The good news is that - according to Reuters, CNN and NBC: the World Health Organization has claimed that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is [finally] in sight. Now, I'm not a scientist, so I'm not even going to begin to venture into the scientific research or medical repercussions and impacts of the past two and a half years, but I can tell you this:
The pandemic definitely exacerbated a number of mental health risks and issues across the world - especially with our teenagers.
I mentioned a number of these stats in my TEDx Talk recently, but let me reiterate them again:
Rates of depression among adults increased by at least 18% in many countries across the globe, with the exception of Japan [9%], Italy, the UK and France [11%].
By August of 2020 [over two years ago] the pandemic had already increased suicidality in teenagers by between 17% and 25%
Research also conducted in 2020 showed that the rate anxiety, depression and sleep issues among teenagers had also increased by at least 21%
From those surveyed, the effects of the pandemic was affecting more female teens, on average than male teenagers.
Keeping in mind that these numbers were only taken six months into the pandemic, the issues presented have certainly increased as time has drawn on.
A CDC survey in April of 2022 found that 37% of U.S. high school students report regular mental health struggles during COVID-19
Surveys from the World Economic Forum show that the state of COVID-19 had at least a 6% worse impact on kids' mental health in 2020 and 2021 than anything else - including the deaths of loved ones, social media or bullying.
Keeping in mind how formative teenage years are for a young person's personal development and ideas on the world: it's easy to understand why social isolation and spending time alone [especially when forced due to quarantining] can have a significantly negative impact on one's emotional health and wellbeing, physical and mental health, and - of course - social health.
Let's break it down for a minute.
What is mental health?
The reason I believe this distinction is so important is because words matter. In today's [hopefully] post-pandemic world, we need to create a space where we are fostering mental health - especially when it comes to issues around loneliness and social isolation.
How can we turn these negatives into something positive and empowering?
What is emotional health?
According to samaritans.org: emotional health is about how we think and feel. It is about our sense of wellbeing, our ability to cope with life events and how we acknowledge our own emotions as well as those of others.
The past two and a half years have been fertile ground for testing one's ability to thrive despite adversity, but how can we continue to not just navigate our own, but support the emotional health and wellbeing of others - specifically adolescents and teenagers?
What is physical health?
According to the European Patients' Academy on Therapeutic Innovation, physical health is defined as the condition of your body, taking into consideration everything from the absence of disease to fitness level. Physical health is critical for overall well-being, and can be affected by: Lifestyle: diet, level of physical activity, and behaviour (for instance, smoking). The CDC would add that "Being physically active can improve your brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities".
The past two years have significantly impacted everyone's physical health simply due to the swift transition from attending work or school to now working from home. Sitting in front a computer all day studying or conducting work has a significantly negative impact on our physical selves compared to even the simple act of walking to and from different classes all day. To push this even further: when you're home alone on a regular basis, and missing out on quality social interactions: quite often people will be less inspired to be active.
So what can we do? how do we support our teenagers when they're feeling lonely or alone?
The pandemic has undoubtedly had a complex effect on the entire world when it comes to all facets of health, but when it comes to issues surrounding loneliness and social isolation, the negative implications far outweigh the positive ones.
However, I truly believe that there is a silver lining, if we take the time to look a little closer, and it begins with learning to love yourself by yourself.
Buddha said: "You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection".
Lucille Ball said: "Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself in order to get anything done in this world".
Michael Josephson said: "Learn to be alone without being lonely. Learn that being alone does not mean being unhappy. The world is full of plenty of interesting and enjoyable things to do and people who can enrich your life"
In other words: yes, the past two and a half years of social isolation and loneliness have been difficult, but it's in these times that we can really start to teach ourselves - and our young people - the importance of alone time, and how they can use being alone to build their character, and learn to love who they are without the influence of peer pressure, family and friends, or normal, every-day social interactions.
Many societies struggle with spending time alone [we are social creatures, after all], but what if it's time alone that can help someone learn to actually like themselves?
What if it takes spending time alone to actually analyze the social connections one has, and realize maybe they're not the social connections one actually needs or wants?
What if spending time alone actually leads to a young person finally recognizing the toxicity of some of their relationships?
After all: there's a huge difference between being alone and being lonely.
Let's take it one step further
By supporting a young person in realizing the power of their own company, not only are you supporting their developing self-value, but you're giving them an opportunity to grow parts of themselves that they may not necessarily be able to access if they were to continue being influenced by their regular peer group and family relationships.
Best of all - and I can attest to this myself - it's in these quiet times alone that people - all people - can start to engage- and get in touch with their more spiritual side, which - believe it or not - can have a significantly positive impact on the mental, emotional and physical aspects to our health.
... and this is when our creative selves start to show up.
By gifting your teenager with the right tools to navigate their alone time, they can start to cognitively shift from the mindset of "being lonely" to "being independent in their alone-ness". By recognizing the potential power that comes from solitude, you can start to teach your teen how to harness isolation as an important part of filling their cup. By supporting your young adult to enjoy their time alone, you can equip them with some incredibly powerful methods to - quite literally - transform a formerly disempowering state [loneliness and social isolation] to one of strength, individuality and self love.
This is when the magic really starts
The best part, however? The minute your young person starts to recognize the beauty of alone time, and the importance of them loving themselves while they're by themselves: that's when creativity starts to knock, and once that door is opened, the confidence and empowered feelings that your young person can start to develop is huge.
For me, personally, that creativity manifests itself in songwriting. I can't write unless I'm by myself. I have to physically remove myself from family and friends, from social connections, from social media, and life in general in order for me to not only revel in own stillness and solitude, but connect with the emotional, mental and physical health aspects of my being.
From there, and only from there, can I start to truly create, write and alchemize the trauma of the past few years [in particular] into something empowering.
Something I can grow from.
Lyrics that I can sing for years into the future to remind me of my own strength, love, and power.
The best part? You and your teenager can do it too. You might just need a little help at learning the right tools and tricks.
That is what I'm here to help with.
If you have a teenager that struggles with being alone, or has battled with anxiety, depression and stress as a result of the pandemic, schooling from home, or social isolation, I would love to hop on a call with you to discuss how Youth Empowerment through Songwriting might be one of the best tools you can give your young person.
If you're interested, click here to book a call with me, and I can also send you a free copy of my book: Reconnect with your Teenager - A Parent's Guide to Helping your Stressed or Anxious Kid through the Art of Songwriting.
I look forward to connecting with you.