page we talk about difficult things which might feel upsetting.

Please only carry on reading if you feel safe to do so. Take breaks if you need to and remember you can come back to this page at any time.

When Covid first hit, it took a massive toll on my mental health... it was quite stressful and impactful – Kaya, 16

How might I be feeling since my experience of the pandemic?

For many of us, the pandemic has felt like a lot to cope with. We are all different and there's no right or wrong way to feel about it.

This section covers:

Difficult feelings

We might still experience these difficult feelings at the moment, or during the pandemic we might have felt:

  • Scared and stressed
  • Angry
  • Out of control and unsafe
  • Sad and anxious
  • Isolated and lonely
  • Grief and loss
  • Hopeless
  • Traumatised
  • Less able to cope with things
  • Worried about ourselves, others and the future

We spoke to young people about some of the difficult feelings they faced because of the pandemic:

Earlier on in the pandemic, I was worrying about coronavirus directly. But in the last few months it has been about different things, like worrying about how my dad is coping.

I was sent home early by my headteacher as he was scared of me becoming ill. As it was 2 weeks before everyone else, this made me feel very different and alone, even more than I already was.

I felt a lot of anxiety during the lockdown and would cry a lot. I would be too stressed to go into shops as they were enclosed spaces where the virus could spread.

I was struggling after a drastic change of routine since Covid, and what I was used to and comfortable around… I was unable to function for days and still struggle to this day.

Difficult experiences

Going through the pandemic might have made other things feel harder to cope with, or brought new things for us to cope with.

We might have faced or currently face difficult experiences like:

  • Worries about money and finances
  • Worries about school, college, work or the future
  • Problems with our relationships
  • Bullying
  • Trauma
  • Experiencing or seeing abuse
  • Experiencing or seeing types of inequality or discrimination
  • Living with a mental health problem
  • Lack of access to mental or physical health support
  • Losing someone we care about
  • Coping with physical illness, long-term illness or having to shield
  • Changes in responsibility, like having to care for someone

We spoke to young people who shared some of their most difficult experiences of the pandemic, affecting them at the time as well as now:

Living with someone suffering from severe mental health issues, who wasn't receiving support at the start of the pandemic, made it harder to find a balance.

After lockdown was lifted, most of the time I would be at home still caring for my mum like before. But now it really worries me that she could get ill by just going outside.

During the pandemic, I struggled to keep up with schoolwork using the online systems, which really impacted me when I came back to school in person. I've had to work extra hard to recover my grades.

During Covid I was so isolated, hidden away from everyone and spent a lot of time on social media. The bullies had 24/7 access to me as my phone was my only way of communicating with anyone.

Positive feelings or experiences

A lot of us felt distressed during or after the pandemic. But some parts might also have felt positive for us, like finding time at home was better for our mental health.

We might have had positive feelings or experiences from the pandemic that continued in our lives, like feeling:

  • Less overwhelmed
  • Less stressed
  • Safer
  • More connected to others
  • Better able to cope with things

We spoke to young people who shared some of their positive experiences from during or after the pandemic:

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

I felt like I could get to know myself better, but I also felt a sense of guilt that I was enjoying the time in isolation.

Over lockdown I had time to come to terms with my condition and accept that this was my new life. I had become more open speaking about it.

It was tough at the start, but I slowly started to build a routine and ended up loving it. I especially loved being able to spend more time with my sister.

We all experienced different things during and after the pandemic, which means coping with it now feels different for everyone.

In what ways are we still living with the pandemic?

Although the pandemic was said to be over in May 2023, it's not over in our daily lives. Some of us might only remember it now and again, but others might often think about it. Some of us had different thoughts about the pandemic and didn't think it was true, when it was.

No matter how you felt about it at the time or right now, there are no longer any rules for the pandemic in England and Wales.

For example, we don't have to stay inside anymore when we have Covid or if we're at risk from it. But this might not feel okay for us, and we might want or need to stay in even though this isn't a rule.

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 March 2020 but living now.

