From Your Health & Wellness Team
Mental Health and Wellness During the Pandemic
We continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are experiencing unprecedented disruption to our lives. We all would have preferred to begin this academic year in person and are adjusting to our virtual reopening. There are many things that are uncertain and will continue to change. We know that school activities, routines, and social connections are essential to the social and emotional well-being of our students. We are moving forward as a school and will emerge stronger than before.
We are Going to Take Care of Ourselves, Each Other, and Our Community
Sandia Prep is working to respond rapidly to state and federal health guidelines and implement safety procedures. We are creating opportunities for students to connect with each other and teachers in ways that will meet safety guidelines, including prescreening, masks, social distancing, and outdoor classrooms. While we are starting with a virtual platform, we will continue working to connect with you and finding innovative ways to continue existing Sandia Prep culture and traditions that hold true to our essential mission and ourselves.
Here are some things you and your family can think about and do right now to prepare:
Pause and Reflect
The start of the school year represents a hope of life returning to normal with all of the familiar routines, social connections, academics, sports, arts, learning challenges, growth, and fun. What does this mean for you, right here and now?
Take Time to Feel and Understand Your Feelings
It is expected that you have many different feelings. You may feel both relieved and hopeful, or disappointed, angry, sad, and anxious. Whatever emotions you may feel, it is essential that we identify and discuss those feelings and experiences, with our students, within families, with our friends, and within our classrooms. Let us begin by thinking about and labeling our emotions, so we may begin to talk with our school community about what we are experiencing.
Take time to have a conversation with each other to discuss what is happening with school. Ask questions and consider: How did I feel when the pandemic first began? How do I feel right now? How might this change with school starting? There are no right or wrong answers, and people will feel differently. Kids often feel differently than adults. It is important to talk directly with each other to learn about thoughts and feelings. To begin, let’s communicate and listen. You may feel that you have done this already. Please do it again, because circumstances and feelings change, and we are likely not as good at this as we may think we are. The research shows that adults generally underestimate the impact of traumatic events to children and adolescents.
We all need to deliberately focus on positive ways to cope and move forward with our virtual learning plan and return to campus, as we are able. Our talented teachers are transforming the curriculum and learning experiences in exciting ways. Students, you can take ownership of your learning and reconsider what and how you learn and why. We want our students to develop advanced skills in understanding their own social and emotional functioning, develop resilience and coping skills, and have preparedness for whatever the future may hold. The better you understand and care for yourself, the better you will be prepared to contribute to our community and our world in positive, meaningful ways.
We are going to share evidence-based information and strategies with you and your family that will help you learn and develop skills to take charge of your own well-being. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques reduce the effects of stress and give you a foundation to maintain calm. Building routines, including nutrition, sleep, and exercise, will help you to be strong and healthy. It is normal to feel anxious, and have fears and worries, and feel angry and sad. Deliberately considering your feelings and coping strategies, and focusing on which ones truly help you feel better, is a skill that you can learn and practice. Helping others and giving thanks are positive ways to cope with feelings. We can also find and expand our feelings of joy, take time to celebrate, and engage in activities that we love and enjoy. Staying connected with our friends, making new ones, and having contact are essential, and we can plan, get creative, and have fun.
Please stay tuned and look for updates from the Health and Wellness Team that will help get everyone on a great path.
September is Suicide Prevention Month
As we near the end of September and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we thought it would be a good idea to send resources for parents.
We can all help prevent suicide through education about the warning signs and risk, attention to mental health, and renewing our commitment to the well-being of ourselves and our community. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or know someone who is, you are not alone.
Suicide is now the SECOND leading cause of death for adolescents. It also is one of the leading causes of death for adults. The risk is higher than ever right now with our current circumstances of prolonged stress and increased social isolation. Most people who become suicidal are experiencing hopelessness and despair. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed, untreated, or underestimated. Anxiety and substance abuse problems also increase the risk of suicide.
