Taking Life For Granted

Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

Even though I sometimes say I don’t, I know I do take life for granted. Living through a pandemic makes you examine and reflect on your life. I know there are too many things that I have taken for granted. What about you?

Taking living life without a pandemic in it for granted. Now, listening to the sickness and deaths and tragedies of so many around the world and feeling powerless to stop it, but doing your part as best you can.

Not being able to see your best friend F2F.

The joys of inviting whoever you want for dinner.

Spending time with family and friends and not worrying how close you are to them or of they will get sick.

Walking around freely, not carrying the worries of the world on your shoulders.

Going to work, loving what you do without thinking that what you do could lead to someone being sick or worse.

Thinking your children have finally made it in the world, only now you worry about their security and what their future and the future of your potential grandchildren will look like.

Living life the best you know how, realizing you have reached retirement, but never imagining how the world would turn out in your lifetime.

The joys of having a girls weekend or a shopping trip or other small pleasure that you like doing..

The simple pleasures of going to a farmers market.

The small mundane things that are no longer mundane.

Life as you used to know it and so many other things that you still take for granted.

While these and many more things can be difficult , I choose to embrace every day and remember I can live life in the best way possible given some of the things I took or take for granted. I will seek out ways to enjoy what is, as it is for today.

10 Affirmations for School Counsellors

1. I will face this school year with strength and demonstrate my leadership skills. I will lead from my heart with courage.

2. I will bring my best to school each day helping as many students as possible, wherever and whenever possible.

3. I will live just for today helping students and staff while taking care of myself.

4. I will radiate confidence, strength and hope in all I do.

5. I will be brave and model bravery for my students and staff.

6. I will practice being grateful each day as I enter the school building or my workplace wherever that may be.

7. I will look at all the possibilities and opportunities this time offers me.

8. I will open my heart to the staff and students I work with focusing on their strengths.

9. I will celebrate all that is right in my school and in the world.

10. In my words, actions and deeds, I will let go of fears and embrace love, joy and hope. I know that being a School Counsellor is what I am meant to do and be.

Everyone Has A Story

@sspellmancann

Especially during this time everyone will have a story of how they got through Covid19 or what happened to them , a family member or friend.

Our role as helpers will be to listen and support, no matter the story. It won’t necessarily be easy as sometimes we may be triggered when listening to others. We are not perfect, I know I am not that’s for sure. I want to give myself an extra dose of compassion at this time as I too have had a range of emotions. Maybe you should too.

We are humans and our humanity makes us people who are often complex. Being the best person we can be is a lifetime venture, filled with many bumps along the way. Through this pandemic many will have gigantic bumps to deal with, my heart goes out to those that do.

As you and I both navigate this chapter in our lives may we do it with courage , grace , compassion and help others along the way that are struggling to the best of our ability, because everyone has a story that they may or may not be willing to share behind the smile..

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

Living through a pandemic is different for each of us. Your feelings are neither right nor wrong. They just are. It’s ok to talk about and share your feelings. Acknowledging your feelings is essential to your well being. Below are a few feelings that you may be able to relate to. It’s not all doom or gloom.

How you may be feeling:

  • Adaptable You feel that you can roll with whatever happens.
  • Anxious, afraid, or feeling a bit of panic that this fall may cause an increase in infections. Or that someone you care about may now be put in harm’s way when they weren’t before. 
  • Angry or feeling frustrated that some people may not be following the pandemic health rules. Or that the measures in place aren’t enough. Or that you have to look after so many people, your children, your parents, your siblings, others and you may have to work too. Where is the time for you? 
  • Brave You know that you have what it takes to deal with a crisis.
  • Courageous doesn’t mean you aren’t afraid, but that you have the capacity to see clearly and self soothe. It takes courage to be with things the way they are. You feel courage.
  • Conflicted You want to socialize more, but feel that you should still stay at home.
  • Confident that you have the coping skills to assist you during this time.
  • Distrustful of how the government is handling all the guidelines and rules or how things are being portrayed in the media.
  • Determined to live in the present and move forward towards your goals.
  • Grief for a multitude of reasons.
  • Grateful for so many small things.
  • Happy you are surrounded by positive people either virtually or face to face.
  • Hopeful  You acknowledge that the virus is serious, but you will get through this pandemic in the best way possible.
  • Loved by your family. So happy you have them to support you.
  • Powerless like you don’t have any control or say in anything that’s happening.
  • Protective of your routine you do not want to deal with any more change or uncertainty.
  • Positive You get up every day and make the best of your life in a pandemic.
  • Reluctant to rearrange events like celebrations, get-togethers, parties that couldn’t happen during the pandemic
  • Realistic You know that this pandemic isn’t easy, but feel self-assured you have what it takes to get through it.
  • Uneasy about some of your relationships that have changed during the pandemic.
  • Useful You feel like you have been able to contribute in a positive way during this pandemic.
  • Stigmatized or that others may avoid you You may have already had coronavirus, or others think what you do makes you more likely to spread the virus. 
  • Secure and safe You know people are around you that support and help you.
  • Stressed about a lot of things like …
  • Under pressure to return to school/work when you can’t, or when you feel it’s not safe to.
  • Unsupported You may be asked to go back to school/work without having access to things like personal protective equipment (PPE), or feelings of safety and security.
  • Understood You have people who listen to your concerns.
  • Valued Most people respect how you are dealing with the pandemic.