We can still experience, see or hear about the virus in our daily lives. We might:

  • Hear about Covid on the news or social media
  • Hear about the vaccine and booster jabs, which some of us can still get
  • Be living with Long Covid or know other people who are
  • Get Covid or know other people who get it

When I got Covid, I was so scared of giving it to the rest of my family as I didn't want them to get ill. When my family got Covid a few months later, I cried a lot and relied heavily on my friends to cheer me up and support me.

We can still see or experience lasting effects or reminders of how things used to be during the pandemic:

  • Lots of things might now take place online when they were in person before. They could even be a mix of both.
  • Wearing face masks isn't something we have to do now, but we might still want to wear them to feel safer. We might also want others to wear them.
  • We might want to continue socially distancing, or for other people to do it.

I really struggled to get back into ‘normal’ living. I wore and still do wear a mask if I'm going anywhere that could be crowded – Iqra, 16

It can feel hard to understand how many of us seem to have gone back to the way things were, when so much has changed since the pandemic. We all feel and cope differently with our experience.

However you're coping with things after the pandemic, your feelings are valid and you're not alone.

I wish somebody had taught me to confront my triggers, as it just gets harder to do this later on down the line. Be brave and strong enough to confront your fears, anxieties or anything you struggle with – Elaina, 16

Ongoing struggles, feelings and experiences

We all may have had times where we struggled with the pandemic. Some of us might still feel like we are struggling with the pandemic and our mental health. It might also feel hard to deal with lots of change and uncertainty.

This section covers:

Feeling anxious or worried

The pandemic might have made us feel more anxious or worried than usual. It might continue to affect our lives in ways like:

  • Making us avoid certain things we used to do or enjoy
  • Finding it hard to do things that we used to do often
  • Feeling more worried about things like health, illness and the future

Even though I'm now much better, sometimes in crowded or hot rooms I may still feel anxious – Elaina, 16

Struggling with going to school, college or work

Lots of us have struggled going back to school, college or work since the pandemic.

Some of us became used to learning or working from home and have struggled to go back since. Or we might have missed out on so much time in education that we're finding it hard to get back into it.

I missed out on so much education, because my family had to share devices with each other in turns, which made me feel so hopeless when returning to school. All I could get was poor results on most practice exams – Iqra, 16

Coping with loss and grief

Many of us experienced loss or grief in some way during the pandemic. We might have lost people we knew or were close to. This might have felt even more difficult if we couldn't grieve in the way we wanted to, due to rules during the pandemic.

We might have experienced loss in a different way, like not seeing friends or partners for a long time and losing contact with them.

You can find organisations that help with loss and grief on our useful contacts page.

I'm not very good at messaging and I hate video chats (I'm much better face-to-face), so I have lost touch with people to a point where I don't think we will see each other again.

Missing out on important events

We might have felt that we missed out on a lot of experiences or important events we were looking forward to. This could make us feel left behind and worried about the future.

No matter what you missed out on, or you're still missing out on, feeling a loss of those things is completely valid.

There are lots of events you could have been looking forward to. For example, a 16th birthday party, university Fresher's week, your sister's graduation, a family gathering or your first driving test.

It's okay to feel like you missed out, whether it was a big or a small event.

As a 16-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.

Dealing with Long Covid

If we continue to experience Covid-19 symptoms for longer than 4 weeks after getting the virus, this is known as Long Covid. For some people, there can be a gap between first getting the virus and experiencing Long Covid.

Long Covid is different for everyone, but some common symptoms include:

  • Feeling extremely tired
  • Shortness of breath
  • Losing your sense of smell
  • Muscle aches and pains

You can find Long Covid information and support, and read about other young people's experiences, at Long Covid Kids.

After my experience with Covid, I have continued to struggle with my breathing which stopped me from doing what I love: singing. I had to learn to work with the way I was feeling and adapt to my new circumstances.

How can I cope with difficult experiences from the pandemic?

Finding ways to cope with difficult experiences from the pandemic can feel really hard. We're all different, so we will find that different things help us. You could try some of the ideas below.

If you don't feel like any of these ideas work for you at the moment, that's okay too. Maybe you could try them another time.

