Coping with coronavirus: a guide for young people

Page last reviewed: 16 December 2021

The Mental Health Foundation is part of the national mental health response during the coronavirus outbreak. Government advice designed to keep us safe is under constant review and will be different depending on where you live: more details and up to date information here.

This guidance was produced together with the MHF Young Leaders. Assembled in partnership with Leaders Unlocked, The MHF Young Leaders are a diverse group of young people with a wealth of general life and specific mental health experiences who are helping to shape our work with families, children and young people 

Focus on the things you enjoy

“Find the things you like and turn them into your hobbies. I’ve started sewing, drawing and coding my LED strip lights”

- Reflection from our Young Leaders

This could be an existing hobby, or something brand new that you wanted to try.  

  • Why not try: creating things (e.g. drawing, painting, writing, crafting), playing games or puzzles, decorating, or spending time watching or creating content on social media or streaming sites.

Set limits on the news and social media

While it is good to stay informed, media coverage of the pandemic can also be overwhelming and make us feel anxious and worried. Experiment to find the balance of news and media coverage that works for you. YoungMinds has information on how to have a more positive experience online.

“Limit your intake of news (whatever format it takes). Being inundated with constant negative news and updates on death will only increase anxiety and fear over a situation that is beyond your control”

- Reflection from our Young Leaders

  • Why not trysetting limits on how much media you watch, only going to a limited number of reliable places for news, curating your social media feeds to prioritise content that makes you feel uplifted, and limiting content that makes you feel anxious or down, for example by muting particular people or hashtags  
  • Check out: any screen time features available on your smartphone or the Some Good News YouTube channel.  

Connect with others 

“One important thing is to have one person that I facetime once a day to have someone outside the family to vent to…”

- Reflection from our Young Leaders

Find time regularly to connect with friends, family, classmates, co-workers or other people in your life. It can help you all feel more connected.   

  • Why not try: different ways of keeping in touch to find the ones that work best (e.g. video calls, quizzes or games with friends). If you use video calls for work or study, you might want to try something else for socialising: an online watch party where you all stream the same film and chat together, for example, or simply a phone call.

Find your routine 

Try to find a routine that is realistic, flexible, and includes some fun. There are many ways to do this, so experiment with what works best for you.  The right routine for you might look different from someone else’s and that’s okay! 

  • Why not trypicking three things to do each day, breaking your day up into chunks, or planning regular mealtimes and bedtimes.  

Move your body

If we’re shielding, self-isolating or not able to exercise in the ways we prefer, we may not be as active as  we usually would be – which is important for our mental health. Try your best to incorporate movement and activity in your routine, in whatever way works best for you.  

  • Why not try: a form of exercise that you already do, a new type of exercise, a stretch on the sofa, working out with a friend over video-chat, or a dance around your room!  
  • Check out: the range of different free exercise programmes on YouTube or different fitness apps like interval timers or yoga classes.  

Treat yourself (and others) with compassion 

This is a challenging time for everyone. Try to be as understanding to yourself as you would be to a friend, especially if you’re finding things difficult or your plans have had to change.  

Being compassionate towards others, and helping them if you’re able, can make you both feel uplifted. Remember that we all may be struggling in different ways, and being compassionate towards others can go a long way. 

If you’re living with an existing mental health problem

The pandemic can have affect any existing mental health problems you’ve been living with or might trigger new symptoms. You may find usual face-to-face services are disrupted. Make sure you connect to your therapist or other mental health professional by phone, video call or email.  

Many organisations are offering practical tips for managing your mental health during this the pandemic. This includes:

There are also helplines and chatrooms like The SanctuaryPapyrusCALM and Samaritans

For students and school leavers 

Being at school, college or university can bring particular worries or challenges. Here are some suggestions for managing as a student or school leaver. 

Studying with others 

“We have to do all our schoolwork but without the social aspect of having friends around and it can be really impactful”

- Reflection from our Young Leaders

It can be helpful to study with others to boost your motivation

  • Why not try: organising online study groups with your friends or classmates where you discuss queries about assignments or share tips on studying from home, or watching vlogs for motivation.  

Keep an eye out for free resources and qualifications

If you were hoping to start an apprenticeship or enter the job market, you may be facing uncertainty about your future. Organisations such as The Skills Toolkit and Future Learn offer free online courses in a wide range of subjects if you fancy learning something new. They might be a helpful way to stay motivated in this period of uncertainty. 

Help your teachers to help you 

Try to be honest with your teachers about how you’re feeling and ways they can help you to learn better from home. Your teacher or lecturer may also know of other support available for you. 

  • Why not try: suggesting new resources or ways of communicating online that your teacher might not be aware of. If your teacher or lecturer doesn’t get back to you, find out who your course administrator is to use as a second point of contact. Keep a record of important communications with school staff, especially when talking about coursework, dissertation or deadlines.  

Focus on what you can control and acknowledge what you can’t

“Focus on what you can control… If you’re meant to be going to Uni and that’s up in the air, put it aside and look at what else you could be doing for the interim before carrying on that path again”

- Reflection from our Young Leaders

There is a lot that feels uncertain right now, like exam marks, university, job or apprenticeship offers, and what the world will look like in a few weeks or months. It can feel scary and overwhelming when we don’t know what will happen, and a lot of it will be out of our control. Trying to identify the things that you do have control over, and those that you don't, can help make this feel a bit more manageable. 

You could try a Circle of Control exercise, where you think about what’s stressing you out and write down the things you have no control over, the things you can influence, and the things you can control. We feel more anxious when we focus on the things we can’t control and forget about the things we can. You can download a Circle of Control template here.

Your productivity doesn’t determine your self-worth

“Take it a day at a time, some days will be easier to stick to a routine than others. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t as productive as you’d like to be. Your productivity is not tied to your identity”

- Reflection from our Young Leaders

We’ve gone through so many changes to daily life that it may not be realistic to expect yourself to be as productive as you were before. If you find yourself feeling a bit unmotivated, or like you haven’t got as much done in a day as you usually would, that’s okay. Focus on making a plan that feels manageable for you as you are right now. 

If you’re isolated in student accommodation 

There is support available. Your university or the building manager of your private halls should have a procedure in place to make sure you have a way to receive food and medicines you need. Be sure to tell your tutor or student representative that you’re staying in your accommodation.

Many university mental health services have moved online, and have temporarily removed the requirement to be referred by your GP.If you feel that it would help to talk to someone, take a look at your university mental health service webpage. If you’re an international student, take a look at the advice from UKCISA

If you witness or experience discrimination or racism, please report it. Racist incidents against migrants and international students have increased since the Covid-19 outbreak. Regardless of what’s going on in the world, racism is never ok. Report any incident to NUS and to your local police. Support is available from the Victim Support (for Wales and England) Victim Support in ScotlandVictim Support if you live in NI or Stop Hate helplines. 

If you’re worried about your finances, you can access guidance from the Student Loans Company (England, Wales and NI) or Student Information Scotland . If you attend university, your university may offer grants from  a hardship fund which you usually don’t have to pay back. Search on your university’s website for information on hardship funds or contact the Student Advice Team (or equivalent). 

Further information for students is available from:

Information is also available from Office for Students and Student Mind.

The Mental Health Foundation is committed to bringing readers reliable and relevant information. All of our pages are written and regularly reviewed by our mental health experts, in line with official advice on the coronavirus outbreak.

We need your support to keep providing vital information during this time.

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If you want to develop a personalised plan for supporting your mental health you can visit the Every Mind Matters site, developed in collaboration with the Mental Health Foundation.

If you need to talk confidentially you can call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. We also have a resource on how to get help for your mental health.