101 Ways To Kick Start Your Day In A Positive Way: A Guide For Educators Parents and Students

This is a collaborative blogpost by Erin Luong and I along with a few ideas from friends.  As mental health educators we believe that a focus on our mental health and well being is foundational to all education. It is impossible to focus on academics if students are not feeling secure. We believe it’s important to intentionally embed a focus on well being into every lesson with young people. All of us need to use positive self talk and coping strategies to feel better . We can all do one thing a day that will help us cope during this unprecedented time.

Hoping some of these tips help you start the day as an educator. You can post a tip for the day using Canva or just text your student the tip to start their day. As an educator I am sure you can find many creative ways to use this as you move online. 

  1. Just for today I will start and end my day in a positive way.
  2. Just for today I will remember that I am ok and all will be well with the world.
  3. Just for today I will be proud that I stayed home and did my part to help.
  4. Just for today I will be grateful for all the front line workers that are helping us.
  5. Just for today I will celebrate our shared humanity.
  6. Just for today I will head outside and let the sun hit my face. I will take some fresh air breaths and listen, it may sound quieter and more peaceful than usual. I will think about what I hear, how the sun feels on my face and how those deep breaths make my body feel? Susan Fueller
  7. Just for today I will send some positive intentions out into the universe. 
  8. Just for today I will think of ways to make the world a better place.
  9. Just for today I will learn to say I love you in as many languages as I can think of. 
  10.  Just for today I will post a positive message in my window and or use sidewalk chalk to write a message for others in my neighbourhood to see.
  11.  Just for today I will connect with two people that lift my spirits.
  12.  Just for today I will write or talk about one thing I am grateful for no matter how small. Helen MacKinnon
  13.  Just for today I will remain hopeful.
  14.  Just for today I will look back at old photo albums and tell stories from the past which made me who I am today. 
  15.  Just for today I will look in the mirror and recognize that I have a purpose for being here.
  16.  Just for today I will make sure I am moving my body for at least 30 minutes.
  17.  Just for today I will be kind to my mind.
  18.  Just for today I will have an eye staring contest. Juliana Miller – MacPherson
  19.  Just for today I will tell the people that I care about that they matter to me.
  20.  Just for today I will not worry about what is in it for me, I will think only about what I can do to help out in every situation. Gail White
  21.  Just for today I will dress in my favourite colour and eat my favourite food. Laurel Hunt
  22.  Just for today I will listen to one of my favourite songs and sing along. Leena Booth
  23.  Just for today I will say I am courageous, strong and can make a difference.
  24.  Just for today everytime I wash my hands I will tell two silly jokes and laugh. Karen Hudson
  25.  Just for today I will talk about helpful and unhelpful worries with an adult.
  26.  Just for today I know that I am safe and I can control my thoughts.
  27.  Just for today I will wish upon a star.
  28.  Just for today I will remember that challenges can be opportunities.
  29.  Just for today I will go for a walk and notice all the beauty around me.
  30.  Just for today I will remember that all my feelings are ok. It’s ok to be scared etc.
  31.  Just for today I will remind myself that just because I made a mistake doesn’t mean I am one.
  32.  Just for today I will stay strong and well.
  33.  Just for today I will share my favorite song/poem and we can sing or say them together or to each other.  Sheri Edwards
  34.  Just for today I will not give up.
  35.  Just for today I will ask God to get me through today.
  36.  Just for today I will look at one way I can see the opportunities because of the challenges of today. 
  37.  Just for today I will reevaluate my priorities and tell someone what I think.
  38.  Just for today I will let go of any thoughts that don’t help my peace of mind.
  39.  Just for today I will remember not everyone reacts to events in the same way. I will be positive today.
  40.  Just for today I will remember that I am loveable and capable.
  41.  Just for today I will take a break from watching or listening to any alarming news.
  42.  Just for today wear my clothes inside out and walk backwards. ( Laura Cormier) 
  43.  Just for today I will take care of my mind by listening to some soothing music.
  44.  Just for today I will do one activity that I love and enjoy.
  45.   Just for today I will check in with my parents and/ or , grandparents to bring a smile to their day.
  46.  Just for today I will find a calm space just for me. 
  47.  Just for today I will write about my feelings in a journal.
  48.  Just for today I know that I can deal with life’s difficulties.
  49.  Just for today I will smile often.
  50.  Just for today I will say to myself I can cope with this uncertainty.
  51.  Just for today I will draw out my worries.
  52.  Just for today I will talk to an adult about what is concerning me.
  53.  Just for today I will visualize my safe place ( a beach, being with my favourite friend , playing and singing in the rain).
  54.  Just for today I will do more of what makes me happy.
  55.  Just for today I will find two ways to distract myself if I start to catastrophize.
  56.  Just for today I will let go of anything that upsets me.
  57.  Just for today I will reassure myself that all will be well with the world.
  58.  Just for today I will calm my wandering mind by doing something that is fun.
  59.  Just for today I will unwind by taking time out of my day to draw, paint, sing, dance or play a game I love.
  60.  Just for today I will read a book for 15 minutes for pleasure.
  61.  Just for today I will be easy on myself.
  62.  Just for today I will look for solutions.
  63.  Just for today I will talk kindly and gently to myself just like I would my best friend.
  64.  Just for today I will watch a funny movie or talk to a funny friend. I know laughter will help.
  65.  Just for today I will remind myself that I matter.
  66.  Just for today I can  journal for 10 minutes.
  67.  Just for today I will open my heart to new ways of thinking and doing.
  68.  Just for today I will spend some extra time with people I love.
  69.  Just for today use your imagination to imagine the best that can happen.
  70.  Just for today I will remind myself  of one good thing I can do for the world.
  71.  Just for today I will  love with all my heart.
  72.  Just for today I will tell myself that life can be tough sometimes  ,but so am I. 
  73.  Just for today I will say I am strong, I am kind and I can do anything I make up my mind to do.
  74.  Just for today I will recognize that I cannot change the circumstances ,but I can change my reaction to it. 
  75.  Just for today I will practice breathing deeply.
  76.  Just for today I will write 3 things I am grateful for.
  77.  Just for today I will look at some old pictures and think of the positive memories of that time.
  78.  Just for today I will make something new.
  79.  Just for today I will create a song, a piece of art , a new recipe, or something I have always wanted to create.
  80.  Just for today I will take a picture of something that brings me joy.
  81.  Just for today I will lift someone else’s spirits.
  82.  Just for today I will spread some kindness and love in the world.
  83.  Just for today I will make hot chocolate and eat my favourite cookie.
  84.  Just for today I will write a love letter.
  85.  Just for today whenever I find myself thinking negative I will challenge those thoughts.
  86.  Just for today I will reach out to someone who needs it.
  87.  Just for today I will jump for joy.
  88.  Just for today I will start a blog, a vlog or share something that makes the world a better place.
  89.  Just for today I will share at least 2 jokes with others.
  90.  Just for today I will connect with someone from a different generation than I am, to learn more about how they see the world.
  91.  Just for today I will try a new recipe from a different culture.
  92.  Just for today I will learn to make a friendship bracelet.
  93.  Just for today I will collaborate with a friend on a project to make the world a better place.
  94.  Just for today I will make a playlist of songs which inspire me.
  95.  Just for today I will play a board game with my family.
  96.  Just for today I will make a short video. 
  97.  Just for today I will try a zoom chat with friends.
  98.  Just for today I will focus on what I need.
  99.  Just for today I will share something I am passionate about.
  100.  Just for today I will tell my colleagues and friends how much I appreciate all they do. 
  101. Just for today I will reach out to see if I can help someone else in the world.

