Counsellor Talk : Applying What You Know To Life

As a counsellor it is easy to share what might work . Practicing it and living it is the real test to functioning well.

Here are a few strategies and tips that I not only have recommended to others, but have used myself:

  1. Wake up each day and try a little self talk Just for today I will make this the best day for me. No matter what the situation is we can all cope with things a little better if we break things down in chunks.
  • Just for this minute I can
  • For the next hour I will 
  • Just for today I can 

If we just think about today , not yesterday or the future life gets a little easier . I use this as much as humanly possible. I can do most anything just for today. At the end of the day I remind myself to be grateful. I was able to do a lot of things much better just for today over the years.

  1. Journaling Writing down your thoughts is a good thing. It’s a great way to release how you are thinking and feeling. There are so many things to write about . It’s also a great way to understand your thoughts so you can challenge them when necessary. I have learned a lot about myself through journaling it’s a great way to self reflect.
  1. Step away and step it up We all need to step away from situations. Taking a little breather by going for a walk is something we all can do and yes you can fit it into your day. 15 minutes in morning and fifteen minutes in the evening . I walked every single day last year and was very proud of myself for reaching this goal. This year I am still walking a lot , but don’t feel the need to do it every single day. I play pickleball singing and dancing and moving as much as possible. Do whatever works for you , but exercise. It is the best wellness tip and walking is free.
  1. Social connections They are vital to my wellbeing. I have cultivated and still do my friendships with people. They matter to me. Find ways to be a good friend daily and recognize you are never too old to have new friends in your life. Stay open and let others be there for you as well as being there for them. Surround yourself with positive people and let go of the negative people who do not help or support you.
  1. Spend time taking care of yourself When you help others sometimes you let go of taking care of yourself, I know I do. So take back you and nurture yourself like you would others. Treat yourself with tender loving care.
  1. Take time to talk to a counsellor We all need a little support now and then. I know I have. It is OK to reach out to a counsellor or therapist. It takes strength to talk about what’s really bothering you. Having an impartial listener to help eases some of the burdens we all carry around so reach out.

It’s not always easy applying what you know works in life , but the benefits are there for the taking so just for today try one thing that you already know works for you and apply it. Your day might just get a little brighter and you’ll see the world just a little differently. I know just for today I will.

Is Anxiety The Same As An Anxiety Disorder?

I hear it all too often, youth saying they have anxiety when what they really mean is that they are feeling anxious. If you listen to the news you would believe that our youth are in crisis . The data would suggest otherwise 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime . It’s true and needs to be addressed and has been for the past 20 or so years. The stats have not changed. What’s also true is that 4 out of every 5 Canadians don’t have a mental health disorder and it’s up to us to teach the difference between a disorder and everyday feelings that we all have. Some may need the assistance of a professional to understand the difference. Your School Counsellor is a good place to start. They are trained professionals who understand the difference and can assist in finding supports.

For the 1 in 5 youth that will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime we need to assist them in getting all the supports necessary. For the youth that are experiencing distress over a multitude of concerns we must also listen and support them , teaching them how to cope with life’s challenges and concerns. Supporting youth with their feelings helps us understand what steps to take next. Their feelings are important , so we must not dismiss them.

Words do matter and helping our youth become literate when it comes to mental health can have a positive impact. If you need resources and ideas on how to make that happen check out teenmentalhealth.org. You can also find more information on anxiety here and here.

If you are wondering whether a youth truly has an anxiety disorder, some waitful watching may be in order. Don’t be quick to jump to a diagnosis ( and a reminder that you must be qualified to do so ) even then waitful watching is a good idea.

Some questions to reflect on :

Frequency : How frequent are the anxious feelings? Once or more a day , once a week , once a year?

Duration: How long do the feelings last? A few minutes, hours , weeks , months?

Intensity: Does the youth avoid situations because they are too anxious to cope? Is the anxiety taking control of them instead of them controlling it? Are they having trouble coping with everyday life because of their anxiety?

