Help for Young People

Introduction

We know that young people have lots of questions and worries about the coronavirus (COVID-19). This is understandable – normal life has been completely changed with many of you now learning at home, dealing with the lockdown and the impact that this has on seeing your friends and family, and on doing the things that you enjoy.

Keyworkers, scientists and other adults are working on ways to deal with the virus and reduce the impact that it is having on everyone. However, it is normal to have different worries about how the coronavirus is affecting you and the people you care about.

The “Lockdown Lowdown” Report (produced by The Scottish Youth Parliament, YouthLink Scotland & Young Scot, 2020) talks about young people’s worries about COVID-19 and the impact it has on their lives.  This page explores the common worries highlighted in the “Lockdown Lowdown” Report. We offer possible explanations about why you might be worrying about specific things, ways to think differently about your worries alongside activities you can do to help boost your mood.

You can read through these common worries on your own or share them with a friend or an adult. It is best to talk through worries with someone else; if we keep them to ourselves, it can feel as if worries become bigger and out of control.

Contents:

I feel anxious all the time

I’m worried about something that I can’t fix

I’m finding learning at home hard

I’m worried about a friend

Someone I’m close to has died and I don’t know how to cope

I’m worried about losing my friends

How do I get reliable information on coronavirus

I’m worried about something else

Safer Scotland – https://safer.scot/ 

The Hideout http://thehideout.org.uk/ 

If you are not in immediate danger but feel that you don’t have anyone you can trust and talk to, there are some support numbers that you can call or text in the I’m worried about something else section.

Why you might be more worried or anxious than normal

COVID-19 and the steps taken to control it have had a huge impact on almost every part of our normal lives – from seeing family and friends, going to school or doing our favourite activities such as playing sports. This experience is new to almost everyone, so we don’t have previous experiences to help us to predict what will happen or know how best to deal with everything.

Feeling more worried and anxious than usual is a very normal and common reaction to what is going on in the world, especially as we are surrounded by messages about danger and uncertainty. It is further challenging as we can’t do many of the things that would normally help us feel better. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong or that you are the only one who feels this way.

However, we know that it doesn’t feel good to be anxious or worried too often or for too long, as this can have some horrible side effects on our physical bodies like in the picture below and on our emotions e.g. feeling grumpy, snappy, overwhelmed, disconnected from people/situations or “numb”.

But there is good news – having a good understanding of what anxiety is and how it affects your body can help you control it.  

“What is anxiety really?”

Feeling anxious about things is completely normal – everyone feels anxious sometimes. Do you know what is really going on inside your brain and body when you’re feeling anxious?

Anxiety is a reaction that can sometimes even be helpful – this can happen in different ways that are known as the Fight, Flight or Freeze responses.

Back in the caveman times, anxiety helped us humans to stay safe. If cavemen came across dangerous animals like a sabretooth tiger, an instinct known as the ‘fight or flight response’ would be triggered by the body and brain. It would happen automatically without the need for any thought.

When the ‘fight or flight system’ is triggered, hormones such as adrenaline are released to help the body prepare to either fight or run away from the perceived danger (e.g., tiger). As a result, we tense up and become alert. Our hearts start to beat faster, and more blood is sent to the muscles, making us ready for action!  In some cases, our body might also respond to the stressful situation by ‘freezing’. We feel as if our mind has gone blank and we feel unable to move. I’m sure you know of some animals that use this ‘strategy’ to remain hidden from predators.

In this way the fight, flight or freeze response developed to keep us safe. Confused? Here are a couple of YouTube clips explaining anxiety and how it links to the way our brain evolved to help us keep safe:

So, some anxiety when there is real danger can be really useful. For example, if no one was worried about COVID-19 they probably wouldn’t follow the health advice that is keeping us safe.

However, sometimes we must face something that makes us anxious that we can’t fight, run away from or hide from. All of the adrenaline is still in our body (making our heart race, palms sweat, legs shake etc) but has no way out. Our brain is trying to protect us but leaves us feeling anxious and panicky instead.

The more our brain-based alarm system goes off, the more sensitive it gets and over time we can feel more and more anxious. This can result in us avoiding things that could be fun, worrying about what other people are saying about us, thinking badly about ourselves, finding it difficult to be away from our parents or getting angry and upset.