What is your Just for Today ? Please share with us so we can share with educators from around the world.

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.

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.

The World Would Be A Different Place Without YOU In It

 

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“You are not here to fill space or be a background character to someone else’s movie. Consider this: nothing would be the same if you did not exist. Every place you have ever been and everyone you have ever spoken to would be different without you. We are all connected, and we are all affected by the decisions and even the existence of those around us. ” David Niven

I believe we all have a purpose in life. Each child that comes our way is precious and we were brought to them to make a difference. It is up to us to leave them feeling or thinking or doing something differently than when they walk into our office. It is up to us to help . That is the reason we do what we do. So keep doing it! The world would be a different place without YOU in it!

 

 

 

The Effect You Have As A School Counsellor Is Not Always Measurable

Cq4QzbFUkAEiZCS.jpg-largeYou have them , I have had them. You know that student that you had no idea you had such an impact on, but they let you know years later. Sometimes 36 years later as I did two years ago. A young man came into the office at the High School I was working in at the time. He wanted to see me to tell me how I had influenced his life. He had googled me and tracked me down because he wanted to tell me his story . I am grateful he did as I would have never known that I had affected his life in the way he let me know I had.

I have been blessed with letters and notes from students who have told me they believed I had saved their life. It is an honour and privilege that they believe something I said or did had impacted them in such a positive way. More often than not we don’t get these notes, calls or letters and we may not know the impact we have had on students. Not because we did not , but because the person may not have put their thoughts to words for whatever reason.

A couple of days ago one of my best friends who is also a retired School Counsellor , got one of those notes from a student whom she had known 18 years ago. The note was from a young woman reporting she was now happily married with two children , She told my friend that she was the reason she was alive, happy and successful today. She let her know it was World Suicide Prevention Day and that maybe my friend would like to know the impact she had on her life when she was in High School.

The woman had tracked my friend down on Facebook and felt compelled to write her the beautiful moving, heartfelt note (I’m purposefully leaving out the details, but trust me we both cried a lot reading it) . Of course she had no idea that particular student felt that way. So what a gift it was to receive a note like this. It is truly why we do what we do choosing to be in education.

If one young person is impacted in this way by what we have said or done, then our years of dedication to a career we have loved is all worth while. We both agreed that we were so fortunate to work in schools with amazing young people and feel truly blessed to have had a career we both were passionate about.

So many still do not fully understand what a School Counsellor does behind closed doors, but know and trust that you need to keep doing what you are doing as a School Counselor wherever you are in the world. You can never know the impact you can have. Small gestures and words can matter.

