By Amy Rogers
You may be asking yourself, what can I do if I or someone I know is struggling emotionally during these tough times?
The good news is that there are a wealth of resources available at Woodlynde through School Counselors Ms. Szmajda (Upper and Middle School) and Mrs. Quinton (Lower School and 6th grade) that are designed to help support you with whatever you are struggling with.
If you ever start feeling isolated or hopeless, they are there to lend a listening ear and offer support and guidance. You never need to feel shame in reaching out and asking for help. In fact, acknowledging you could use some help and reaching out about it is a valuable and healthy process of self-advocating that will help you in the long run.
Both School Counselors offered tips on how students can help maintain their mental health.
What should someone do if they are feeling down or anxious, or if they are in a crisis?
Ms. Szmajda: Everyone needs to find coping skills that work for them. For some students, it might be going for a run. For someone else, it might be writing in a journal. Another person may be drawing or painting or creating music.
There is no one ‘right way’ to cope with big feelings. Making sure that we take care of our physical needs like getting good sleep, making time for exercise, and eating well is important, too.
If someone is feeling down or anxious for a period of time, one of the best things they can do is to talk about it with someone they trust. It is so hard to keep all of those feelings to yourself and it can make you feel all alone. Find a friend, family member, teacher or counselor and tell them you are struggling.
If it gets to the point of crisis — for example, someone is thinking about harming themselves, you need to enlist the help of an adult immediately because your life is worth it.
Mrs. Quinton: Something that we work on in Lower School is recognizing calming strategies that work for each of us. Some examples of strategies are going for a walk, drinking water, listening to music, coloring, and taking deep breaths.
What if they notice a friend who is struggling?
If you notice your friend is acting a bit different, bring it up to them in a kind and supportive way. You can say, “Hey, I notice you don’t seem quite like yourself. How are you doing?”
Keep it from the “I” perspective and tell them that you care about them and you are there to support them. Avoid being judgmental and saying things like “toughen up” or “just get over it” or “your life really isn’t that bad.”
Your friend needs to hear that you are there for them and that they will get through this tough time.
What is being done to help students?
Ms. Szmajda: All of the adults in the building have been doing a lot of checking in on students since last spring to see how everyone is doing. ...and that has only increased since the start of the school year.
We are devoted to making sure students have strong relationships with their teachers, advisors, and their peers.
This school year looks quite different, but we are trying to infuse fun when we can like with our Fun Fridays that Mr. Laughead is organizing and the surprise Kahoot and pretzel party we had recently.
[Learning Specialist] Mr. Kline and I have run some Friday afternoon “social hours” with the 10th grade students where we play JackBox games over Zoom.
We have added Health and Wellness classes to provide students with strategies, brain breaks, and have the opportunity to assess wellness. Our faculty has received training and is focusing on infusing social emotional learning (SEL) in all of our classes. We are putting our community’s mental health as a top priority so that we can be our best selves and learners.