I’m Not Who I Used To Be, But I Can Like The New Me Better!

By: Arianna Schiavello

View all Arianna Schiavello's works

The relief someone might feel when knocking down an assignment that has been bothering them for a while or when you finish that maze that was taking you ages to escape from, is the same relief you’ll feel when you battle your mental health and get out of this quarantine with peace of mind. With the right tools and good tactics, you too can get out of this maze and feel that great sense of relief.

How to escape this maze we call “quarantine”— leaving stronger!  

Do you feel as though the world is moving faster than you are, and you are just stuck in one spot unable to move? Ever since the quarantine order was in motion, I have felt stuck in March of 2020 for two years. It’s hard for me to even believe that I have already completed freshman year, and am heading into my sophomore year. Things have been going so fast and I feel that I am just running behind and trying to catch up with myself. From ruined sleep schedules to feeling absolutely useless during the day, this quarantine has definitely left a large ripple on my life. However, I do feel there is a way out of this endless maze. 

Ever since I heard that school would be switched to online while I was in my eighth grade classroom, I feel that nothing has been the same for me. My grades and graduation preparations, which I had put so much hard work into, took a large hit because of the pandemic. It was a new environment for me, from masks, to social distancing, to even having school being done online. I felt so lost and I felt so alone. I started to have hatred towards being in my room, even though it was supposed to be my sanctuary to get away from the world. Days moved by much quicker than my legs could move, and I was losing and gaining things left and right. I felt so isolated, like I was in a dark room where I couldn’t see my own hands in front of me. I forgot my basic communication skills and took the title “introverted” to a whole new level. My time on social media increased tremendously but being on social media, for hours at a time, was beginning to be a bore. However, people on social media made me realize that whatever I was feeling wasn’t out of the ordinary. 

Teens everywhere were going through hardships of their own due to the effects of COVID. Even my own friends and classmates were experiencing troubling times that were either similar or worse than mine. COVID has had an effect on the youth and data backs that claim up, specifically when looking at the suicide rates for teens from 2019 to 2020. According to AAP News, “Significantly higher rates of suicide-related behaviors appear to have corresponded with times when COVID-19 stressors” (Suicidal behavior in youths higher during COVID-19 closures than in 2019). I have watched the news much more this year than last year, and I remember hearing about a young high school boy who took his own life because he felt isolated and away from his friends. I have seen in all different cases how COVID is affecting my age group worldwide. 

Therapy Rates Have Soared 

As someone who has had to go to different therapists and figure out myself through many changes in my life, I see from experience that ‘depression’ and ‘anxiety’ aren’t things to be taken lightly. Many teens, like myself, are discovering things about ourselves that we never knew were there before. Discussing with my therapist, she believes that during these trying times it is “good to have someone to talk to who isn’t biased about anything.” According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Children aged 12–17 years were more likely to have received any mental health treatment (including having taken prescription medication and received counseling or therapy from a mental health professional) in the past 12 months (16.8%)” (Mental Health Treatment Among Children Aged 5–17 Years: United States, 2019). In a September 2020 article, the CDC revealed that children were receiving much more mental health attention in 2020 than in 2019, the amount of children receiving mental health attention was 13.6%. 

From The Words Of Teens 

Through my experience with interviewing my peers and some acquaintances, their responses to my questions were very similar to how I felt during quarantine. Marco, a 17-year old boy, described how his life was before and after quarantine. Before COVID, he said he was “healthy and in a good place mentally” with some confidence as well. However, his mental state “changed in a way that any confidence [he] had vanished.” He felt the isolation affect him, but the talking to his friends over the phone brought him closure. I found that being stuck to my cell phone helped me in some ways because I had friends to talk to, just like what Marco said. Masks have also been a topic of conversation among teens. Marco discussed how he grew very fond of the masks because “they hide parts of my face I’m insecure about.” I, as well, can relate to him because masks have grown on me and now, I don’t really feel like removing them. Marco also said that he felt “uncomfortable that masks can be removed with all the variants”, which is scaring not just him, but many others as we continue to open up the state more and more. 

Another person I interviewed was Chris, a 15-year old boy, who had also described how his life was “pretty normal” before COVID. Then, he went more in depth on how his “mental state gradually changed throughout quarantine.” Constant naps had ruined his sleep schedule and his energy throughout the day depleted because his body was so used to sleeping all the time. His work ethic was also negatively impacted. To him, the isolation and silence was “relieving and calming” since he is much more introverted, and when he wanted to speak with friends he did through texts, whereas others may have found the silence to be suffocating. I found that being away from people and noise made me crave it more and more. Something many children have realized is that being at home made them grow closer to their families. Chris could relate, as he said he and his brother got closer, which filled the gap of “human interaction.” His take on masks now being able to be removed is “liberating because it can get tiring.” 