Take time to look after your wellbeing

It's important to look after your wellbeing as much as possible. This includes physical health as well as your mental health.

Lots of us found nature to be really helpful for our mental wellbeing during the pandemic. Not all of us have easy access to nature, but we can find ways to connect with it, like listening to nature sounds for example.

How can I look after my wellbeing?

Find ideas on looking after your wellbeing.

Validate your feelings

Try to remind yourself that your feelings about the pandemic are valid, even if others don't feel the same. You could find ways to understand your feelings and cope with them.

How can I understand my feelings?

Find out more about recognising difficult feelings.

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.

Open up to others and ask for what you need

Speaking to others can help you feel less alone with what you're going through. It might be something related to an experience you had in the pandemic, or it might be something you're going through right now.

How can I open up to others?

Read our information for tips on how to do this.

Just saying that you're struggling means that you're going through it with someone else – Maddie, 16

Set goals and celebrate your successes

If you're not able to do things you used to, or feel like you've missed out on things, remember that these feelings are valid.

Try to remind yourself of the things you can still do, even if they feel small. You might want to set goals for the future. These could be long-term goals or something you want to be able to do today.

We have a downloadable resource about setting and planning goals around your energy levels. It involves filling in a table to help you track your feelings and activity.

On some days you might have more or less energy and motivation – our resource might help you work out which activities are best for you at certain times.

How can I set goals linked to my energy levels?

Download our resource as a Word document by pressing the button below.


Finding ways to cope and working on goals can feel really tiring. Take your time to work on things in a way that works best for you.

Remember: it's okay to take breaks.

I have an achievements jar where I write at least one thing I achieved that day (and date it) and put it in the jar.

Keep doing whatever you need to feel safe

Not all of us feel like we can go back to normal after the pandemic, but others might not understand how we feel. Although there are no rules anymore, you can still try to do things that help you feel safe and comfortable.

You might want to keep wearing a mask, avoid crowded places, or do anything else that helps you feel safe. And for some of us, it can help to do things that felt scary before. Starting to do these things slowly, when it's safe, can help us to move on.

We can't always have control over situations. While it's important to do what you can to feel safe, try your best to recognise the things that make you feel worse and work on them. If others don't understand, try to remind yourself that you're looking after yourself.

I found comfort in avoiding the situations that gave me anxiety and panic attacks. But now, because I've not confronted these triggers, they have taken over my ability to do certain things. I regret finding comfort in running away from them – Elaina, 16

How can I cope with my feelings about the future?

After going through the pandemic, we might have more worries about the future. When the future looks really uncertain, we might feel frightened or hopeless.

Whatever you're feeling is valid and you deserve to find ways to manage your feelings and worries. Try some ideas to cope with difficult feelings about the future, like:

  • Being careful with how you use news and social media. If you find it hard reading about things going on in the world, YoungMinds have more information about social media and mental health.
  • Planning activities for your wellbeing. You could try planning to do things in your day that feel calming or good. Knowing you have something to look forward to can help, even if it's something small. For more information, see our tips on looking after your wellbeing.
  • Caring for others. You might want to do something that helps people or causes you care about, like volunteering.
  • Creating a routine. You might find that routine helps if you don't already have it through things like school or work. You could think of things you want to try to do in the day or over the week. You might prefer to try having things to do at a certain time or taking it hour by hour.

It's so important to occupy your brain with healthy activities like reading, exercise or general things you enjoy. This can be a healthy way to work away any nervous energy or negative thoughts you have – Elaina, 16

While we can have some control over our lives and the world, others need to take more responsibility too. The future isn't all down to you.

Remember that you might cope better on some days than others – you're trying your best.

Looking after yourself and finding more support

Whatever you've gone through during the pandemic, or whatever you're feeling now, you deserve support.    

Find support

Get wellbeing tips

This information was published in June 2024. We will revise it in 2027.

The quotes on this page are from young people we spoke to while making this information. They've given us their consent to use their quotes in our information. The words, experiences and opinions in the quotes are not related to the young people shown in any of the photographs we use.

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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