Winter Wellness

Inner growth. Art by Halli Conom.

Inner growth. Art by Halli Conom.

It’s that time of the year again folks, and no, we’re not talking about the Christmas crazies or the hopes of snow. A lot of people have written off the holiday cheer this year, and with COVID-19 running amok, it’s no surprise. Some people just aren’t feeling holly jolly this year, but as long as spirits are still bright, maybe winter in quarantine won’t be so bad after all. 

Stemming from multiple possible factors, mental health statuses seem to be getting worse over time, and especially given 2020’s lack of pretty much everything, students seem to be falli

ng through the cracks. When asked to rate the mental health of students from this past month between numbers 1 to 5, several BHS kids answered with an average of 2. Surprising? Maybe not.

 

“Everyone is being forced to stay isolated,” says Jenna Minneman (‘24), “And the lack of nice weather is also taking a toll on students because it makes it even harder to be social but safe at the same time.” Teens are inclined to socialize. It’s unavoidable in most cases, and even while stuck in quarantine, most kids still want to find a way to stay close to friends. 

“We aren’t able to do most things we love,” agrees Savanna Jones (‘22). “Like going out and seeing people or doing things. Some households might not even be the best place to be in 24/7,” So quarantine is constricting, obviously, but for socially-driven teens, it’s even worse. Having positive social connections creates healthy, social-emotional mindsets. In lieu of articles published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, especially in adolescence, socializing increases civil skills which co-relate to the growth of personality and more overt norms and superficial behaviors. To explain, social-interactions help kids expand their personality and provide structure and understanding to help them learn and respond to social norms, behaviors, and cues. At this age, the mind is an easily malleable thing, which means teens’ brains are constantly changing and developing. Social skills correlate with the maturing of the frontal lobe, meaning the development of emotions, impulse control, and social interaction. Teens are driven to communicate and seek friendships in others, and quarantining is no exception. Especially with online school being the new norm, stress is bound to be incredibly high. 

“If I were to rate the mental health of all students this past season,” writes Joseph Riggio (‘22), “I’d give a generous 2. Personally, my thoughts of the matter is that the school work being bombarded onto students is not only ridiculously irritating but also mentally deteriorating. Students are suffering through unprecedented, un-profound, unwanted, unpleasant, and unstable circumstances which stimulate eco-anxiety beyond capacity let alone the development of withering anti-motivational thoughts,” While most adults would argue that teens are generally known for being dramatic and a tendency to over-exaggerate things, school has always been regarded as a stressful thing for a kid. Factor in not being with friends or learning in a physical environment, and you get a mental-health sucking monster. 

“I think online school takes a big negative toll on student well-being because every day feels the same,” Minneman adds. “In physical school, new things happen every day but being stuck behind a computer screen isn’t the same,” Screens are inarguably a major part of life nowadays, and teens are leading the charge. However, when faced with the sudden responsibility of being stuck behind a screen, it gets draining, especially day after day with little outside contact. 

“As a student myself,” Riggio continues, “I can rightfully say that online school has made my state of wellbeing the most chaotically tamed beast you will ever encounter in a forest of blankets and pillows. My motivation has deformed into but a grain of salt that makes me cough up at the excessive amounts of work I have to do for school alone. If I were to judge what others are going through, I wouldn’t be surprised if the common thought is ‘I’ll do it later,’ or ‘There is no point,’ regarding schoolwork,” School seems to be the common stressor with a rapid gaining succession. Motivation is depleting, homework is increasing, and both students and a few teachers alike are still struggling to adjust. Luckily, with the upcoming holiday season, maybe some good cheer — along with a nice two-week break — will help reduce all the current negativity. 

“I think the upcoming holidays will help improve students’ mental health,” writes Minneman. “It will bring something new and happy into a very dull time,” Now we all know the holidays themselves bring up a variety of questions and doubts, and both opinions on the matter are viable. Concerns on safety and COVID-19 restrictions, unfortunately, creates a more difficult circumstance.

Self positivity. Art by Halli Conom.

“Holidays are indeed questionable this year and the impact this will have on students mentally is fascinatingly spontaneous, ranging from not celebrating at all to sacrificing COVID-19 restrictions for the feeling of normalcy. In other words,” Riggio writes, “Mental health is going to be about as stable as having a family gathering for feasting this year. The positive and negative effects are situational depending on the circumstances … and all of [this] rattles nightmarishly in us students. Why? Because we are scared of the unknown that’s enough stress to cause mental deprivation,” So all in all, holidays will remain questionable, as it really depends on each student’s individual life. Hopefully, the holidays will induce some bright spirits and festivity, and a break away from stressful situations will give students a much-needed break. 

As for improving mental health this winter for our students, here are a couple of tips some fellow classmates have suggested through some interviews! 

  • Think of things that make you happy. It reminds you of the reasons to keep going
  • Don’t stress over upcoming/assigned schoolwork. This is your break, don’t let the toxicity of the work overload drive you into madness
  • Lay off social media and spend this time with your family and loved ones
  • Make room for hobbies. Find ways to express your passions over winter break or maybe learn some new ones
  • Socialize with your friends. If you are feeling down at all, talk to someone because even though they can’t physically be with you, they’re still there to help
  • Go on a walk for some fresh air and a clearer mind
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