Another person I interviewed was Jessenia, a 14-year girl, who I questioned in a different pattern from the others. I wanted to hear what it was like to have first-hand experience watching and trying to help a person whose mental health deteriorated during quarantine. She described how being on the sidelines and viewing someone else’s mental health diminish from afar “wasn’t fun” and that “knowing and just witnessing that they were struggling as much as they did made [her] realize how much [she] had to be there.” I relate to her statement because I found myself picking up other people’s pieces when they fell multiple times as well. However, there is only so much support you can provide to someone through a screen. She described it being “hopeless at times” because while progress could be made, there are always setbacks. At times she didn’t know “how to respond,” but learned that she had to be careful with what she said. With distance making things harder, she felt it “would have been different if [she] was there because [she] could have given them more comfort and support.” Helping someone else with their mental health stability made her realize that her own mental health was in a good place. There were times during quarantine where she felt “isolated and was down”, but she still felt that her experiences “were extremely different” from the person she observed. Some methods that helped her get through the isolation were “certain breathing methods, taking warm baths, listening to soothing music and mindful meditation.” Mindful meditation was a method she used when there was something on her mind that was bothering her or if she was having trouble sleeping. 

Solutions To Lost Motivation/Beating Covid Burn-Out 

You may have known all this before and this may just sound repetitive to you. I don’t want to just share my experiences and others without giving suggestions and solutions that I used to stay busy during quarantine. I’ve realized that many teens, like myself, have turned to social media as a way to pass time. I want to share a few tactics I used during quarantine and that I hope to use after quarantine as well.

1. Taking Up A New Hobby 

I have tried many new hobbies during quarantinesome I loved and some I hated. It was such a great way for me to learn more about myself and expand my skills. For example, I have grown a love of reading books that has helped me pass a lot of time and expand my reading skills. I also improved my dancing, and even joined a team when COVID wasn’t so dangerous. There are endless hobbies that one can master, and it’s okay if one doesn’t stick well. From learning a language just for the fun of it to making something with your bare hands, there are so many hobbies you can busy yourself with. Learning a new hobby was a good experience in the end and it allowed me to learn more about myself.

2. Going For A Walk 

While it sounds simple, going for a small walk alone or with someone else could be such a great way to clear your mind. You can also take a walk while taking a pet out for a stroll. You can go around your block, to a nearby park, or even further. You are getting out of your house and you are being exposed to more than just a confined space. At first, I didn’t want to leave my room and my social anxiety made going outside unenjoyable. However, I realized that sometimes going out to get some fresh air was beneficial for me and calmed my nerves. Trying it sometimes may be a good routine and could be a way to exercise, which takes me into my next method.

Sometimes a little stroll around the park can lift the weight off your shoulders.

3. Exercising 

Starting to exercise is another way to pass time while also becoming healthier and more active. Many people around me, even my own family members and friends, have started to work out during quarantine. I, myself, started to work out during quarantine to work on some strengths that I have let go of at the beginning of the lockdown. Exercising can be as simple as walking or running a mile each morning, or going to a local gym and working out there. There are so many ways to build strength and stamina, as well as flexibility. Yoga, for example, is a form of exercising that can help improve your mental and physical state all at once.

Exercising can allow you to sweat away those unwanted stressors.

4. Connecting With Friends/Family 

Technology has become society’s best friend more than ever in 2020. Not being able to meet up with friends and having to distance from family due to COVID can be very challenging. Many people have been moving a lot since the pandemic as well. I am one of those people. Many of my friends who used to be blocks away are now miles and hours away from me, which could be pretty discouraging sometimes. However, Zoom calls, FaceTimes, phone calls, and texting have become the new norm for me and have been allowing my friends and me to keep in touch. We have had so many Zoom calls that I can’t even count anymore. Sometimes we go on and play games, other times we watch a movie or show together. It has been so entertaining for me and has really saved me throughout quarantine. Apps like Houseparty, Bunch, FaceTime, and Zoom all have really allowed me to have a fun-filled quarantine. It’s not the same as in person, but it helps a lot and I tend to feel less alone. 

Having family and friends one call away can really help more than you think.

I have learned many things about myself throughout the past two years that have been very life changing for me. I’ve made bonds with people and also broken some bonds with people. School has taught me more than just academics and the experience of having to learn through a computer screen during trying times will definitely be a story to tell others in the future. My mental health has been impacted immensely, no doubt there, but I have grown close with myself and learned what I need as a person. I’ve started to care about my own needs more than others, growing out of that shell I was in from 2019 to December 2020. I do admit this year wasn’t nearly as good as the last, but it has improved in some places. I hope that the new normal can also be a new normal for you. We can’t go back to the past, but we can make the most out of the present. 

I do hope that you can find the end of this maze and find the person inside you that you are searching for. It may feel hopeless, but it really isn’t. With effort and some time to learn and grow, you will realize that the world was only going faster in your head. You are still right here, and you have made it and you have succeeded. Just know that you are never alone in whatever possible fight you are going through. It’s never a bad life, only a bad day. You have the power to control each day that you live through. One day it may seem impossible, the next it will seem possible. Ask yourself, how much have you gained and how much have you lost? Don’t push away who you are—appreciate yourself as a person. Appreciate that the end of the maze is finally here.

“Appreciate what you have. Appreciate who you are. Appreciate who you will become.”

Leave a Comment