As I write we're a few weeks into a global pandemic. A few months ago we would have thought that the whole idea of that was a bit loopy. None of us could have imagined how much life was about to change.
I wonder how you're doing? If it seems ok to be at home, or if it has brought you unimaginable levels of anxiety, stress, fear, anger and sadness?
The truth is that we're all grieving right now. It might not always feel like it, but we are. We've all suddenly lost the lives we knew and recognised. With very little warning, everything has changed. We can't see people we love, except through a computer screen. We can't go anywhere except the supermarket and maybe the park once a day. We can't be at school or uni or the places we want to be.
Stuff has been cancelled. Exams we’ve been working towards. Trips we were looking forward to. Parties, proms, weddings, celebrations.
We don’t know when it’s coming back.
And none of us knows how to do this. None of the adults in your life have ever had to do this either.
(You’re wondering now when we’re going to get past all the dark stuff to tell you how to cope).
No-one has a blueprint for how best to survive. How do you manage your self-harming when things have maybe just got more difficult, and it feels harder to cope than ever? How do you get through your anxiety when you are stuck in your room and can’t go for a walk? How do you find the motivation to leave your room when there’s nothing to leave it for?
We’ve been trying to listen to wise, thoughtful people who are willing to be honest about how hard it is. We’ve been trying to find our own ways of coping. And so we have some things to suggest that we hope will help.
(We're most especially in debt to our amazing friend Dr Kate Middleton - who is part of the team who advises and supports us at Selfharm UK - who shared these tips recently on the Youthscape podcast. You can find loads more of her wisdom on the Mind and Soul Foundation website).
1. Find routine.
All your usual routines might have disappeared in a puff of smoke, but anything you can do to bring some routine back into your life is going to help your mental well-being. When we're stressed out (which we ALL are right now, whether we know it or not) we need some predictability to calm us down. Even if it's just a time you get up, a time you eat, a time you do some working, a time you walk the dog.
2. Express your negative emotions.
Frustration. Anxiety. Loss.
We're all facing them. They might surprise you in the middle of the night, or wrap themselves around you all morning. Ignoring them makes them worse. So does feeling guilty about them. You're allowed to feel all of them.
We need to express them. Journal. Talk to someone. Paint. Draw. Don't lock them up inside.
3. Pursue the good stuff.
There is still good stuff around. Projects or work we can be part of. Encouraging someone else. Writing a nice email. It doesn't have to be something enormous or world-changing, but looking for positive things you can do will help.
Someone this week told me they were creating their own set of playing cards. Someone else is knitting. Someone else is writing cards for their friends. What could it be for you?
4. Get out whenever you can.
Yep, it's only allowed once a day, and not if you're in isolation. But anything we can do to get into the sunshine and breathe in some fresh air is going to do our mind and soul some good.
5. Allow yourself alone time.
It might be difficult if you're locked up inside with your family. But we all need it. Time to process. Time to switch off. Time to escape. Time to regroup.
So that's what we have for you right now. Go easy on yourselves, and keep washing your hands.
If you need some extra support right now, it might be a great time to try out Alumina, our free online support groups for 14-19s struggling with self-harm.