I’m writing to you on day four hundred of lockdown – or that’s at least how it feels. If you had told me back in March that we would still be in some kind of lockdown, I would have laughed at you. Although things have loosened up and we’re currently enjoying level 2, the seemingly endless dragging on of lockdown has been hard on our mental health. It might feel harder and harder to motivate or pick yourself up again and again. That’s normal. It’s expected.

There’s a lot of advice out there, but how do you as a teenager cope?

Before now, we generally knew what each year would hold. We had holidays marked out, we knew how many days of school to get through before our breaks, when exams were going to be and when long-awaited social events, like Matric Dance and 40 Days, would be happening. These small goals helped get us through the weeks: we could plan and work towards the things we were looking forward to.

2020 has ripped that right out from under us. Now what?

Uncertainty rules and we’re left trying to plan in a year where one day you’re at home online learning and the next you’re wearing a mask in a class that’s half full. It’s become harder to get excited for future plans when we have no idea when lockdown will end, or when a presidential address might throw all our plans out the window.

Surviving the never-ending lockdown

I know it feels hopeless and frustrating right now. Watching the things you were looking forward to passing you by has been really hard, and maybe it feels like 2020 has been robbed of all joy – #cancelled. It’s okay and important to mourn these things, to feel disappointed about what might have been. But we also need to keep pushing forward, refusing to let Covid and this lockdown knock us out.

“But how?”, you ask? I’ve got you. Here are some tips to help you through the rest of this year and whatever 2021 has in store for us too.

Set small goals

It’s important to keep setting goals. We still need things to look forward to, whether it’s a Zoom call with our friends or a hike on the weekend. House Party means we can have game evenings together, and why not plan that birthday party, even if it looks different. Look at the restrictions in place and plan accordingly, 1 week at a time. Although Level 2 has opened up a number of new opportunities, it is still wise not to get too far ahead of ourselves.

Setting small goals means you’re meeting them sooner and are less likely to be disappointed again in the long run.

Get outside

Lockdown during Winter means we’ve spent a lot of time inside, binging Netflix (I have often wondered if it’s possible to finish Netflix) and gaming. But it’s getting warmer, so spending time outside is going to be easier. Going for a walk, a hike, or a socially-distanced picnic are great ways to enjoy the sun, get a change of scenery and soak up some vital Vitamin D. Exercising is important for our mental and physical health: even if you aren’t fit, a walk around your local park helps get those endorphins flowing as well as getting you out of the house.

Think outside the box

We have seen some remarkable things during this pandemic: new ways of communicating, meeting, doing school, exercising, and doing church. We’ve been forced to think creatively about how to stay connected, and Zoom weddings have even become a thing! Instead of giving up all the things you used to enjoy, why not try to think outside the box and discover a new normal?

Many of us would never have expected to do church over Facebook or celebrate birthdays over Zoom or drive by. Before you cancel plans or events, why not think about how else it can be done? Movies can still be watched “together” online, game nights can be hosted – you can even go on a virtual game drive! Find ways to re-imagine the things you used to do before you cancel them altogether.

Stay connected

Don’t isolate yourself. We’re all going to get through this together. Reach out to your friends and family, make the effort to keep chatting and keep in touch. We are all feeling social media fatigue – it doesn’t feel natural to only speak with people over WhatsApp or Zoom. But don’t let that stop you from staying connected to the important people in your life. We’re now able to see each other face-to-face, so why not plan some small gatherings? Celebrate those birthdays, have that study session and practice those TikTok dances!

Take care of your mental health

Covid has taken a very real toll on us. We’ve lost loved ones, experienced increased anxiety and isolation, and had to face incredible hardship and stress. It’s important you acknowledge your feelings and seek out professional help if you need it. Speak to your school counsellor, pastor, parents, or friends about what you’re going through. Keep prioritising the things that you enjoy – even if it looks different during the lockdown.

Don’t neglect your time with God

It’s easy to forget that God is still in control; that He’s bigger than Covid and the lockdown. He has special plans and purposes for our lives which haven’t been thrown off course by this year. Spend time with Him, finding your peace and strength in His word. Make note of the ways He is showing up in your life, of His faithfulness and kindness. Our most important tool in getting through this is holding onto the hope and truth that God is still in control.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31).

2020 hasn’t been cancelled. It’s just different. God knew long before we were even born that we would be living through a global pandemic – if there was no hope for 2020, we wouldn’t still be here. We’ll get through this, one day at a time. And what a story we’ll have to tell future generations!