A guest post by Isabelle Boullier, National President SADD
For the last year, many of us have had to significantly alter our way of life. What were jam packed days, endless days dwindled to days staring at a screen wondering if this pandemic would ever end?
I can promise you, we all may have felt that in one or way or another. But we have to recognize that we can’t control when a pandemic will send us into lockdown or how long it stays. What we can control is how we respond to this adversity and choose to bring activities back into our daily schedule.
Let’s first cover what we shouldn’t do to get that out of the way. Many teens turn to substance-use to cope with the boredom, the endless sensation of virtual schooling, and mental wellness challenges that we cannot see. College students, freshman specifically, are in their most vulnerable state during the first six weeks of college: about half of college students drink and one-third binge drink. Between what youth have lost in the last year, to social pressures, to being isolated, to so many different other areas of their life that have been affected that we may not be considering. Now more than ever, it’s important we recognize the risk of these substances. So—what can we do to help teens and ourselves fit some of our daily activities BACK into our schedule?
Let’s start with school. While we all want to add daily activities back into our school, we need to ensure we are helping youth do the same. While we are resilient and can bounce back, that doesn’t mean we are not feeling the effect of not being fully in person at school, a weird sports season, the loss of friends, the loss of career opportunities, and so many other things that are supposed to be a part of the best years of our life. Parents, there’s never been a better time to push your teens to try and get activities back into school virtually. Start a new club or student group. Host a volunteer day or weekend with families in your neighbor. Virtually, work together on a project to make your community better, as there are many volunteer opportunities that exist virtually.
You can start with little things like hiking, exercising, sledding, skiing, and or anything outdoors that you could do with your little group of people. Simply taking a nice day on the weekend to get out and breathe in some fresh air will, overall, give that sense of normalcy and make you feel a lot better. Then, as you see things become more open, you may be able to safely see a family member or a close friend you haven’t been able to catch up with. Remembering your state’s gathering limits and social distance protocols is imperative to ensure your health and safety as you add more activities back into your schedule.
There are other little things you can add too! Maybe it’s going back to the coffee shop to pick up your favorite latte! Try going into a grocery store at a less busy time to buy some of that ice cream that hasn’t been available for online grocery shopping! It could be taking a drive while listening to your favorite podcast or jams! Adding activities back into your schedule doesn’t have to be huge leaps, it could be little things that give you a sense of normalcy and fun.
To help youth bring back a sense of normalcy to their life: family activities are always fun. There’s never been a better time to make a new tradition. Gather your friends and family virtually. Host a craft night where you make something together. If your people love board games, give it a try virtually (yeah, it’ll take a little more work, but it’s worth it). Set some goals for starting a virtual book club, working out together, or binge watching that favorite show. These are all normal activities that we can being to sprinkle into our day to add some more zest while we wait for things to fully turn back to normal.
A few things to consider. It’s imperative that you take it one step at a time, one day at a time, and continue to follow the health recommendations of your local health officials. Each state is vastly different in how their health circumstances look. While in Rhode Island, I could really add some daily exercising into my schedule, someone in another state may already be full-fledge into winter sports seasons (lucky). Unfortunately, there are going to be somethings that we have to put on hold: concerts (I miss these!), family get-togethers, festivals, or anything that could potentially cause mass community transmission and be detrimental to people’s health. Everyone’s schedule looks different. So, give yourself some love for learning to navigate the world during a pandemic!
I’m hoping, wishing, praying that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Remember, progress isn’t always easy. Sometimes we have to take 5 steps forward and 2 steps back. This is an inconvenience, I know, but also know its important to recognize that we will get out of this. We will be able to see friends and family, and we will be able to resume our daily activities in full soon enough. We’ve made it this far, now don’t give up. Take the time to feed your areas of wellness to maintain balance in your life — that includes: your emotional, physical, occupational, spiritual, financial, psychological, intellectual, and social areas of your life. You’re doing the best you can and that’s the important part. You’ve got this.
SADD’s mission is to empower young people to successfully confront the risks and pressures that challenge them throughout their daily lives.
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