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Countdown to college: Helping teens deal with COVID-19 anxiety

By Lee Shulman Bierer, Tribune News Service on

Published in Education News

When our world changes suddenly, it's common to experience changes in our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Feelings of anxiety, fear or worry are typical in stressful situations. Everybody is anxious. The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed everyone out. Between a fear of contracting or spreading COVID-19 to financial issues to a lack of social connection, this is a hard time for everybody.

I think it's just a little harder for teens. They're no longer able to celebrate birthdays with their friends, etc. But it goes so much deeper than that for most adolescents. Their SAHMO (Sadness At Having Missed Out) is real. They missed prom and traditional graduation.

Their freshman-year experiences won't be the ones they've always envisioned. College freshmen wonder whether they should stay in school if it's a remote experience. Why pay so much money to sit at home looking at a computer screen? But if they delay entering school for a year, if they're allowed to (big if), what will they do all year? Who will be home? They are few good choices left.

Therapists are dealing with a sharp uptick in calls and new patients, especially from teens, and with good reason. Here are some typical reactions:

- Feeling stressed or overwhelmed, frustrated or angry, worried or anxious.

- Feeling restless, agitated, on "high alert" or unable to calm down.


- Being teary, sad, fatigued or tired, losing interest in usually enjoyable activities, or finding it difficult to feel happy.

- Worrying about going to public spaces, contracting germs or getting sick.

- Constantly thinking about the situation, unable to move on or think about much else.

- Experiencing physical symptoms such as increased fatigue or other uncomfortable sensations.


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