Have they seen a medical doctor to rule out any other medical concerns?

Has the anxiety come up for no apparent reason?

What triggers if any have led to the anxiety?

Is the youth experiencing stress or anxiety ? What’s the difference?

If you are a School Counsellor you most likely will informally assess and refer for an actual assessment if anxiety is of major concern.

When in any doubt consult. consult, consult!

Let’s work together to help our youth become more literate and support them navigating life. For a great read I would recommend Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life  by Psychiatrist Allen Francis.

School Counsellors Collaborating With Librarians: An Exceptional Way To Help Students

Collaboration is a wonderful thing. Tonights #scchat was so inspiring. It got the creative juices flowing and I am sure will be helpful to so many School Counsellors from across the world.

Find ways to connect with your School Librarian today.

Thanks to the amazing @angcleveland @kiddcounselor15 and @lieberrian who co-moderated #scchat on Dec. 4th , school counsellors now have several new ideas they can use to help students . Take a look at the chat on wakelet .

It will most definitely get your mind thinking of the many ways you can work together and in the end help you to serve your students and community . I think we can never underestimate the power of collaboration. We are definitely #bettertogether. I look forward to hearing the many ways you have collaborated. Please do share.

Start Each Day

As a counsellor the way you begin your day can impact you and others around you. So beginning your day by being good to yourself is a great way to start your day. Ease into your day if you can by getting to work a little early. Take time to listen to positive podcasts, nice music or just turn the radio off and be quiet on your drive to work. Whatever works for you.

Make sure you take time for lunch. Get out of your office and eat with colleagues or go for a walk, I can’t stress how important this is. This is essential for your self care, so just do it! After your crazy busy day and I know you had one, take time to just breathe and wrap up your day by listening to music while you write your notes and prepare for your next work day. I’m interested to know how do you start each day?

Keeping Our Students Safe

As School Counsellors and educators one of the biggest responsibilities we have is to keep our students safe .

How do we do that? Very carefully and with much thought and effort as well as an understanding of the research around what works best. Bruce Perry founder of child trauma academy states that active shooter training is not always done properly , the training that occurs in schools should focus on adults. He says, “if the educators and people who are responsible for children remain calm then the students will reflect that emotional state”. Read more about what he says here.

What can be done? The answers are complex and require teams of people to assist. That is where a Comprehensive School Counselling Plan comes in. School Counsellors are always looking at ways to make school better for students, putting the psychological health and safety of students as a priority. We need to get students the help they need long before a serious threat occurs. The answers are not easy , but those who have learned before us can teach us some things we may need to know. Take a look at these recommendations from the Sandy Hook advisory committee.

As stated in that report , “There is at least one place, other than a home, in which every person, whether a child or adult, should feel absolutely safe and secure from the threat
of physical harm: school. ” I could not agree more. School Counsellors can take the lead along with staffs to make schools a safe place to be. Mental health literacy is essential for all students and staff members. Building relationships is one small step towards creating a community that focuses on what is important.

Working to ensure that we have a safe and caring school community is always on the mind of a professional school counsellor. Best practices should be reviewed and reflected upon each year based on individual school needs. School Counsellors are in a unique position to assist in preventative measures helping students to deal with stressors and social isolation. We also know it takes a team and we don’t have all the answers, but there are many things we can do and are doing already. We are but one of a community of people that make a difference. We as School Counsellors can help make our schools a safe place to be.

Connecting and Networking With #SCCHAT the first Wed. of every month

SCCHAT is an online monthly chat on twitter for School Counsellors, School Counsellor Educators, grad students from across the world and really it is for anyone interested in School Counselling. Even if you cannot make the monthly chat because you are in a time zone that just won’t work, jump into #scchat any time of day so we can connect with you and please tell us where you are from. Connecting with School Counsellors from across the world makes us all better!

Check out our co-moderators here.