Most people who attempt or commit suicide show warning signs of their intentions. We want everyone to recognize these warning signs and know how to get help, for themselves and for people they are concerned about. If we know what to do, we can take action to get people help and reduce the risk of suicide. Treatment can make the difference between life and death.
Please be aware of the following warning signs. If a person talks about:
- Killing themselves
- Feeling hopeless
- Having no reason to live
- Being a burden to others
- Feeling trapped
- Unbearable pain
Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss, or change:
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
- Withdrawing from activities
- Isolating from family and friends
- Sleeping too much or too little, feeling fatigued
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
- Giving away prized possessions
- Aggression and anger
Websites for additional information and guidance:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- How to Talk to Kids About Suicide
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Ten Ways to Help
How to take action:
If you are worried about suicide, for yourself or someone in your life, please reach out for help. It is important to know that for most people who are suicidal, they can and do show improvement and feel better, with treatment. Getting help is the first step.
These resources offer free 24/7 support, with trained responders:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255
- Crisis 24/7 Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
- The Trevor Project 24/7 Lifeline: 1.866.488.7386
At Sandia Prep, students, families, and teachers may also confidentially reach out:
Let's Practice Gratitude Together
How does it work? The expression of appreciation and gratefulness may help to shift our attention away from negative emotions. When we focus on positive ways that people have impacted our lives, it may decrease our negative experiences and feelings. Our time and energy is often focused on things we do not have. The practice of gratitude reverses our priorities and may train our brains to focus on appreciation of the people, things, and activities we have in our life.
Community Challenge: Let’s test this theory together!
Option 1: Write a Letter of Gratitude
Identify a person in your life to thank. You can write it without deciding yet what to do with the letter. Be specific and use positive words. Express your enjoyment and appreciation of the person’s impact on your life.
Share it! Research suggests that less than 25 percent of people who write a gratitude letter actually mail it. Go ahead - put a stamp on it and stick it in the mail, and you win. You can also send it by email, no charge.
Be brave. Read your letter aloud to your chosen person. This is the original research of what was shown to result in the writer experiencing the positive benefits of gratitude practice. It is not only about helping the other person feel good and appreciated. The act of expressing gratitude is beneficial for your own mental health and results in measurable positive feelings.
Option 2: Keep a Gratitude Journal
Before going to bed at night, write down three things for which you are grateful. Do this every night for the next few weeks.
This practice may improve your sleep. By deliberately shifting your thoughts before sleep from negative (worries, planning for tomorrow, internet) to positive, you may improve sleep quality.
It does not have to be big. Find meaning in small and enjoyable moments. This is practicing the art and habit of savoring, and enhances your experience of pleasure and happiness. Pausing to think about and writing down your thoughts of gratefulness is a mindfulness practice, encouraging self-reflection and deliberate thankfulness.
Option 3: Start a Gratitude Jar
Set up a jar at home, with a label, strips of paper, and pens at the ready. Present the activity and encourage everyone in your home to add to the jar for the next week or so. On Thanksgiving Day, pass around the jar and have family members pull out the papers and read them aloud. Psst! You don’t have to do this only on one day a year. This can be a fun shared tradition and could be done at any time that makes sense for your family when you gather together. Make it a practice.
Make it a Practice
Establish a habit of writing a gratitude letter once a month. Keep a gratitude journal at your bedside. You can train your brain to notice the positive things and people in life. Writing down what you are grateful for is an act of savoring, which increases the emotional impact of positive events and the experience of happiness.
The Thanksgiving holiday this year falls on November 26. Like most things right now, it may look and feel different this year. By focusing and expanding our thinking about what we are thankful for, we may enhance our well-being, take care of ourselves, and deepen our appreciation of our lives.
Let us know how these activities worked for you!
Should you have any questions, concerns, ideas, or input, please feel free to contact the members of the Health and Wellness Team at the emails below.
Dr. Amber Hayes, Psychologist & Director of Wellness firstname.lastname@example.org
Lynn Jeffries, RN, BSN, School Nurse email@example.com
Cathy Walters, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, Athletic Trainer firstname.lastname@example.org