So now that you understand a little more about what happens in your brain and body when you feel anxious, let’s think about some ways to help you control it.

1. Learning to challenge anxious thoughts:

When we feel anxious, it often feels like our emotions and physical feelings impact on our thoughts – making them negative, self-critical or assuming that the worst will happen. But it is actually our thoughts that come first, even if we are not aware of them. What we think impacts on how we feel, and then on how we behave.

It therefore makes sense that just telling ourselves “not to be anxious” doesn’t actually help!

2. Recognising Thinking Traps

We can also end up in negative thinking cycles which keep us feeling anxious. When we are stuck in these cycles we often fall into ”thinking traps”. Do any of these sound familiar?

 

 (adapted from Stallard, 2002. Retrieved from https://blogs.sch.gr/fmarvel/files/2014/04/Paul_Stallard_Think_Good_-_Feel_Good_.pdf 05.06.20)

If you notice yourself falling into a negative thinking trap, here are some ways to challenge your thoughts:

3. Tips to Managing Anxiety:

While it is human and healthy to feel negative emotions sometimes, it is good to have a personal bank of strategies to help you feel calm and in control of yourself.

Remember it takes at least two weeks to form a new habit and managing anxiety can be tricky. You are re-training your brain after all! Give some of these strategies a go for a few weeks and keep a record of how you get on.

It can feel difficult to feel connected to others while we must physically distance during lockdown – make plans to stay connected with the people you care about.

This doesn’t have to be through video calls – you could write them a postcard, do an online challenge together, play a game on Xbox/PlayStation online, or send them a voice note.


Being informed about COVID-19, and the measures in place to manage it, is good. However, too much exposure to news such as death tolls and other things that we can’t control can make us overly anxious. Consider switching off the TV/radio if the news is on in the background and make time to check the news when you feel prepared.  Make sure that the news you have access to is reliable – for example posts from other people on social media may not be factual and could cause you to worry when you don’t need to.


Feeling out-of-control can make anxiety worse – having a routine will help you predict what is coming next and have a sense of control.  Writing this down using colour-coding can help us feel more organised and in control.

Simple things like having a set time to get up and dressed by can make a surprising difference to our mood!


While it is good to develop your skills in recognising and challenging thinking traps, sharing your worries with someone can feel like a load off your mind. That can be a friend, a family member or an adult outside your family e.g. school staff. You could try writing your worries down, texting them, drawing them or using memes/GIFS if it is too difficult to talk to start with.

 


When we feel anxious it can start to take over. Make time to do the things that you like and look after yourself.  When we enjoy something that we are doing we can get into the “flow” – where we don’t think about anything other than what we are doing.

When our brains are busy with enjoyable activities, they don’t have time to worry. You could use this time to try and learn a new skill or do something you’ve never had the time to do before.  The 5 Ways to Wellbeing can help you with ideas to support your wellbeing. These are:

Be active              Give                Take notice                Learn             Connect  


We know that one thinking trap is “filtering” – where we stop noticing positives and only notice negatives.

Try to purposefully think about positives in a situation – this helps you have a realistic view of the situation rather than only negative. E.g. try to identify 3 things you have appreciated in the day that have made you feel good.


Having a plan and feeling prepared can help us manage our anxiety. You could make a list of the things you are worried about and make a plan for each of them (if they are worries that you can’t control see section “I’m worried about something I can’t fix”).  Having a plan for dealing with general worry and keeping yourself feeling good is also helpful – see the downloadable ” Wellbeing recovery action plan” here


When we are anxious, our thoughts often turn to the future. Practising mindfulness forces our brain to disengage from the worry and focus only on the present. See section 4 “Key Relaxation Strategies” for ideas. This is a tricky skill to develop but can have a positive impact on anxiety levels.

 


If some apps ask for payment, click the “filter apps” and select “by price” then “free”.

https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/category/mental-health/

 


4. Key relaxation strategies:

These strategies help us focus on something other than the thoughts that are making us feel anxious and can help our brains get out of the fight / flight / freeze state by sending it the message that the danger has passed. This restores our ability to think and problem-solve.

At times, we all worry about something that is out of our control and that we can’t change. During COVID-19 it may feel that there are more things that are out of our control than normal e.g. our health, money worries, or the future.