If you’d like to collate the chat you can use waklet. Check out the how to video below…

Mark Your Calendars

Sept. 4th 2019 6:30 MT 8:30 ET

It’s All About Relationships

Tonya Romine @TromineTonya and Joanne Brisebois @BriseboisJoanne

Oct. 2nd, 2019 6:30 MT 8:30 ET

Trauma Informed Schools

Kathy L’Heureux @CounselorLaroo  , Joseph Batiano@MrBatianoR1
and Susan Spellman Cann @sspellmancann

Nov. 6th 2019 6:30MT 8:30 ET

Attendance Matters: Getting Kids to School

Angela Avery @MrsAveryBMS and Kelly O’Brien @missobrienweav1

Dec. 4th 2019 6:30 MT 8:30 ET

School Counselors + Library Staff: Partnering to Promote Future-Ready Students

Angela Cleveland @angcleveland Kristina Holzweiss @lieberrian and Lakisha Kidd @kiddcounselor15

Jan. 1st 2020 6:30 MT 8:30 ET

Counsellors Role in Restorative Practices ACES 

Leanne Lazar @lazar_leanne and Shawn Adkins @sadkinsump

Feb. 5th 2020 6:30 MT 8:30 ET

Thriving School Counseling Programs – National School Counseling Week
Erin Mason @ecmmason and Angela Avery @MrsAveryBMS

March 4th 2020 6:30 MT 8:30 ET

A Date with Data: Using Data to Enhance your School Counseling Program

Rawn Boulden@rawnboulden and Nicohl Webb @CounselorPCE

April 1st 2020 6:30 MT 8:30 ET

Mental Health Literacy
Erin Luong @ehordyskiluong , Cynthia Morton @c_morton
and Susan Fuller @EElementarySC

May, 6th 2020  6:30 MT 8:30 ET

Interrupting Racism with Laura Ross @LRossSchCnslr and authors Rebecca Atkins @counselorup and Alicia Oglesby @aliciakolglesby

June 3rd, 2020 6:30 MT 8:30 ET

To be decided. Maybe YOU would like to co-moderate. Let @sspellmancann know what topic and who you would like to co-moderate with.

We look forward to seeing you in #scchat this year.

Walk Along With Me

I am always looking for ways to improve myself, but this year I am on a mission as I fully recognize that I am aging and so are those around me. I lost my dad in June to his fourth heart attack. I recognize that he had extra time to live life after each heart attack that most people don’t get. However, his quality of life had diminished greatly. His final passing seemed to be a wake up call for me.

Life is fragile and I want to live my best life being fully mobile into my 70’s 80’s 90’s and ….

So NOW is the time to take care of myself. Yes, I know I should always put myself as my top priority on the healthy living list, but haven’t always done so. I have been very fortunate to have had a positive mindset waking up each day to look at the bright side of life ( I believe I was partly born this way ). The rest was who I chose to surround myself with and the hard work on my part to take care of my mental well being.

I have always been active physically. I have loved sports my whole life and continue to find ways to exercise. This past year July 1 st 2018- July 1 st 2019 , I walked every single day and I am very proud of this accomplishment. I walked even when it wasn’t the best time to walk. Through sickness and sorrow I found the strength to walk.

Starting July 1 st 2019 , I decided that I would set new goals to be the best me I can physically, mentally , and spiritually. So each day I am putting the focus on how I can reach my goals. I am keeping a journal every day so that I can track my progress. I plan on getting a personal trainer this fall making a commitment to myself to be free of any negativity that hinders my goals.

Thanks to those of you who walked along with me last year. It truly made a difference to me knowing that you were watching the videos that I posted on twitter. You are part of the reason I was able to accomplish my goal, it made me accountable for sure. This year although I won’t be posting near as often , I am still posting knowing that you will support me as I work at living my best life.

I thought turning 60 would be hard and it was in some ways , but really I have so much to be grateful for. As I get closer to 61 I intend to make each day even better. I need to live my life to the full potential I deserve, being as healthy as I possibly can . So look out 61 here I come …