What other feelings are you feeling ? Acknowledge them and share with a trusted confidant. You can also check out some strategies to help here.

Your feelings are important. Each child, teen and adult will react differently based on numerous factors. My hope is that no matter what happens you have the supports and coping skills to overcome whatever challenges come your way, it starts with acknowledging your true feelings. 

Life is not all doom and gloom in a pandemic.

We All Need A Mental Vacation

This year more than any other year we will all need to take a mental vacation. Maybe you will need to take one hourly , daily or weekly whatever works for you.

Turn on a YouTube video with calming music. You can find one here in my virtual calm room. Then lay back in a comfortable space. If you are doing this from home make sure your space is a positive place for you to feel comfortable in. You may want to spice your working space up a bit . Add flowers and visuals that bring you joy.

Then close your eyes and breathe using the box breathing method. Think about a place you love and that feels safe for you. Personally , I always go to the beach in my mind. It might have something to do with all the summers I spent on beaches. I love the smells and the sounds of water. I picture being on the beach and waving my arms around in complete joy with a big smile on my face, but you do what works for you.

Take that mental vacation whenever you need it and ask anyone you want to join you in that space or just be by yourself and feel all the feels that make sense in the moment.

Where are you going on your mental vacation?

Each Day A New Opportunity

@sspellmancann taken on my walk today

Each day we have a new opportunity to look at our life from a new perspective. We are never sure what life will bring us as is evident from this pandemic and all that happens to people we love and know. No one gets through life without bumps along the way. No matter what challenges we may encounter , how we perceive them is up to us.

As I walk, I notice the world around me and have time to reflect on how I will deal with life. Today is my opportunity to devour all the goodness that life has to offer and so I will.

Awe

There are so many things that bring me awe. I am in awe of what some people are able to do. I am in awe of how people take life and live it so extraordinarily. I am in awe of people who have challenges that they overcome daily. I am in awe of parents who had to sacrifice much during this time. I am in awe of people who because of the colour of their skin have had to live life differently than those of us who live a privileged life. I am in awe of educators who have had to challenge themselves in ways they did not think possible. I am in awe of all the healthcare workers who are still forging forward to assist others especially during this challenging time. I am in awe of my friends and the people they are.

Each day I am in awe of the magnificent world in which we live even if right now things are not the way I wish they would be. I am grateful for each day that I get to discover or learn something new. I am in awe of you today Paul Signoreli and the way you use words beautifully to express yourself. Thanks for the inspiration for todays post. Awe.

Re -Entry from a School Counsellor Lens

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us” Joseph Campbell

In 2013 I wrote about what I thought my ideal school would look like. Never did I or anyone else who was considering what the future of education would look like imagine what would happen in 2020. As I look forward I continue to believe we must educate the mind and the heart while having an extra dose of empathy this year as for some this has been a year of traumatic experiences.

Re -entry will not be a simple process. This year unlike any other year there is so much to consider. The Alberta Government has some ideas here for their school re entry plan.  Emotional wellbeing must be at the forefront if we want to ensure our students and staff’s needs are met. Physical and psychological safety are essential for learning. So how are we going to make that happen for our youth as they re enter school? Individual students and staff may experience stressors that the rest of the school and staff are unaware of, so empathy will be essential in any re-entry plan. How do schools ensure supports are available to both staff and students as they make plans to re engage in learning at school however that may look? 

I know there are many who have excellent ideas, my ideas are from the lens of School Counsellor and are not meant to be comprehensive, but some things to consider. Strategies will be needed to identify and assist students who may have been more impacted by covid than other students . For some the impacts could be long lasting, for others the impact may be that they are more resilient than ever.

How can schools and especially School Counsellors support all students, making sure to address the social and emotional needs of those who are particularly vulnerable? We need to look at risk factors as well as protective factors in identifying those in most need of supports.

Identify those students who:

  • Have a history of trauma and chronic stress or other pre existing medical problems.
  • Have experienced stigma and racism that may occur as a result of COVID-19.Have experienced a loss/death during this time.
  • Have been exposed to abuse/neglect.
  • Have parents who have lost jobs and still may be out of work. ( Food insecurity/financial insecurity can vary significantly. Those who were once secure may no longer be.)
  • Are ELL learners / students with disabilities physical or intellectual.
  • Develop attendance concerns: Attendance may drop due to higher rates of school refusal or  attendance may become optional due to students being medically fragile. A system should be in place for school counsellors to check in with students and families during the time frame COVID-19 may still be a threat.
  • Have had a more difficult time because of parental substance use and abuse.
  • Have been exposed to domestic violence. 
  • Became sick or tested positive for COVID-19 , those who have a family member who became sick or tested positive for COVID-19, those with allergies or respiratory illnesses that may result in coughing or sneezing.
  • Have equity and access concerns.
  • Had a difficult time over shut down.

