Ask Dr Sarah: “I Miss My Friends During Isolation”

"If I knew how long it would be for, it would be a lot easier."

Do you have a personal problem that you need help with? KISS is here to help, with Dr Sarah, a clinical child psychologist specialising in adolescent issues.

Dear Sarah

I miss my friends. I’m finding it very hard at the moment to be stuck indoors all day during isolation.  I don’t really enjoy face-timing them because it’s not the same as hanging out in real life. No one in my family is sick and so it’s really frustrating to be stuck inside even though we’re all fine. If I knew how long it would be for, it would be a lot easier. What can I do to feel better without breaking the rules and seeing my friends?

Sarah says:

Not being able to get out and see friends is one of the toughest issues facing young people in Ireland right now and, you’re right, facetiming is not a substitute for meeting face-to-face. If one good thing comes of all this, it’s that people will realise how important meeting people in real life actually is, and maybe we’ll cherish our friends more in the future.

It’s hard to see the point of all this hardship when nobody in your immediate circle is unwell; it just doesn’t seem real. And you’re absolutely right in saying that it would be easier to manage if we had some idea of when it would end. But, within all the uncertainty, there are some absolute certainties and ‘definites’ we can focus on to keep us going.

One ‘definite’ is that your personal behaviour has the power to change the lives of many others. Imagine you meet your friends and one of them infects you, then you could pass it on to someone in your house, who might accidentally pass it on to an elderly or sick relative or neighbour, who might pass it on to the health worker who treats them. So while you might see your own behaviour as being of no consequence, it’s not; you and the choices you make are vital in helping end this as soon as possible. Another ‘definite’ is that this is going to end and normal life will return some day. That is the goal that we need to stay focussed on.

In the meantime, keeping occupied, active and connected with friends will help maintain your positive mental health during this crisis. Jigsaw, the nationwide service supporting the mental health of young people, has an absolutely fantastic range of online services including live broadcasts, information on mindfulness and relaxation, and ‘top tips’ to promote positive mental health. The HSE has also just launched a really helpful and informative ‘minding your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak’ page.

For more advice on personal problems like this, check out the other questions Dr Sarah has answered.

For advice on periods, puberty and your body, check out Ask Shelley.

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