What comes to mind when the words ‘spare time’ are mentioned? No doubt your thoughts drift
to the likes of Netflix, social media, video games, YouTube and television.
Rather predictably, it was these views that were reflected in a survey recently taken by Year 10
students. The students were asked how they are accompanying time – which there is now a
generous abundance of, in the context of the coronavirus. However, should the above
responses be the ones that are presented when our lives have changed so dramatically? When
we do, in fact, find ourselves with copious amounts of time on our hands?
As students, we are strained to find any spare time, especially once homework assignments
and extra-curricular commitments are considered. Moreover, it is easy to understand why most
teenagers are instantly drawn to the screen once all tasks have been completed. This is
because the screen provides a sort of comfort that does not entail any kind of strain on the
brain. The physical and emotional drain can be intense during our normal school days, and it
goes without saying that there is certainly a place for a cheeky binge of Stranger Things in our
lives. It is scientifically proven that if the brain has undergone significant strain and exercise, it
craves an activity that involves no thinking for itself. Something that involves sitting back,
relaxing, and doing absolutely nothing.
But times are different.
We no longer find ourselves in a situation when our days are carefully structured, where we are
constantly moving around from place to place. The physical exertion on our bodies is eliminated
due to lack of sports practices and freedom of movement, and the social interaction element is
also limited. Perhaps the most drastic change of all, we now cannot go to school to partake in
our studies as usual.
It is imperative that we find other ways to occupy our minds, as they will not be able to function
effectively if their only source of entertainment originates from a screen. While the screen does
offer a kind of motionless comfort, it does not offer any kind of productive, thought-provoking
This is a call to action: get creative.
Not only will our bodies benefit from our finding new ways to entertain ourselves, but our mental
health will too. The human brain needs constant inspiration in order to be entertained, but we
must train ourselves to realise that this inspiration shouldn’t necessarily originate from a screen.
There is an abundance of new and exciting activities for people to try whilst in quarantine.
Setting goals for yourself is always a promising concept, as it gives one motivation during a time when it seems that there is none. Learning a new skill: painting, juggling a football, baking.
While it may seem cliché, your home is your oyster!
We must take advantage of the opportunities presented to us by this pandemic. We must see
this as a cup-half-full situation, a situation in which we can try to broaden our horizons as human
beings. It is all very well trying to wish that you were in fact on holiday this Easter, or that you
could go to that basketball match, or that you could go out with your friends. However, the fact
remains: none of that is possible during this pandemic. Don’t waste away your time wishing you
were someone else, but find other ways to occupy your mind. Trust that it will make you feel
more productive, therefore more energised and, ultimately, happier.
In the words of Dumbledore: “It does not do to dwell on dreams, and forget to live.”
How do you stay positive? This was another question that was given to the year 10 students,
stimulating many to write about how they managed to keep a stable state of mind in this difficult
and isolated time. Responses ranged from staying close to family, keeping contact with friends,
and to even sheltering themselves from the outside world by ignoring the news about the corona
pandemic. Many students admitted that they had in fact given up on the idea of staying positive,
and were just waiting for the situation to be over.
By reading the responses to the survey, there is clearly a correlation. People stay positive by
not talking about the situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and distracting themselves from even
thinking about it. Several responses indicated that when speaking or thinking about coronavirus,
they would quickly feel overwhelmed, anxious, or even a little depressed: “I stay positive by
staying detached from the situation,” one person said.
Why do we feel that we need to “detach” ourselves from the situation in order to keep a stable
state of mind?
We do this because we have received an overdose of the same information. For weeks it is all
we have talked about. We read the news, and that’s all we see, we talk to our family, and that is
the only topic of conversation, and when we are alone with our thoughts, it’s all we can think
about. A natural reaction to this excess of negativity, is to block it out, to preserve our sanity.
The danger of doing this is to detach yourself so much from the situation, that you start to live in
denial. It can also trigger a total rejection of the information, which itself can lead to a lack of
education about the topic, therefore putting yourself and your community in danger.
By reading the news all the time, and only talking about this situation, it is hard to stay positive.
The news is often very discouraging, which can easily bring us down, and make us spiral into an
endless pit of negativity, which is why so many people have decided to simply stop reading and
listening. We can now see the responsibility that we, as citizens, have. Instead of blocking out
all information about the corona pandemic, we should try to read about positive things taking
place in the world, all the while staying informed and educated about the situation. There are many positive things happening in the world today, and reading about them will surely regain
your confidence, and help you stay positive.
This is where we can clearly see that the media have a huge responsibility. They need to make
sure that the information that they give us is DIVERSE, and that we talk about topics that are
also optimistic. If we don’t change our topic of conversation every once in a while, people are
simply not going to listen anymore, and start to live in denial, which is the opposite intent of the
media, which after all, its number one purpose is to keep people informed and educated.
So, to stay positive, simply look out for other things going on in the world, and let yourself think
about various topics, while of course staying educated about the situation.
How can you contribute to the well-being of the community? This was another question that was
sent to the year 10 year group. It is one that in turn garnered an array of responses, ranging
from helping the older generations, to watching over the mental health of peers. This question is
intriguing, as even though we are in quarantine, we still have the possibility and opportunity to
help those around us, those who may be suffering from illnesses both visible and invisible.
This question provides an entrance and a look into the minds of the pupils in our year group,
and their mentality during this time of crisis. Those who answered the question with “social
distancing” believe in the possible dangers of the virus, and are taking a sacrifice to help the
community. This answer can be viewed as a passive response to the situation, but it is vital for
the prevention of further propagation of the Coronavirus within and outside of our community.
These new social distancing rules have rapidly immersed themselves in our lives, become our
new reality in this time of distress and uncertainty.
Mental health. This was a common response to the survey. It is our duty and responsibility as
members of this community to look after and care for those in our community who are suffering
from issues relating to mental health. Mental health is vitally important to continued happiness
during this period. It is important for us all, particularly in this time of uncertainty, to look after
those around us. To look beyond a possible facade on the outside and understand how they are
truly feeling. Even a simple “how are you feeling today” every once in a while can make a
difference, an important difference. In this time, typical day to day aspects of life have been
restricted. In many places, time outdoors has been all but cancelled. Simple and common
activities have been cancelled. Normal life has been cancelled. We must learn to adapt and
overcome the challenges that we will most certainly face in the coming months. We must find
pleasure and comfort in different areas, in new activities, for refusing to adapt and change can
be disastrous for you, and the people around you. As members of our community we must
come together to care for each other, to be present for each other, and look after one another.
Another common response was about looking after the older generations. This is important as
the elderly generation are more at risk than the rest of us, and thus should be protected and
looked after to the best of our ability. Many students wrote that they wanted to take the initiative to paint, draw and write to old homes in the area. This idea is one that I find would be very
beneficial for the recipients, as well as for us, as we would most certainly feel a sense of
accomplishment and pride after such an act. Even just speaking to elderly relatives who may
not have many people around them to talk to could be wonderful for them. We must remember
that this is a tumultuous and worrisome time for them, so we must do our best to comfort and be
ever present for them, as they would be for us.
These answers show that there is much we can do, both individually and as a community to
help halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus, look after those who are most affected within our community, and contribute to the overall well-being of pupils in our year group.
Nicolas Delarue, Maya Bayliss, Tess Barbey