Written by Caitrin Mooney, Raise Up Youth Development Coordinator, and Aira Li, Member of North Shore Raise Up Crew.

2020 was undoubtedly a year for the history books. We all had our lives brought to a grinding halt, where we were forced to slow down and come together to protect ourselves and our whānau. Then came 2021 to rewrite everything we thought we knew about living through a pandemic. Some young people relaxed into the low-stress lifestyle of online school, where class at 9 am meant setting your alarm for 8:57 am. Others stepped up into roles that had otherwise been filled by daycares and extended whānau, where they now had to balance online school with making lunch for siblings and changing nappies. For some of us, the thing that made us feel the best was out of reach; seeing our friends and whānau.

After over 100 days in lockdown, the uncertainty around exams, safety, and other pressures brought on by the pandemic took a huge toll on many young people’s mental health. Some of us who had been doing the mahi to get ourselves to a healthier place suddenly found ourselves back at square one. Others who had previously thought of themselves as pillars of strength were the ones who needed to ask for help. The motivation and inspiration to tend to our to-do lists and engage in activities that made us feel good started to dwindle.

Spending years of such a pivotal part of your life in and out of lockdowns forces you to learn a lot about yourself- and fast.

Here are a few simple life hacks for our fellow rangatahi who could use a bit of motivation and push coming out of the lockdown space

1. Look after yourself

Perhaps one of the hardest pills for many of us to swallow is how important it is to look after yourself in times like these. Whether that’s calling a close friend, going for a walk, or simply setting a goal for yourself.

2. Set a simple goal and work towards it

Let’s be honest, while walking 10,000 steps every day or achieving excellence are amazing goals, a goal can be as simple as drinking enough water in a day. A goal that makes you feel good and enables you to show kindness towards yourself are the ones you should be setting for yourself right now. And if you don’t reach your goal, that’s ok too. Exercise some of that self-love we’re talking about. That’s the beauty of being young - there’s plenty of time to keep trying.

3. We are all in this together

While we may not know what the future holds in terms of COVID (we see you Omicron), one thing is for sure - nobody can get through this alone. Communities, whānau, schools, businesses, neighbours, churches, all came together to offer support, even if it meant a video call.

If anything good has come from COVID, it is recognizing the importance of being there for each other. Here at YMCA’s Raise Up, it’s no different. Every week from all across New Zealand, we turned on our computers and came together as a community. Now that we’re finally able to meet in person and enjoy our summer, our computers are off as we try and forget spending that many hours inside. But we all know, if it came down to it, we would be there for each other just the same.

4. Reach out

Whatever your situation, Lockdown 2021 as a young person was challenging and stressful. As the days tick by, the after-effects of being in a lockdown that long can still linger. Reach out if you feel like it. Raise Up is a programme that is run by young people for young people. Sometimes you just need someone who gets your perspective. The Raise Up crews set across the country are always here to welcome rangatahi inspiring one another to be a part of a meaningful change through their work for the community.

To learn more about the Raise Up programme click on the link. https://www.raiseup.co.nz/