Updated: Aug 11
The ongoing lockdown has been difficult for everyone. People are tired and emotionally drained, businesses are closing down, and we see white flags raised in desperation as a cry for help. The youths in high school and university are starting to break down as well.
If you're wondering how the youth are affected when they don't seem to have anything to worry about; the reality is quite the opposite. According to The Star, police reports show that 1 in 4 of 266 suicide cases recorded from March 18 and Oct 30 2020 was committed by teenagers aged between 15 and 18. Among the reasons cited were debt issues, family and marriage problems, relationship breakdowns and work pressures.
To understand this growing problem better, I decided to talk to a group of youths ranging from high school to college students, to understand their thoughts on what we are seeing in stats and numbers.
WHAT HAS CAUSED YOU STRESS RECENTLY?
Many answered studies as one of the main causes for their stress. During this lockdown period, online learning has been a struggle. The youth find it ineffective, and realise they have to make up for it by doubling up on their efforts to study. For Jess* who will be sitting for SPM this year, she is already feeling the burnout when it comes to the tasks she has on hand. "I don't know if I can even finish the work given in school, it's a lot and I'm trying my best to cope" she sighs heavily.
For some, the cause of stress was their family. "I feel like a burden to my family sometimes," Din* mentioned. He knows that due to his family's average background, there is a high expectation for him to perform well academically & succeed in life. This has turned into a stressful situation because he feels a heavy sense of responsibility to make the right choices in life and it seems like there is no room for failure or mistakes.
3. Uncertain Future
Although they are students, the frustration from the pandemic and our country's bleak future is strongly felt by the youth. They have a similarly negative outlook of what would happen should they choose to further their studies or even enter the working world. The sentiment was--there is no point in moving forward in life if we're going to be stuck in this messed up situation.
REACTIONS TO STRESS
As a result of all these stressors, feelings of dread, doubt, anxiety, fear, and pressure were present among the youths I interviewed. The stress, they mentioned, also manifested in many ways--some experience sleepless nights, some constantly feel hopeless, some go into self-blame, self-hate, and even self-harm.
Matt* shares that there was a time when he saw a friend who was feeling so stressed out he started banging his head against the wall. Feeling the physical pain meant he could mask the stressful emotions he experienced within. Another student Min* also shared that she had a friend who would nose bleed every time she was stressed. Most of these erratic behaviours and actions are a result of youths not knowing how to cope with stress, Dylan* adds.
3 TIPS ON HANDLING STRESS
To overcome stress, we need to first understand how we view stress.
Jess* recognises that stress is always present, "Whether we perceive the stress as being good or bad will determine how we respond to it," she added. Min* echoed that thought and added that stress looks different to different individuals, so depending on that individual's tolerance level, they might or might not view a situation as stressful. In fact, in Dylan's* experience, he does choose to put himself into stressful situations because he acknowledges that it helps him learn to become resilient.
So while stress is not all that bad, everyone agreed that TOO much stress is unhealthy and detrimental. These were some of the ways they handled stress:
1. Tackle it
Dylan* shared that whenever he gets too stressed, he will take a step back, review all of his tasks, and structure them into bite sized pieces to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Breaking down tasks into smaller portions helps him focus on one issue at a time and he starts tackling at the problem faster. Matt* also emphasises that we need to learn to accept the outcome after tackling the problem. "You have given your best, so just know that the outcome is beyond our control so we need to accept and let go."
2. Take a break
Min* explained that when things get too overwhelming, she would allow herself to cry and release some of the emotions. After that, she would calm herself down, write down what needs to be done, hydrate and nourish herself, and continue on. Many shared that they also choose to do indulge in other activities like playing computer games, listening to music, talking to friends, watching TV shows, or even taking a nap. Basically, allowing themselves to be distracted and then coming back later to tackle the problem. Going offline or even distancing from devices also helped reduce the feelings of stress.
3. Talk about it
The youth shared that they find relief when they confide in their friends and talk about their stressors. The ability to be honest with trusted and positive friends helps to build confidence and it empowers them to move steps to move on instead of dwelling in the stressful situation. For them, it was one of the simplest and most effective method of dealing with stress. Similarly, it also meant that they had to be that trusted friend with a good listening ear should their friends be in a stressful situation.
Having spoken to the youth, I realised we need to lend a little bit more kindness to each other and take a step back to emphatise with the other's unique situation. If you can, encourage a youth today and empower them to help others as well. Images Credit: www.freepik.com