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Helping Young People Manage Anxiety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Image of Woman with Anxiety Sitting on Bed

Anxiety isn’t new. And while the COVID-19 global pandemic is not the first pandemic in history, we need to be mindful of the increased anxiety our young people are experiencing today. You have an important role in helping them navigate their experiences, draw on their strengths, and offer creative coping skills that will shape positive outcomes for them in the future.

It has been a new experience for our younger generations to help older generations realize how a  growth mindset can help us all make it through stressful times and come out stronger on the other side.

How this pandemic is making young people more anxious

There are many things that have caused fear and anxiety during COVID-19. Even as we begin to transition to a post-pandemic life, young people may have increased anxiety about reopening program spaces.

For example, the new variants that are affecting young people and lifting the mask mandates both create anxiety. Let’s think about some of the stressors young people may be experiencing:

  • Loneliness, isolation, and the loss of their sense of belonging during distance learning, summer and school breaks, and quarantines.
  • A wide variety of information that may not be accurate or easily understood.
  • Stressed grown-ups around prevention measures, masks in schools, getting the vaccine.
  • Increased family stress – financial, employment, addiction, abuse.
  • Encouraged to social distance and not knowing who has been vaccinated or not.
  • Being sick, family and friends being sick, and losing people around them to COVID.
  • New variants that are affecting young people and some being too young to get the vaccine.
  • Lack of closure about when the pandemic is over.

You can help young people manage anxiety by helping them discover solutions that work for them.

Now that you have thought about some of the factors that have contributed to their anxiety, let’s look at what you can do to support them in your youth work.

Strategies to help youth manage anxiety

We are fortunate to have access to so many more virtual and face-to-face resources compared to past pandemics. Therefore, you can learn and network with other youth workers to see what creative ideas they have tried. Youth workers are smart and creative!

Whether you work in a residential or community setting, here are a few ideas to get you started to help young people manage anxiety:

  • Build social connections
  • Encourage flexible routines with good sleep
  • Activities with physical exercise
  • Offer healthy foods and snacks
  • Mindfulness and relaxation exercises
  • Get outside, take a walk, and enjoy some fresh air
  • Watch a funny show, movie, or share jokes
  • Encourage them to do something they enjoy
  • Celebrate successes; small or big
  • Identify coping skills that have worked before

As a youth worker, you can provide some of these in your work and you are teaching young people skills they can use on their own.

We can connect with others and grow in new ways so that we become more resilient, deal more effectively with challenges, and find new resources.

Ready to learn more about helping youth manage anxiety? YIPA has a training that will equip you and your team with skills to explore How You Can Help Youth Manage Anxiety. It’s free to YIPA members.

Joanne Rice is the member satisfaction specialist of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us!