Acknowledge the need to connect on a regular basis with both students and staff, Find creative ways to engage students in the process of returning to school whatever it may look like . Coming back to school will be easy for some and challenging for others. Ask for their input throughout. Acknowledge and validate student and staff concerns.

Identify the protective factors that students may have:

  • Ask students what it would take for them to feel psychologically and emotionally safe during this time.
  • Connections : Has the student maintained positive connections, Have them identify who they are.
  • Coping Skills: Identify what worked for them during covid 19 and ask them what they believe will assist them in coping as they return to school.
  • Engagement: Have students identify how they will engage in their school community either virtually or in person with all health factors considered. 
  • Supports: Have students identify their supports and community resources.

Anticipate

  • For some significant academic, emotional and social regression.
  • For some significant fatigue and sleepiness, particularly among adolescents who have been sleeping in since March and may have irregular sleep patterns.
  • Challenges and opportunities.
  • Missteps.
  • Successes and the ability to learn from things that don’t work.
  • The unexpected.

Avoid 

  • Using language like anxiety when you mean upset, worried, fearful. This pandemic affected us all ,but it does not mean youth have an anxiety disorder or are depressed because of the pandemic. Let’s not pathologize , but have a wait and see attitude as to the long term impacts of covid19. Frequency, duration and intensity matter when it comes to mental health. School Counsellors will know how to access and when referrals are necessary. Ask yourself Is this normal?
  • Punitive approaches when managing physical distancing requirements when possible. 
  • Entering into conflict with anyone who is not on the same page as you. Everyone has a story.
  • Being overly concerned with attendance and more concerned with finding ways to connect with the student.
  • Getting run down yourself because you are trying to do it all.
  • Avoid people who bring you down or have unrealistic expectations. . Find people who lift you up and support you. Surround yourself ( at a physical distance of course ) with those people.

Collaborate with colleagues. Using email/ google meet to connect and provide resources that can assist students. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. It can never be understated.

Consider

  • Embedding social and emotional learning into all core subjects.
  • Reading How to Be Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi over the summer.
  • Using Race and Equity resources
  • Connecting students with a virtual calm space . You can find one here and here.
  • Providing students with opportunities to discuss any concerns or challenges they are experiencing or needs they may have given Covid19’s impact.
  • Focusing on social and emotional skill building, mental and behavioral health, personal safety and self-regulatory capacity, which likely regressed with a lack of social interactions.
  • Finding opportunities for students to work cooperatively, feel empowered and able to help others.
  • Finding ways to build on some of the unique experiences students have had at home.

Continue:

  • To find ways to connect and empower students.
  • To involve and support families (we are in this together).
  • To use trauma informed resources and trauma informed practices
  • Informal virtual check ins. Use a google forms such as this
  • To support students in finding ways to engage in their learning. 
  • To develop ways to build upon relationships.
  • Understand how grief has impacted us and our students. 
  • To use developmental assets as a guide.
  • To connect with other School Counsellors who have found ways to connect virtually. Check out #scchat on Twitter.

Think about your own well being and how to address compassion fatigue and self care . Find ways to live each and every day to the best of your ability. Life will undoubtedly be very unpredictable in the fall using and sharing just for todays can be helpful.

Here are some excellent Just for Today’s from some of the youth I have worked with this year.

Just for Today I will be as happy as I can.

Just for Today I will find some fun.

Just for Today I will try and stay out of my head.

Just for Today I will make sure I get some rest!.

Just for Today I will try not to should.

Just for Today I will give myself a ‘Just for Today’ every day when I get up.

Just for Today I am living in the moment rather than thinking about what I have to do tomorrow. 

Just for Today I will prioritize doing things that make me smile.

Just for Today I will trust the process and live in the momen.

Just for Today I’ m going to take some time for self care, go for a walk with my dog and breathe in the sunshine 🙂

Just for Today I am going to express my gratitude for those I love while I have the chance.

Just for Today  I’ll take the happy with the hard and let them just happen… 🙂

Just for Today I will not overthink the future and just enjoy the present moment.

Just for Today I will let go of my worries and what this pandemic might bring to all of us, and just focus on the great things it has brought to all of us.

If you want to use some Just For Today’s with your students check out 101 ways to kickstart your day .

What will school reentry be like ? I can imagine that all educators including  School Counsellors will have skills that they did not have before and each will work together to provide the best education possible for their students. My wish for all is to stay connected,  stay healthy and safe physically , emotionally and spiritually and have an abundance of love, joy and hope . 

Just for today I have a lot of hope for the future of education if we all work together to make our places and spaces a learning opportunity by helping each other along the way. School Counsellors are an essential piece of doing that in every school.

A special thanks to Bryan Sanders @nayrbgo  for encouraging me to put some thoughts to paper and for all who I have connected with as we all are #learning2pivot in 2020. What do you think re-entry should look like from your lens?

Reference: School Reentry Considerations National Association of School Psychologists and the American School Counselor Association