Art, Videos, and Essays from the Ginger Teen Council
Ginger Teen Council
Hi, I’m Kya! I’m 16 years old and live in Newcastle, Washington. I love the arts, including theatre and dancing, but I also enjoy creative writing, poetry, and playing my piano. I love taking care of my 13 plant babies and hanging out with my friends.
"Hello! I’m Tyler, a highschool student located in Southern California. I enjoy all things literature, and am an aspiring author/scientist. I hope that I can one day improve the world both through my writings, and through my discoveries. Here is my story."
In an age of unprecedented inter-connectivity, it seems almost impossible that one could feel isolated. And yet, for most of the past two years, many teens have been dealing with just that. Quarantine, lockdown, whatever you wish to call it, there’s no denying the tangible effect it had on so many people’s mental health, mine included.
I had friends literal keystrokes away, and yet there were numerous times where I felt lonelier than ever. I wanted to hang out with them, I wanted to be involved, and yet there was some impossible to describe barrier blocking me. It was like some ultimate form of self-sabotage. To me, I learned two very valuable things from this experience:
1. The environment that you’re in is vital to your mental health, in an almost invisible way.
2. Caring for another living thing is a great way to make you invisibly take better care of yourself.
Some of you may have heard that first one before, and I can already imagine the thoughts rising. “Oh great, another ‘clean my room’ speech, because that’s going to fix my mental health issues.” And while, yes, cleaning up your living space can help, it’s not the only way to improve your environment.
I found that I was often spending basically the entire day in my room, and when I started to switch up my environment, the mental change was almost instant. Brains like stimulation, they like new smells, sights, sounds, and things to feel. Staying in one area cuts that off, so try leaving the room more. If you spend a lot of time in your house, take a walk around the neighborhood. It’s almost magic how much it can help.
The second one seems a bit more esoteric. Why would I suddenly start taking care of myself more just because I’m caring for another living thing? Well, with me, that living thing was my cats. Since I was at home more, more of the cat’s responsibilities fell to me. Feeding them, cleaning their litter boxes, stuff like that. And almost subconsciously, these activities made me want to take better care of myself too.
I began maintaining personal hygiene more consistently, I didn’t forget to eat lunch as often, taking care of my cats made me want to take care of myself because I wanted to both be more physically able to care for them, and because taking care of THEIR hygiene and THEIR meals were like subtle reminders for me too.
Once I started to integrate my solutions into daily life, I found that it wasn’t so hard to talk to my friends anymore. I was more polite, had a consistently better mood, and was all around healthier.
Were all of my issues cured? No, but these were things that were easy for me to do even while mentally unwell, and they helped bring me back to a state of semi-health. I hope they can do the same for you.
"Hi ya’ll! My name’s Immanuel, and I’m from Houston, Texas. I’m currently a freshman studying at Harvard College."
The story starts at my school. I went to a small private school where everyone knew everyone, and exclusive cliques formed very quickly. During the start of my freshmen year in high school, my best friend of five years decided to go to a public school that was an hour away. Now we could still keep in touch and hang out, but our relationship wouldn’t be the same. I instantly started stressing out about whether or not I would find another good friend. I had acquaintances but no one I could truly call my best friend.
One of the problems with stress is that if you keep it to yourself and dwell on it, you’re bound to fail at whatever it is that is causing the stress. That is what happened to me. I became so stressed that I shut down. I didn’t talk much, I didn’t try to make friends, and I became all business. My schoolwork improved, but my social life was very sad. I was lonely.
At that point, I knew I was doing something wrong. I placed so much necessity on trying to make friends that I somehow convinced myself that I couldn’t find friends. I decided to tell the people that I trusted about my problem. Both my mom and my dad offered sound advice. It was obvious advice, but it was advice I needed to hear out loud. I don’t need to impress anyone or act a certain way to make friends. I am unique and that inherently makes my opinions valuable. My dad told me the quote “be a fountain not a drain.” That essentially means to spread positivity, encouragement, and hospitality. The advice resonated with me, because I realized not talking is the fastest way to not make friends. While that is straightforward, I personally needed to hear that advice from someone else.
When I went back to school, I attempted to implement this advice. Of course, I didn’t suddenly become a master socializer the next day, but I was actively trying to better my situation. I ended up finding my best friend about a week or so later, and even though we’re presently hundreds of miles away due to college, we still keep in regular touch. I learned to trust myself and to trust others during my ordeal with stress-caused loneliness. Without the help of the people I trust, I may not have overcome my stress.
If the problem can’t be solved with individual techniques such as journaling or meditation, then by all means you should let someone know of the problem. I simply needed someone to state the obvious, and oftentimes bouncing ideas off of someone else will lead to the solution. In my case, outside help worked like a charm.
"Hi, my name is Serena! I’m 13 years old and live in California. I’m in 9th grade and my favorite subject is English. A fun fact about me is that I love baking! Here is my story."
At one point or another, as human beings, I feel that we all experience loneliness, overwhelm, disconnection, or something similar to those emotions. When going through a time where we are feeling any of those emotions, it's important to recenter ourselves by using some form of self care and making sure that we take the time to focus on ourselves so we are well taken care of. There are tons of different ways to give yourself the attention and care that you deserve, and everyone has a different way of doing that for themselves. For me, there are some different tactics that I will share that I use when I’m feeling any sort of negative emotions.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of movies and tv shows. The love I have for those two things is something I sometimes use as a coping method. Let’s say I’m feeling lonely, maybe the people around me are too busy to hang out or occupied by something or maybe there’s an instance involving covid which makes it so I can’t have interactions with people outside of my household. So I’m feeling disconnected and I want to do something that will make me feel better and even possibly distract me from reality. For me, movies and tv shows can be a great escape from life. If I’m feeling lonely I can turn on one of my comfort tv shows that makes my time alone actually feel enjoyable, or maybe I can watch a movie that takes place in a magical realm or something like that so I can temporarily remove my mind from reality and make that negative disconnection that I’m feeling, positive.
Another method I find super effective when I need to regulate my emotions is going on walks. Being around all of the fresh air and just moving around helps me clear my head so much. I think that exercising in general is a good thing to do when you need a healthy distraction or coping mechanism. For me, walking is the easiest option because it’s the most calming form of exercise in my opinion. While I’m on my walks I also like listening to some positive music or podcasts that could help reassure me if I’m feeling lonely, or put my mind in a different place if that's what I’m needing instead.
I think it's really important to study yourself and reflect, to decide and decipher when you need to take a step back to just take care of yourself! There might be some telltale signs or behaviors that you can notice that could be a sign that you need to take a break to just focus on yourself, like certain emotions, etc. Remember that self care looks different for every person!