Separating the things that we can and can’t control can help us focus our energy on making positive changes where we can. It also provides us with the opportunity to learn to manage and cope with the uncomfortable feelings that can come with something being out of our control.

The “Circles of Control” exercise is one way of mapping out what you can control and change vs. what you can’t. You can easily create your own, here is an example of one about COVID-19 worries.

Take a moment to think about the worries that you think you have no control over – first check out the previous section and consider if you are falling into any Thinking Traps and use the questions to challenge these if you are. For example – are you catastrophising the worst possible outcome? Being aware of these thoughts and making an effort to change them can have a huge impact how they make us feel, even when the real-world situation stays the same.

Some of the worries may feel out of your control because you are looking way ahead into the future – some of these may be “real worries” that you can do something about, even if it does not fix the whole problem. Some may be “hypothetical worries” which means they MIGHT happen, rather than will definitely happen and may be out of your control. Using the decision tree below can help you work out if there is something you can do about a worry.

Lots of things affect how well you can concentrate on your schoolwork. Here are a few examples:

  • Alertness (which is influenced by other things such as the time of day, sleep and exercise)
  • Thoughts and Feelings (e.g. worrying about something or someone)
  • Distractions (e.g. noise, your mobile phone, TV, X-Box)
  • Hunger

Right now, perhaps the reason you have decided to look for help on this website, is that thoughts about coronavirus are taking up your mental space and no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot keep those thoughts from popping into your head. Read on…

It’s okay if your mind wanders away from learning sometimes – be kind to yourself

Living with uncertainty is difficult and can be scary. When we have unpleasant feelings, our brain goes into action mode, and it starts to actively look for solutions to our problem. If there is a problem, our brain wants to solve it so that we can feel better again – this takes up a lot of your thinking space.

You might find yourself trying to concentrate on your schoolwork just to find your mind has “wandered off” AGAIN thinking about friends and family and wondering when this will all be over. This can stop us from concentrating on the ‘here and now’.

Does this ring true for you? If this is the case, forgive yourself and try not to blame yourself for not being able to concentrate. If you are trying to concentrate and your mind wanders, it might help to:

  • say or think to yourself in a kind tone “Oh there my mind went off wandering again worrying about…” and gently re-focus your thoughts back to your work.
  • Try not to get annoyed with yourself or give yourself a hard time for it. Just repeat this line every time it happens.

You can also find more helpful tools to manage feelings of anxiety and worry here

10 top tips to try first to improve your ability to concentrate on schoolwork:

1. Create a routine 

  • It’s a good idea to create a daily or weekly timetable.
  • Add times for getting up and going to bed as well as meal and snack times.
  • You might want to add times for exercising, socialising and relaxation too.

2. Make a study plan – what, when, where and how 

  • Think about when you are at your best and plan to do more difficult or less enjoyable work then. The more difficult something is, the more it demands your concentration.
  • Decide how long time you are going to spend on each task – work in short bursts rather than long hours.
  • Choose a space for doing schoolwork that is different from the space where you relax or sleep (avoid sitting on your bed or on the sofa in front of the TV).
  • You don’t need to stick to your study plan rigidly – if you are struggling to stay motivated, try to change subject and do something you enjoy more, this can help you find your pace again OR try to change the space where you’re working.

3. Limit distractions around you 

  • Turn phone notifications off and put your phone out of your sight.
  • Only keep windows open on the computer that you need for doing your schoolwork – close other tabs.
  • This will help you feel less tempted to check what’s happening on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.

4. Look after your mental health 

  • Are you feeling quite anxious at the moment?
  • You are not alone! Many teenagers in Scotland are saying that they are worried about the impact of coronavirus on their:
  • Coursework and exams
  • Mental and physical wellbeing
  • Social relationships with family and friends
  • Employment situation
  • Financial situation
  • Therefore, we have created a section on our website where we give you advice on how you can learn to manage feelings of anxiety – click here to learn how

5. Take screen breaks 

  • A lot of our time is spent on screens from schoolwork to socialising to watching Netflix – it is important to take a break from this.
  • Spending so much time in front of a screen leaves you feeling exhausted.
  • Take a break from screens and consider other ways you can do your schoolwork:
  • Listening to a Podcast or talking on the phone whilst going for a walk
  • Taking a book, magazine or comic out into the garden

