Mental Health and Wellbeing
Hello there and welcome! On this page you can find information about Mental Health and Wellbeing. These are difficult times but together, we can and will, get through this. My team and I have a wealth of experience and have been keeping up to date with different strategies that can be used to cope in the current climate. We have also introduced a Mental Health and Well-Being section to the weekly newsletter full of websites you can access for support, activities to help children cope and adjust and how to look after your general well-being. We are here as well of course and can be contacted through our school emails, should you need any advice or further support.
The Wellbeing Team
Preparing to return to school: Strategies for Parents
Back to School Anxiety
Starting a new term or going to a new school can be a nerve-wracking time for children and young people.
Think about what could help them take on the day
We all have little things that can make us feel more like ourselves. It’s worth talking to your child about what makes them feel safe -what we sometimes call “putting our armour on”. This might be styling their hair in a way they like, having a conversation with a friend or family member, eating their favourite breakfast, doing power poses in the mirror or doing something fun the night before.
Reflect and celebrate at the end of the day
Consider what your child might want at the end of the day; it could be a chance to chat with you, seeing or speaking to a friend, having their favourite meal, or simply writing in a diary. Celebrating each day at a time is incredibly important.
Help them to speak up about their needs
If there are particular things your child would like their school/new teacher to know about them, but feel unable to tell them in person, you could work with them to create a ‘pupil passport’ to let their new teacher know. This can include useful information such as “I like it when I’m sat near the front of the room so I can see the door” or “I don’t like it when people stand too close to me”. This can be created with words, pictures or anything creative.
Reassure them they're not alone
It's completely normal for your child to feel worried and anxious about starting a new school or new year/term. Everyone copes in different ways with worries and anxiety, so it’s important to know the basics of anxiety. It’s also important that your child knows that they can talk to you about this, so try to talk to them about how they feel about going back to school. If they’re comfortable to talk about it with others, you could suggest they speak to children who may be in a similar situation. That way, they can share their experiences and go through the school transition together.
Recognising anxiety in children isn’t always easy
Think about it: do you always know how to quickly pinpoint exactly how you’re feeling and why? For many adults, the answer to this question will be no -so it’s only natural to want more information on how to spot when a child might be feeling anxious.
Anxiety presents itself in different ways
Anxiety can look different from one person to another. There are immediate physical symptoms that might be recognised easily -like shaking, sweating and going red -but there can be other symptoms that aren’t obvious, like difficulty sleeping, restlessness and stomach aches that can come and go. Other signs -like racing thoughts, finding it difficult to concentrate and wanting to withdraw from social situations -are harder to spot and might not be obvious to a child.
Children need help to identify their anxiety too
In fact, some children can find it hard to identify thoughts (and distinguish them from feelings) altogether. However, it’s important to be aware of thoughts to be able to identify anxiety. Anxious children tend to express their anxiety in their thoughts. They may jump to negative conclusions about situations. For example, if a parent is late coming home one day, they might worry that this is because there’s been an accident. Anxious children are also more likely to have negative thoughts about themselves and may think they’re not good enough, not well liked enough or bound to fail -which can lead to them avoiding certain situations. Getting them talking about their thoughts can help.
Talking about anxiety can help
Communication is vital in getting to the root of a child’s anxiety. Gently asking the right questions can help them to find the thought that is troubling them. For example, if they suddenly show signs of being scared or worried, ask them to describe what they think might be happening to make them feel this way. Talking it through can help lead them to finding the thought at the root of the anxiety. Once you’ve identified this, you can work together to discuss how helpful these thoughts are, or how likely a potential outcome might be.
Experiencing anxiety is normal
Anxiety becomes an issue when it impacts a person frequently and when worries are difficult to manage, but anxiety itself is normal and common. Most adults will be able to recall a time or a situation which made them feel anxious. It might have been down to an exam, a ride on a roller-coaster or speaking in front of lots of people. It’s totally normal to experience it at some point in life. This is important to remember and can help children feel better about dealing with their own anxiety.
There are ways to manage anxiety and anxious thoughts
Your child doesn't need to feel they’re alone in trying to cope with anxiety. And it can be helpful to remind them that while anxiety can feel overwhelming and very uncomfortable at the time, it will pass and will not harm them. Different exercises to help young people control their anxiety as and when it appears, and you can use these too.
It can be beneficial to explain to your child that there are helpful thoughts and unhelpful thoughts. Try using a Traffic Light system to discuss the difference between them:
Red: the red traffic light symbolises unhelpful thoughts that we need to learn to stop.
Amber: this refers to thoughts that could go either way, so we need to remember to slow down and think about whether it’s helpful or unhelpful.
Green: the green light symbolises helpful thoughts that we should go with. These are thoughts that make us feel brave and strong.
Once your child can identify unhelpful or ‘red’ thoughts it may be useful to introduce the idea of challenging these thoughts, as often our unhelpful thoughts can be untrue. Some examples of thought-calling questions could be:
• Is this true?
• Is this thought helpful?
• Is this thought rational?
The breathing method
One of the most common physical symptoms of anxiety is a difference in breathing -it tends to become shallower and quicker. This can sometimes lead to hyperventilation. This kind of breathing can make anxiety feel worse, so a simple breathing exercise can help:
•Slowly breathe in through the nose for around four seconds
•Hold this breath for one or two seconds
•Exhale slowly through the mouth over about four seconds
•Wait two or three seconds before taking another breath (for teenagers, five to seven seconds)
•Repeat for at least five to ten breaths
This technique can help children to use their environment and senses to help them focus their attention on something other than a trigger for anxiety. Try helping them to identify:
•Five things they can see
•Four things they can hear
•Three things they can smell
•Two things they can feel
•One thing they can taste
Tips To Boost Your Mental Health
Track gratitude and achievement with a journal. Include 3 things you were grateful for and 3 things you were able to accomplish each day.
Set up a getaway. It could be camping with friends or a trip to the tropics. The act of planning a holiday and having something to look forward to can boost your overall happiness for up to 8 weeks!
Work your strengths. Do something you're good at to build self-confidence, then tackle a tougher task.
Keep it cool for a good night's sleep. The optimal temperature for sleep is between 15 and 20 degrees celsius.
Experiment with a new recipe, write a poem, paint or try a Pinterest project. Creative expression and overall well-being are linked.
Show some love to someone in your life. Close, quality, relationships are key for a happy, healthy life.
Boost brainpower by treating yourself to a couple pieces of dark chocolate every few days. The flavanoids, caffeine, and theobromine in chocolate are thought to work together to improve alertness and mental skills.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” -Maya Angelou. If you have personal experience with mental illness or recovery, share on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr with #mentalillnessfeelslike. Check out what other people are saying here.
Spend some time with a furry friend. Time with animals lowers the stress hormone - cortisol, and boosts oxytocin - which stimulates feelings of happiness. If you don’t have a pet, hang out with a friend who does or volunteer at a shelter.
Work some omega-3 fatty acids into your diet–they are linked to decreased rates of depression and schizophrenia among their many benefits. Fish oil supplements work, but eating your omega-3s in foods like wild salmon, flaxseeds or walnuts also helps build healthy gut bacteria.
Do something with friends and family - have a BBQ, go to a park, or play a game. People are 12 times more likely to feel happy on days that they spend 6-7 hours with friends and family.
Do your best to enjoy 15 minutes of sunshine, and apply sunscreen. Sunlight synthesizes Vitamin D, which experts believe is a mood elevator.