Classroom Calendar Connections – August 2020

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First as a student, then as a teacher, and now as a parent, I have experienced some level of “August anxiety” every year as summer winds down and a new school year begins. (In this blog post from our 2018 archives, I interviewed a veteran school psychologist who shared valuable insights about back-to-school anxiety.) 

This year, the month of August combined with the pandemic, has me reaching even deeper into my toolbox for coping strategies to manage the stress and anxiety associated with this upcoming unprecedented school year. Outlined below are a few of my tools that are getting a lot of use lately.


Breathe.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique, developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, is a tool that I take with me wherever I go. The technique basically involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, and breathing out for 8 seconds. I repeat the steps 3-5 times and almost always feel more balanced and calmer within moments.

Distract Yourself.
Distraction can be a good thing, especially when it takes our attention away from anxious and stressful thoughts and feelings. The key is to identify one or more satisfying activities that sustain your attention and can be repeated on a regular basis. For example, call a friend, listen to music, work in the garden, read a book, or take your dog for a walk. My go-to distraction activities lately are pulling weeds from my garden (an endless task, yet oddly rewarding for me) and doing simple artwork with my sons. I’m always amazed at how refocused and refreshed I feel after distracting myself. This article goes into further detail about how distraction helps to ease anxiety.

Be Mindful.
Providing a plethora of valuable tools and articles, the mindful.org website is my new favorite resource. For example, I appreciate the guided meditation practices for all ages, including children and teenagers. And, the author of this article teaches us how to strengthen resilience with self-compassion exercises.

Interact with Nature.
According to the results of this study, simply and mindfully spending 20-30 minutes in nature will significantly lower stress hormone levels (as if we needed another reason to love the great outdoors!) As John Muir stated, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” For me, spending time outside often leads to a clear mind, a good night’s sleep, and feeling refreshed in the morning. Not an outdoor enthusiast? A different study suggests just listening to simulated nature sounds and looking at pictures of natural scenery while indoors can have similar benefits.

Know when to ask for help.
Finally, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seek professional medical attention if stress interferes with your daily activities for several days in a row, and get immediate help in a crisis. Your mental health deserves as much attention as your physical health. 

 

I hope these tools provide you with some relief as you prepare for what is going to be another historic school year. What tools have you been reaching for?


Here are a few classes related to this topic:

Jill Rockwell
Jill has over 13 years of experience as a licensed teacher in the areas of Special Education, Reading Education, and Health Education. She embraces diversity and has worked with students in grades K-12 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California. Jill completed her Master of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls while teaching full time. She fully understands the soaring demands of today’s teachers. Her courses are designed to maximize the time of all educators by providing engaging, meaningful, and applicable activities which can be used to enhance teaching practices. She focuses on research-based best practices and technology integration throughout her own instructional practices. Together with her husband and two young boys, Jill enjoys traveling, biking and the changing seasons of the great outdoors in Wisconsin.