This post was written by Suhaas Vaddadi, a teenager currently studying at Cupertino High School in Cupertino, California. Suhaas is part of a project to remove the stigma surrounding mental health in the local community. Neolth partnered with Cupertino High School students to expand this project.
Over the past couple of years, mental illness has been on the rise because of the restrictive and constraining nature of a global pandemic. With everyone in isolation, every one of us had to find a way to deal with our newfound unstructured time, some being beneficial for our mental health and some not.
A study from Frontiers in Psychology (2020) found that there is a very clear correlation between how long someone was in isolation and the severity of the long-term effects on their bodies as well as their minds. People who stayed in isolation for long, extended periods, saw not only severe short-term consequences but large long-term effects on their brains. Even after the isolation, the study group was shown to be affected for varying degrees and periods, including mental changes such as irregular sleep rhythms or even more physical ones that restrict body movement.
In today's world where knowledge is so widely accessible and available, the amount of information that we consume daily is tremendous. The internet is great for spreading all kinds of such information, whether that be factual, legitimate studies, or misinformation. Strategies for coping with stress are found everywhere on the internet, but how can we filter out the positive from the negative methods? Within said positive methods, there exists no single answer, no one strategy that works for everybody. Rather the most effective ones are found through trial and error by each person, testing which methods work the best for the individual.
Through my personal research, interviewing twenty high-schoolers across various demographics, data indicated that nearly 90% of people chose to take up one or more new hobbies or crafts. One student mentioned that “It not only gave me a way to use my time positively but also gave me the skill to build on even after the pandemic.”
Another way many students said they dealt with the stress from the pandemic was to go outside, for example on a walk or a bike ride. Being trapped between the walls of your home can be very suffocating and restrictive at times, therefore, just getting out of the bounds of your home can be extremely beneficial for your mind as well as your body. Other great examples of ways to get out of the house are going on hikes or doing other outdoor isolated activities like fishing. While a portion of the methods of dealing with stress yielded positive results, many unhealthy ways inversely affected not only the people themselves but also the people around them.
In an article by the health division of the government of Alberta (2020), many adverse ways of handling stress are shown including but not limited to, “Heavy use of alcohol, smoking or chewing tobacco, criticizing yourself, taking recreational drugs, or avoiding friends and family” (Health, 2021). The article emphasizes that even heavy amounts of social media consumption are shown to have extremely negative effects on our brains. While social media helps us connect with others over long distances very easily, consuming too much of it is shown to increase negative thoughts and criticism of ourselves. We are more easily able to compare ourselves constantly with other people and hyperfocus on the negative aspects of our life.
A surprisingly healthy way of coping and handling stress is crying. Crying is not only a great way to get out our emotions and thoughts but is also scientifically proven to be good for you. Harvard Health Publishing (2021), the division of Harvard Medical School devoted to bringing accurate information to the public, published an article stating that crying releases oxytocin and endorphins. These chemicals in our body are directly correlated with physical and mental stress relief, being both a physical and mental pain reliever.
This large amount of stress is most prominent in the youth of our society. Nearly 54.2% of mental health professionals argue that college students have the worst anxiety, depression, and stress according to research.com (Bouchrika, 2020). This stems from several reasons including academic pressure, stress from family, or the anxiety of a hypercompetitive environment. In an environment where unhealthy ways of coping are so readily available and accessible, it is essential to know what habits one forms are harming and which ones are helping. Knowing each person is different, to find the most effective way, one must experiment with different positive methods. As discussed previously, getting outside alone or in the company of others is one of the most effective ways to deal with stress.
At Neolth, we’re on a mission to help students stress less, build resilience, and become part of our compassionate community. Our app helps students when they're feeling overwhelmed with self-guided content, personalized for their mental health journey. Neolth has a growing community of Student Ambassadors from 170 schools and works with schools to improve access to mental health support for their students. The company has won multiple awards for its app, including the 2020 Startup of the Year EdTech Award and the 2021 Tech for Good Timmy Award, San Francisco finalist. Learn more:
Pietrabissa, G., & Simpson, S. G. (1AD, January 1). Psychological consequences of social isolation during COVID-19 outbreak. Frontiers. Retrieved March 26, 2022, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02201/full#:~:text=Prolonged%20isolation%20can%20adversely%20affect,Cacioppo%20and%20Hawkley%2C%202003).
Robinson, L. (2022, March 3). Social Media and Mental Health. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved March 26, 2022, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/social-media-and-mental-health.htm
MyHealth.Alberta.ca Government of Alberta Personal Health Portal. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2022, from https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=rlxsk