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Lockdown Wrecks Teens’ Mental Health and Holiday Plans

When restrictions left students isolated in a traditional time of community, teenagers struggled with finding a sense of connection and stability.

From the terrors of distance learning to the loneliness of being in isolation at home, almost all teenagers would agree that quarantine has been rough. As of December 7, 2020, a new stay-at-home order has limited day-to-day life even more than usual — especially throughout the holiday season. 

Like everything else relating to the pandemic, people have treated the new order with varying degrees of urgency. New restrictions prohibit gatherings between people from different households. However, some are unclear on what this means. Does that eliminate bubbles? What about socially distanced interactions with one or two friends? Dr. Lisa Hernandez, the health officer for the City of Berkeley, clarified on KQED radio, “Even in a small group and even outdoors with precautions, if you have a social bubble, it is now popped.” 

It’s hard to imagine that this new order is a comfort to students. But Erin Bartholomew, a Berkeley High School (BHS) sophomore in Academic Choice (AC), has been living in strict quarantine, and this newest order has hardly changed her routine. “It hasn’t really made that much of a difference because I haven’t made any big changes to my schedule and my social distancing practices,” explained Bartholomew. “But I would say that in general, quarantine is really hard. It’s [as] hard on my mental health as it is on everyone’s. It’s hard not to see friends face to face, and it can just feel very isolating.” For her, these new precautions are ones to take extremely seriously. “It’s hard to not be able to see my friends or my family, but I wouldn’t want to put anyone in danger,” she said.

Other BHS students told the Jacket that, due to the newest shelter in place orders, their mental health has declined. Maya Drooker, a sophomore in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), said, “The lockdown has been very stressful for me. I haven’t really seen any of my friends since the end of November.” Drooker said she has struggled with motivation as well, saying, “It’s been hard to convince myself of one good reason to get out of bed because I know that, even if I do go out, I won’t have anyone to see. I have stopped eating as much, because I’m not going out, and so I need less energy.” 

Diamond Williams, a junior in Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS) agreed, “[My] mental health is worse. … I’m so used to depending on others for company and keeping me entertained and stuff, which is hard. I’ve been trying not to FaceTime people as much when I feel lonely, just try to figure it out myself.”

Both Drooker and Williams are not alone in feeling this way. For teenagers, emotions like loneliness can be debilitating. Students have suffered from a lack of motivation, short temper, or even strong mood swings during the winter break. “I obsess over little things, and I’ve felt like I’ve been on the verge of tears for like two weeks,” said Drooker. For Bartholomew, a lot of her anxiety also comes from the state of the world. “It’s also just very scary to see the numbers going up and to always see the statistics in the news of cases and deaths. … I hate that we have to be scared of going out into our world.”

For Williams, the new lockdown changed her family’s holiday traditions. Normally, Williams and her family go to her grandparents’ house, enjoy her grandmother’s gumbo, and exchange surprise gifts through Secret Santa. But this Christmas will be different for her and her family. “We do have two toddlers … [so] we don’t want to be all in the same place if something happens,” she said. 

Similarly, Bartholomew also has fewer winter break plans this year. “I plan on FaceTiming friends, family, cooking, reading, [and] watching some Netflix. I think there is a lot I can do at home, and I can see people just virtually, and connect that way.”It’s clear that many students are experiencing similar emotions, and for many, seeing these parallels is comforting. While it’s hard to feel positive after over nine months of living through a global pandemic, BHS students are resilient. Bartholomew said her advice to teens who are struggling would be, “Find what works for you. For me, talking to people really helps. Once you find someone to talk to, stick with that person or those people. It’s a hard time, but we can get through this together.”

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