6. Exercise – it is very good for concentration, sleep and relieving stress 

  • Cleaning your room for 15 minutes
  • Taking the family dog for a walk
  • Online challenges
  • Have fun with it, connect with your friends, set each other challenges or join challenges available online already

7. Be realistic – set yourself up for success! 

  • What you expect of yourself must be achievable.
  • Having too high expectations can lead to anxiety and stress which stops you from being able to concentrate.
  • To give an example, if you have to share a family computer with siblings who also need it for schoolwork, then you have less time available to you than some of your peers.
  • Another example, you might no longer have access to support you would normally have in the classroom such as a scribe which means it takes you longer to do your work.
  • If you feel what is being asked of you is too much, it is a good idea to let your teacher or guidance teacher know that you’re struggling.

8. Be kind to yourself!  

  • If you are having a bad day and concentrating on your schoolwork feels impossible, it is okay to take a break and come back to it another day.

9. Ask for help if you need it! 

  • You might struggle to concentrate on your schoolwork because it is too difficult. If this is the case, get in touch with your teacher.

10. Finally, make Monday to Friday different from the weekend. 

  • You’ll be more motivated to stick with your study plan during the week if you know there’s a bigger reward at the end of the week!
  • The weekend is the time for long sleep-ins and all those other things you really enjoy.

Struggling to find motivation? 

Sometimes it may be hard to focus on learning because you just don’t see the point or feel motivated to do it. Motivation is a rollercoaster that can be high one day and low another day, this is normal. In times like this it can be even more tricky to motivate yourself. Learning at home is different from in school – in school you get constant feedback from your friends or teachers about your work and how you are getting on, it can be difficult to feel motivated without this form of positive feedback (even if you didn’t really notice it before).

Understanding your goals and the reason you have them is a good way to kickstart your motivation again.

Top tips to kickstart motivation:

  • Focus on what you have achieved – list three things you have achieved that day
  • Write a plan for the next day of things you would like to achieve (keep it realistic!) and how you will celebrate these once complete
  • Once you are in the habit of this, think about which things are ‘a must complete’ versus the ones you would ‘like to complete’

For more information on “How to stay motivated during lockdown” visit BBC Bitesize at https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/zvyhpg8

Still struggling with learning at home? 

Are you having lots of those ‘bad’ days when focusing on your schoolwork seems impossible? You have tried all the tips above, but it is not helping. Perhaps you’re finding it difficult to get started on creating a routine and a plan? What to do:

  • Ask an adult or an older sibling to help you follow the advice above
  • Check with a friend if they have any tips
  • If you don’t feel you can speak to a trusted adult or to a friend, the best thing to do is to get in touch with one of your teachers or guidance teacher to let them know you have tried to follow the advice here but that you need more help
  • If you do not feel you can ask anyone for help, you can contact the Educational Psychology Service directly here.

It is normal to worry about friends. You care about them and you want to know they are OK. If you’ve come to this website looking for a few ideas about how to support a friend who is feeling a bit down, then here’s a few top tips:

1. Connect with people

  • Stay in touch regularly with your friend and think of ways to share fun experiences
  • Encourage your friend to stay in touch with other friends and family too

2. Be active

  • Suggest you do something active together and make it fun (remember to stick to the Government’s current advice on social distancing which keeps changing – stay up to date with it)
  • There are lots of ‘challenges’ online that you might want to try out

3. Learn

  • Learning something new is great for so many reasons; It improves self-esteem and confidence, it fights off depression and anxiety and it gives you a sense of purpose
  • Suggest to your friend that you learn something new together – it doesn’t need to be related to school but could be anything (a new language, chess, juggling, drawing, to moonwalk or darts)

Perhaps, you are quite worried about your friend? He or she is more than a little bit down. The best thing to do is to speak to an adult that you trust and share your concerns. If you do not have a trusted adult to speak to, you can visit the following websites for more information about how to support a friend as well as contact details should you wish to speak to someone directly.

SAMARITANS

  • What to do if you think someone is in immediate danger
  • What to do if you think someone is thinking about taking their own life
  • What to do if you think someone is harming themselves
  • What to do if you think someone you know isn’t OK

THINK U KNOW

  • How to talk to a friend about difficult issues
  • How to support a friend who is putting themselves at risk online

 

RETHINK MENTAL ILLNESS

  • How to support someone with suicidal thoughts

 

 

CHILDLINE

  • If you want to speak to an adult anonymously
  • You can contact Childline about anything you are worried about
  • Call 0800 1111

 

DOMESTIC ABUSE

If you have concerns that you or someone that you or someone care about is experiencing domestic abuse, please visit the following websites for more information and support.

