After more than a year of pandemic-induced stress, isolation and anxiety, few people will be able to simply go back to normal. The process will take time. Indeed, mental health professionals and doctors are warning that young people everywhere are reporting more symptoms of anxiety and depression. Students’ lives have been upended. Their classes went online and they stayed at home, missing their social lives badly. Other young people have lost jobs or university places and everyone confronted isolation at some level, while struggling to find quiet places for work and or even a reliable internet connection.
As students begin face-to-face classes again and COVID-19 vaccination rates rise, the community is hoping to return to a semblance of normal pre-pandemic life. The social interaction and collective activities that they have missed so much can start once more and the camaraderie between classmates can be rebuilt.
Nevertheless, many people of all ages are experiencing some form of hesitancy about returning to old routines. None of us have been through a global pandemic before, so it’s completely understandable to be anxious about all the constant changes. After all, change and uncertainty are hard for many people even when there is no pandemic taking place.
Adjustment to a long period of mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing and a limit to the number of people you could spend time with, have all taken their toll on our mental states and attitudes. Reacclimating to a former way of life, springing back into step at school is not a straightforward process and for parents who have spent more time than ever before with their children, there are added complications.
While almost everyone has suffered an overload of some kind, school closures and social restrictions have meant that students facing exams and teachers who are also parents probably bore one of the heaviest loads, having to rapidly adopt classroom teaching and learning to online lessons to be done at home under parental supervision. It’s been a tough year, when both physical and psychological wellness have become more precious than ever.
How can students who need support improve their sense of wellness? The Federation has developed services that address many dimensions of wellness. To begin with, there is physical wellness that relies on regular, balanced habits of exercise, nutrition and sleep. Emotional wellness is equally important, involving recognition of feelings that may be buried in the subconscious but which control reactions and behaviour.
A mindful approach to online learning, social media and leisure is needed more than ever. As the months of the pandemic grind on, teachers, coaches and youth leaders who normally see youngsters regularly in person have been unable to see the symptoms of developing mental health problems. Now, as classroom teaching begins, it will be easier to track the moods and behaviour that betray signs of mental health challenges during adolescence.
Life may be quite different from what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are navigating changes to their relationships, studies and futures. The best way to get more comfortable with post-pandemic life is to start living it and taking baby steps to ease the way back in. Setting boundaries also helps, whether sharing a dorm or an MTR carriage.
We all have different comfort levels around pandemic safety. Adjusting to post-pandemic life is a significant transition and many people aren’t ready to move forward yet. For students eager to get back on campus who are actively in the process of readjusting to life at school, feeling well both mentally and physically well will make a big difference. For those who need extra support, please remember the wellness counselling offered by HKFYG. Practicing the principles embodied in our services can make all transitions easier, whatever your age, circumstances and temperament.