By SOPHIE STONE

It’s impossible to deny that COVID-19 has impacted various aspects of our everyday lives, even in New Zealand where we’ve managed to reduce our case numbers to single digits. We often hear the concerns of business owners, those in the hospitality and retail sectors, people who provide healthcare. We don’t as often hear the concerns of young people.

But we are concerned. The rise of economic uncertainty has led to predictions that youth unemployment will also increase, and for those with limited work experience, this can make accessing the workforce that much harder. This, combined with all the other stressful aspects of COVID-19 like isolation, loss of routine and increased screen time, will likely contribute to a worsening of youth mental health. For this reason, it’s now more important than ever that young people practice self-care.

But what is self-care? From bubble baths to shopping sprees, meditation to socialising, it can conjure up different images for every person. I know that some people would consider staying committed to working out an hour every day as good self-care, while for others it might just be managing to have a short walk outside (both of which are valid!). Of course, there will also be people who aren’t really familiar with the concept at all, or understand how to practically implement in their own lives. That’s why COMET, Auckland’s Youth Employability Program have created a self-care campaign to support young people.

In the past the non-profit council organisation have run initiatives through their Youth Employability Programme (YEP) aimed to bridge the gap between young people and the workforce. Their current national initiative ‘License to Work’ is aimed at 14-24-year-olds, with the goal of helping young people gain the skills, insight and confidence to get and keep work, and create careers. This initiative has delivered programs in schools and community organisations, offering skill-building workshops, voluntary work experience, and work experience with local businesses.

Now YEP have extended their focus to self-care, with the License to Work Director Shirley Johnson outlining the importance of this resulting from COVID-19, suggesting that the economic impact could be felt for decades. “At this critical stage of a young person’s life and career, failure to find a job can have serious implications for their self-esteem and general mental health. Lack of family resources, support and connectivity with the labour market (especially when parents are also out of work) can worsen the impact.” She says that youth from communities with economic, housing or social deprivation, or families with multiple generations of unemployment, are most at risk for mental health issues.

So the need for self-care is clearly evident, and YEP have created a campaign based online, easily accessible to most New Zealanders. The campaign is being led by Karlton Laing, know as That Yep Guy, and currently has a resource page offering tips and tricks of self-care. Some of the topics include: how to read when you hate reading, sleep, stay connected with friends, routines, finishing what you start, and reaching out for help. All the topics provide multiple resources such as videos and links to more information. There’s also a short questionnaire assessing how well you’re looking after yourself, which is worth taking if you think there might be room for improvement.

I know it’s easy to let self-care slide (to the extent writing this is a little hypocritical) but taking the opportunity now to familiarise ourselves with what it really means and how to practice it within our own lives in ways that are meaningful to us is not just useful for the time that it takes to ride out the after-effects of COVID-19. It’s a life skill that can be used to help protect us from stresses we may encounter at any point, and is good for our overall wellbeing regardless.

So, consider checking out the resources, and figuring out how you might be able to apply a little more self-care to your life.

https://cometauckland.org.nz/resources/self-care-resources
https://www.facebook.com/YEPAuckland/videos/670369783505727/
Instagram: #Thatyepguy

Sophie is a third-year Communication student at Massey uni who loves cats, ice cream and musicals.

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