 

  

A death changes lots of things and this makes people feel confused. It is normal to feel confused about your feelings; you may feel angry, upset, anxious, guilty, or you may feel none of these.

This is normal and it is important to remember that everyone grieves in their own way. You might notice that the people around you are reacting in a different way than you expect, some people are visibly upset while others prefer to go about their usual routine.

Below are links to leaflets on bereavement for young people which may help to answer some of your questions. If you feel you need further support speak to a trusted adult. If you don’t want to speak to an adult you know, there are also websites and phone lines you can contact anonymously.  Link to Fife council Bereavement and Loss Leaflet – Click here

Links to other bereavement websites: 

Winston’s Wish is information, advice and guidance on supporting bereaved children and young people during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

www.winstonswish.org – Freephone National Helpline 08088 020 021

 

Childhood Bereavement UK brings together guidance and information to help support you at this difficult time.

www.childbereavementuk.org – Helpline 0800 02 888 40  

 

Bereaved people may have to deal with increased trauma, and may be cut off from some of their usual support network. Those who are already struggling with bereavement, or whose relatives or friends die through other causes will also be affected.

www.cruse.org/.uk – Helpline Helpline 0808 808 1677

We have heard lots of young people talk about feeling worried about losing touch with their friends during lockdown and about what their friendships will look like in the future. During this time when we are not able to see our friends or family, it is normal to feel disconnected. You’ll probably find that most of your friends are feeling the same (but perhaps not saying).

It is important to remember that everyone is in the same position of having few chances to see the people they usually do, for example at school or at work, however this won’t last forever.

In the meantime, there are ways in which you can stay connected to your friends:

A lot of the time we wait and feel bad if someone doesn’t contact us – be brave and take that first step to reach out. There may be an explanation for them being quiet e.g. if they are finding lockdown tough. Reaching out can mean a huge amount to someone, even if you think it’s just a small or easy thing to do.

As lockdown eases there will be more opportunities to become social again even if the guidance advises us to be physically distant. You are not alone in your worry, and it is likely that your friends will be just as happy to see you as you are them. If you’re feeling really worried about reaching out to your friends, talk to a trusted adult or an older family member e.g. sibling/cousin/family friend.

During this time of uncertainty, many of us are searching for answers on how everything is going to unfold. There are so many unknowns that it can cause a lot of anxiety for many people. Unfortunately, there is a lot of inaccurate information out there or “fake news” and it is important for us to know that the information we are looking at comes from a reliable source. In other words, you can’t believe everything you read to be true, so here are some top tips to avoid getting stuck in the pitfall of fake news.

  • For information on Covid-19 access the UK government website here for updates.
  • Take information from respected sources such as BBC news, the Guardian and The Times
  • Be wary of any information from tabloid newspapers, social media posts, or forwarded messages on WhatsApp.
  • When reading articles ask yourself – Is this opinion or fact?
  • Reliable news sources will give you the facts so you can make up your own mind.
  • Blogs and social media are platforms that are likely to fall into the ‘opinion’ category. Opinions can be based on facts, but it is good to check reliable sources just to make sure.

Speak to a trusted adult such as a family member, Guidance Teacher or class teacher who might be able to give you some advice or signpost you to someone who can help.

SAMARITANS

  • What to do if you think someone is in immediate danger
  • What to do if you think someone is thinking about taking their own life
  • What to do if you think someone is harming themselves
  • What to do if you think someone you know isn’t OK

THINK U KNOW

  • How to talk to a friend about difficult issues
  • How to support a friend who is putting themselves at risk online

 

RETHINK MENTAL ILLNESS

  • How to support someone with suicidal thoughts

 

 

CHILDLINE

  • If you want to speak to an adult anonymously
  • You can contact Childline about anything you are worried about
  • Call 0800 1111

 

DOMESTIC ABUSE

If you have concerns that you or someone that you or someone care about is experiencing domestic abuse, please visit the following websites for more information and support.