One suggestion that I have for staying active while social distancing is playing games like Just Dance or taking up YouTube Yoga!
Whoever thought that we would as a society be required to remain in our homes, stand 6 feet apart from one another and rely on social media and video conferencing for our social interaction!!
Although we may never have envisioned it, it is here! COVID-19 has forced people around the world to remain indoors and to isolate themselves. Unfortunately, staying indoors and cut off from other people and physical outlets can have incredibly negative results on people’s mental health. While everyone may be affected, this is especially true for children and teenagers who are typically very social creatures at this time in their lives.
While it is the socially responsible thing to do, most teens are more than likely finding it to be very difficult. Sports seasons have been cut short, the mall and movie theatres are closed, coffee shops have shut their doors and even basketball courts are off-limits. They can not hang out with their friends, gather at the park, and go to parties. For teens who are seeking the approval of others, looking to fit in, how can they stay socially active while responsibly practicing social distancing?
On the same note, children and teens need physical outlets for their growing and developing bodies. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, teens ages 13 to 18 need at least one hour per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Doctors have also stated that teens who exercise regularly are more likely to develop and carry those habits that include exercise into adulthood.
Studies have also shown that physical activity helps to promote mood, relieve stress, and reduce anxiety. During these uncertain times, it sounds like everyone could use a mood booster, stress-reliever, and anxiety buster! Although they may be quarantined to their homes, teens do not have to be completely isolated from their friends nor do they have to be sedentary, both of which if not addressed, could lead teens down a dangerous road toward mental health issues.
Exercise releases hormones and chemicals that stimulate feelings of euphoria and happiness. When a teen is unable to hang out with their friends because of social distancing, they are probably feeling quite the opposite of happiness. Although physical activity will certainly not replace the social interaction that they crave, it can help to boost those feelings, making the time spent in isolation a bit more bearable.
To help teens to remain active while practicing social distancing to protect themselves and their families, we have come up with a list of great activities that will not only keep them moving but having a bit of fun as well.
Tips for staying active while being socially responsible during the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Video games. While most parents are thinking that teens should spend less time on video games rather than more, several games promote movement and activity. Just Dance, Xbox Fitness and Wii Fit U are all played via a video game console but they are a great way to get those teens off the couch, having fun while getting in some much-needed exercise. In fact, these are interactive games that the whole family can enjoy so get moving!
- YouTube. With every gym and fitness center in the country closed, fitness trainers and coaches are putting their own spin on the everyday workout. From Yoga to Pilates and weightlifting there is a wide array of exercise videos available to choose from. Why not try something completely new? Maybe you want to try Zumba or Martial Arts? Teens can get creative, trying new ways to stay physically fit even when they can’t participate in the sports that they love or with the teammates that they enjoy!
- Outside. Just because we have to remain physically separated from others doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy physical activity outdoors. There are many activities that teens can participate in to keep them moving. From shooting hoops in the driveway to skateboarding to riding a bike, teens can be outside, getting some fresh air and sunshine, while being physically active. How about going for a hike, jumping rope or walking the dog? Raking the leaves or even mowing the lawn will get your teen some exercise and get those much-needed chores done too!
- Family activities. The family that plays together, stays together. Well, under the current circumstances, most families are being socially responsible, staying at home and practicing social distancing. What better time than now to lace up your sneakers and head outside for some family together time and exercise. How about a family walk around the block? A game of tennis or volleyball in the backyard? Maybe wiffleball is more the family’s speed? Get out and toss a Frisby or invent a new game.
So far, our discussion has been focused on exercise and the many ways of getting active while staying safe and practicing social distancing. Let’s change lanes for a second and talk about ways that teens can remain in contact with their friends.
As difficult as this situation is, we are lucky that we are in fully emerged in the digital world. Teens can speak to and even see their friends because of the advances in technology. If we had found ourselves in this same position twenty or even ten years ago, we may all be feeling the negative effects on our mental health even more than we are today.
Teens have the advantage of being very technically savvy and in constant contact with their social groups. Through Facetime, Snapchat, Facebook, and video-conferencing, teens can have virtual parties with their friends without ever leaving the house. Teens can still obtain that feeling of happiness and euphoria that a night out with friends provides them but through the screen on their phone or computer. Just listen outside the door of a teenage girl’s bedroom while she is “chatting” with her friends. For some, it may even sound like a party is going on with the laughter, jokes, and antics that are going on.
While we all would hope that teens would participate in family activities, it is not unusual for them to want to be with their friends. During this time of seclusion, it is even more important for them to remain in contact with them. So, as parents, even though you may want them to play a board game or watch a movie with the family, you must understand that teens need to fill that void caused by social distancing.
Some teens may choose to interact with their friends via the phone or video. Others receive those same feelings of happiness while playing online video games. Granted, everyone would prefer that the amount of screen time be limited. However, for some teens, the social interaction that they do while playing online makes the same impact. Listen to a teenage boy as he frantically kicks the soccer ball or hunts for bad guys with his friends online. The same sense of happiness erupts from his pores as he laughs and jokes with his friends.
The goal of social distancing is to avoid and reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. Our goal during this time is to remain as healthy as possible to ward off the virus as well as to thrive in our daily lives once we emerge from our homes. The outbreak does not have to be considered a crisis or as if we are imprisoned. Consider it an opportunity to think outside the box, to creatively think of ways to remain healthy in both body and mind, and to get closer to one another.
For many teens who already struggle with mental health issues already, social distancing and isolation may be more than they can handle. From trying to fit in to complete isolation, some young people may not be able to process the reality that we are all currently faced with. If you suspect that your teen is struggling with mental health issues during this time, you must contact their pediatrician for an evaluation. They will conduct a phone interview and possibly make a referral to a facility like Beachside Treatment Center for further evaluation and a phone consultation if necessary.
As humans, we are social creatures by nature. We were not meant to live in isolation, separated from our loved ones, friends and the things that we love. For teens who are naturally struggling with discovering their self-worth, identifying their friend groups and finding their purpose, this may be an especially difficult time. By allowing social interaction through digital medium and encouraging physical activity, parents and caregivers can help to alleviate some of the fears, anxiety, and stress that may arise in teens from this challenging situation and derail any mental health consequences that try to rear their ugly heads.
For the good of society, we all must responsibly practice social distancing. However, it does not have to lead down the road of isolation, depression or other mental health issues. Be proactive today! Encourage teens to get up and move! To turn up the music and dance! Even just a small amount of movement every day will go along way in helping teens to navigate and manage this challenging situation. Encourage them to reach out and call a friend and watch the transformation occur in front of your eyes. As teens experience the euphoria of hearing a friend’s voice, they will be better able to cope with the crisis and turn it into an opportunity to deepen friendships and expand their friend group
Stay home! Stay safe! Get up and move!