Being Helpful In An Unprecedented Time

None of us expected this (a global pandemic ) and even for those of us in the field of helping others, it does bring some anxious feelings so imagine what our youth are feeling.

Schools in Calgary are closed for an indefinite period, maybe even until September. So educators and School Counsellors will be looking for ways to support their students using technology ( so grateful to #etmooc for giving me the ideas, confidence and tools to help ) . As a retired School Counsellor there are ways I can help online and I plan to work with my fellow colleagues across the borders in #scchat to do so. As always thanks to Erin Mason @ecmmason for your leadership.

Please join us in this chat as we explore ways to help each other. that’s 6:30 pm MT

I have many resources that I am always willing to share from a school counselling perspective. I am thinking of all school counsellors across the world this week as you find ways to continue to champion and connect with your students. Find us in #scchat and we’d be happy to help.

RESOURCES: I am hoping some of these may assist you

Counselling Resources in Calgary can be found here

For Teachers and Students Personal Wellness binders can be found here

For mental health resources 18 plus look here or maybe you need a chill playlist for teens or just a fun little spinner for some positive thoughts or maybe you just need some motivational messages.

Exercise is one of the best ways to destress. I know I plan on getting outside and walking as much as possible in the next while. Maybe you will want to #walkalongwithme , virtually that is as I’ll be social distancing and thinking of ways to be helpful in this unprecedented time what about you?

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.

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?

Ways To Get To Know Me Better

At this time of year I know some of you are already preparing for next year, so I thought I’d add a little way to get to know your students and their stories better. If you’d like to do this yourself and share with me, that would be great too. Have a fabulous summer. You deserve it!