Mental wellbeing, anxiety and isolation: young people's top tips

Looking after our mental wellbeing is so important right now, and there are lots of small things you can do to help.

Kirsty, Aggie, Ammarah, Nat and Abi from our amazing Youth Advisory Group – made up of young people who’ve been through cancer – share their top tips on protecting your mental wellbeing and coping with anxiety and isolation.

1. Talk to someone!

“Thanks to technology we can do this from anywhere, so if you’re feeling lonely, anxious, sad or frazzled, pick up the phone and chat to someone you trust.”

2. Set a routine for yourself – ASAP

“It’s easy once confined at home to fall into ‘holiday mode’ and lounge around all day, but I’ve found that this makes me more fidgety later on. Make sure this routine includes time to FaceTime friends/family so you don’t feel too isolated. Set a wake up time and a bedtime so you don’t over/under sleep and feel sluggish.”

3. Catch up on work/school/uni deadlines and classes you may have missed

Get ahead on emails, or clear out your inbox if it’s piling up. Can be mind-numbing, but it’s an easy way to spend a morning and make it feel like it’s going quickly.”

4. ‘Fake productivity’ for mental wellbeing

“I would recommend working on projects (even if they’re daft things like drawing a different dragon every day), or if you’ve not got enough energy/capacity for actual projects, write a to-do list with the things you want to do that day – even if it’s just ‘watch 4 episodes of Brooklyn 99’ and ‘eat dinner’. Tick them off for a delicious little rush of dopamine.”

5. Stay active, if possible

“It’s good to stretch after waking up and before going to bed so your body doesn’t begin to feel like it’s been trapped indoors! There are also lots of yoga/Pilates/at home exercise videos on YouTube for all abilities which don’t require much space.”

6. Learn/relearn a hobby or skill

“I took my flute to university in September but didn’t take it out of my wardrobe once, so brought it back home with me and have been loving teaching myself all my old pieces and some new ones too.”

7. De-clutter

“When I spend a lot of time inside, it can drive me nuts if the house or my room is a mess! Today I’ve been going through my room and sorting things to bin, things to donate and things to put away so it all feels a bit tidier. Finding things to donate is especially good because now I’m looking forward to taking them to the charity shop once this all calms down. I also spent the afternoon decluttering my Spotify playlists yesterday.”

8. Forgive yourself

“Nobody is watching so you don’t have to conduct yourself perfectly and that weird guilt you might feel for not writing the next great novel is misplaced. Eat some cake, take a bubble bath, get up late, do what you need to do… 

“When I’m struggling, I have a friend who always reminds me to practice self-compassion by telling me to imagine that the thing I’m struggling with is actually happening to her. Would I treat her like I’m treating myself? Talk to yourself like you would your best friend.”

9. Stay connected but be wary of social media

“Especially at the moment, the constant stream of virus content is really setting off my anxiety – but chatting directly with my friends and family is helping keep it under control.”

“I follow a few feelgood social media accounts. Instagram accounts like @upworthy and @tanksgoodnews never fail to put a smile on my face.”

10. Use all your senses

“Every day, try to smell a good smell, taste a good taste, touch soft things, crunch crunchy things, look at pretty things, listen to good music, have a little dance about. Do things that make your body feel good which will take you outside of your head a little bit. This one always seems feeble until I do it and realise how much power it actually has. Try using meditation apps such as Headspace to help.”