The effect you have as a School Counsellor is not always measurable , but that does not matter. What you say and do everyday does.

Perseverance

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Who hasn’t felt like giving up at one point or another?  I know I have . It isn’t easy sometimes to do the things you want to do, but don’t feel completely ready. It isn’t easy to view failure as an opportunity . To push forward and never give up despite the odds sounds easier than it is. It isn’t easy to embrace the struggle, recognizing that no matter how long it takes you will still strive to move forward.

I love these pics taken today by the University of Regina President @ vianne_timmons .  They tell a real story that needs no words. Perseverance … it makes me never want to give up !

You can check out my haiku deck to see the pics more clearly … just click on the link in my tweet.

 

Instilling an Insatiable Desire to Learn : How Do We Help Students Self- Regulate When It Comes To Their Cell Phone Use?

 

pexels-photo-994870.jpegHow do we instill an insatiable desire to learn and live life to the fullest while teaching students to self regulate when it comes to cell phone use?
Self – regulation is the process that the brain goes through that gives us the ability to control our behaviors and emotions in response to a particular situation. It’s having the skill to calm ourselves down when upset or in distress.

In this day and age all of us need to monitor how and why we use our cell phones. According to Dr. Stuart Shanker self -regulation is as much about regulating positive emotions as it is about down regulating negative emotions . Only when we are regulated can we self – regulate.

As adults we need to model self – regulation. There are several ways we attempt to soothe ourselves. some good , some not so good. The coping skills we use can help us or hurt us. If we want to help others then we need to model positive cell phone use and be able to share with others what we do and how we do it.

Self–evaluation is pivotal.  Evaluate your thoughts , feelings and actions when it comes to your cell phone use

• Be open … ask yourself is my cell phone use helping or hurting me or others?

Ask yourself …

  • Does my cell phone use lift me up or tear me down?
  • Is there ways to change my use of my cell phone so that I can feel better about myself?
  • Am I on my phone too much ? Do others notice and think I should change?
  •  Is using my cell phone too much stressing me out? If so how can I restore my energy? What do I need to do differently?
  • Am I getting enough sleep , exercise , and nutrition ? Acknowledge what you need to do to change.
  • Do I have a positive self –esteem? Am I using my phone because I know it will help me or hurt me?
  • Are my relationships in tact? Do I find many opportunities to connect F2F?
  • Am I more anxious , happy or sad because of my cell phone use?
  • Do I really need to use your phone right now or can it wait till later?
  • Am I on track with what I need to do or is my cell phone just a distraction for me right now?
  • Am I being mindful of what I really need to do ? Am I prioritizing what is truly important in my life or am I using my cell phone as an escape?

How to self – regulate when it comes to phone use:
• Try asking your friends and family for tips. What works for them?

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Try some of these tips.
• Keep phone on vibrate instead of listening to the constant ping of the phone. I have my phone on vibrate 99% of the time.
• Turn phone face down when not using it so you don’t look at it all the time.
• Put your phone somewhere not easily available when eating meals or at times that you know you need a break.
• Set times that you will use your phone and times you won’t ( I make it my rule that I never take my phone out while eating a meal or talking with someone) .
• Get involved … have a number of interests. It’s hard to use your cell phone while playing hockey or dancing or singing or a zillion of the other great things you can get involved in.
• Put your phone away at night and use an alarm clock instead so you can get a good nights sleep away from your phone.

Use Self- talk
• I do not need to be on my cell phone right now, it is not helpful.
• I can wait till later to use my cell phone because I need to be present to what is happening right now in this moment.
• I am proud of myself and the positive ways I use my cell phone

Journalling

pexels-photo-955452.jpeg • If cell phone use has become a concern  … journal what is happening for you.
• Journal all the positive ways you use your cell phone.

Meta moment
• Do you pause between being triggered and responding by being on your phone? Ask yourself is connecting leading to you feeling happy, sad, validated or invalidated, included or excluded?
• Ask yourself : How can I feel connected and close to others ? Is online the best way to do this at this time?

Positive Coping Strategies
• Make a list of yours and share it with your family and friends.

Stages of Change
• Ask yourself and be honest What stage of change am I in ? Ask yourself what is holding me back or moving me forward when it comes to my cell phone use ?
• Ask yourself … do I need help to get to where I want to go? If so your School Counsellor, Psychologist or a therapist can help you.

Reach Out
• To friends, teachers, your family, a School Counsellor . We all need a little support in order to self – regulate when it comes to our cell phone use. It is a strength to ask for help.

Maybe you need a little digital detox . It is more than ok to take a break from your phone. You decide what works best for you now that you have taken an honest look at yourself.

woman-happiness-sunrise-silhouette-40192.jpegOnce you have learned ways to help yourself , you maybe able to assist others with their technology use as well. Recognize that you are not perfect and will need to self evaluate often … I know I do.

So grow, learn and live the best possible life you can recognizing that technology has the power to help you or hurt you. What you do is up to you. I love my phone and I’m sure you do too. So let’s see if we can self-regulate to make ourselves and the world a better place. Maybe someday we’ll meet face to face and talk about how we did.