In the spirit of “Community Can’t Be Canceled,” Wellness is using Instagram (@acalaneswellness) to bring wellness-related advice, resources and connection to the school community. We’re working with staff and student organizations like Leadership and Bring Change to Mind (@bringchangetomindacalanes) to provide positive messages and practical guidance for challenging times. If you didn’t catch the launch of our positivity mindset program Three Good Things, you can learn more on Instagram @3goodthings_ahs. We’re trying to increase the reach to these accounts and to @ahs_dons because connection is what we all need the most. You’ll soon see us launch a mindfulness program based on the curriculum of Mindful Schools. We’ll be adapting the lessons for a short form initially and if there’s interest, we may explore the possibility for some live practices. Please tell your students how greatly they are missed and how strongly the entire Dons staff believes in their ability to not only rise to the challenge of the current crisis but to build remarkable resilience along the way. Stay tuned each week for more thoughts and resources. We remain, so grateful to our incredible Parents Club for this platform! (CS – 3/20@2:37pm)
With school closure due to Covid-19 and more time to think as a result of social distancing, we need to reduce stress more than ever. This gift of more down time is perfect for students to catch up on sleep and perhaps to practice presence which we can model. Check-in with yourself throughout the day to ask, “How are things for me right now?” Planning for, protecting against, and ruminating on uncertainty is stressful. Worrying makes sense and so does planning but we can do those things and then shift our attention back to the present. We move out of our heads and into our bodies by sensing our internal experience and immediate conditions. What can I see, smell, hear, and feel right now? What’s happening around me– Are there people to connect with? Beautiful things to see? Opportunities to engage in learning or practicing skills? Am I safe, comfortable, at ease? Kids look to adults for cues so your regulated nervous system will co-regulate theirs. (CS)
This week’s blurb brought to you by the leadership of the BC2M (Bring Change To Mind) club: We are a nationally-affiliated club focused on building awareness of and de-stigmatizing mental illness.Our goal is to create a stronger support system that recognizes that all ranges of mental health are normal! We would appreciate your help in promoting our club and our projects. We are currently working on securing a well-known suicide survivor public speaker (Kevin Hines) to talk to students and the greater community about mental health. We meet Wednesdays at lunch in the Wellness Center. It’s a positive and welcoming environment and most meetings include fun activities and projects. Follow us on Instagram: bringchange2mindacalanes
~Alara, Anna, Claudia, Emily, Kael, Katya and Sadie (CS)
We were planning to focus on the Eight Sources of a Meaningful Life but are postponing in light of the need to talk about sleep– officially a public health crisis per the Centers for Disease Control. No aspect of wellbeing can be achieved without adequate sleep. We’ve all heard the requirement for adolescent sleep (not “time spent in bed”) is 9-10 hours. We have yet to meet a student who reflects they are achieving the low end of that range. For more information on this subject, search Cal professor and sleep expert, Dr. Matthew Walker. He provides immediately actionable steps for reducing “time spent trying to fall asleep.” We’re already implementing some of these with our own families. And when you notice your student is dis-regulated, flip the script: before trying to problem-solve, ask how much sleep they got and encourage curiosity about how they feel physically, emotionally and cognitively when they don’t get enough sleep.
We’re so thrilled when students share stories with us that demonstrate their own resilience. Along with compassion, resilience is one of our favorite qualities and it’s our very favorite process. The simplest definition is the ability to bounce back from difficulty. A more encompassing definition is: “Resilience is the ability to stay with a sense of flexibility and harmony in the face of challenges and to recover when we leave that flow.” When conditions are hard or things go sideways, be sure to encourage your kids to practice acceptance of difficult outcomes at the same time they process learning–if any is offered (as we adults know, sometimes bad things just happen.) Kids who practice resilience and receive positive validation for doing so will cultivate an even greater capacity to rise to the many challenges that go along with being human.
With the start of the second semester, we’ve introduced several new policies to support student well-being and engagement in classes as well as developing new support programming by Wellness staff to broaden our reach. The Wellness Center will focus on short-term therapy, meaning 3-5 visits unless there are extenuating circumstances. During each day we will have one period set aside for same-day or same-week appointments. We will also be closed for the first 10 minutes of every period so that students are accounted for during roll call. Students who are in crisis may still go to the counseling office should they have an immediate need. As always, students may be referred by parents, teachers, or peers via this link: wellness referral. We continue to enjoy supporting all the Dons we’ve met so far and look forward to getting to know even more this semester.
Allen Choi, Wellness Coordinator (ext. 7150)
Casey Sasner, Intake Specialist (ext. 7136)
We’ve been having great conversations in wellness about stress– the pros and cons; how to manage it; and what the physiology of stress is. Sometimes students are overwhelmed by their stress and other times, we see them keeping it in perspective and using it as a tool to propel them to the finish line. In the center, we’re really busy triaging stress in ways that parents can use at home. Letting students vent about their stress and unplug from it in healthy ways is key!
One of the concepts that has really resonated is “rest and digest” learning. Cramming for hours on end and pulling all-nighters don’t work– they actually keep our nervous systems in fight-flight mode. Learning embeds when it rests so a good night’s sleep as well as appropriately-timed and managed breaks from studying will help the learning sink in. Wellness will be open for drop-ins before and in-between finals. We’ll provide friendly support, guided awareness of breath meditations, and stress-relieving activities. Use the parenting opportunity to be the cheerleader your student needs– they got this!
Beware of “anxiety avalanche”! With finals coming, many students are experiencing “catastrophic thinking.” When we’re overwhelmed with work, the worrying mind takes over and gets in the way of productivity, mood, and overall wellness. Recognize the spiral, and then intervene. Start by asking your kids if they can identify the root problem which is the source of the cascade. Maybe it’s a particular class, grade, or friend problem. Or maybe it’s a destructive self-judgment thought, like “I’m not good at school.” Once they name the root, you can encourage them to apply logic. Can they prove their thought is true? You can also encourage mindfulness practices– switch from thinking mode to SENSING mode; recognize needs and resulting emotions; practice self-kindness. For more on catastrophic thinking, click here. Finally, and probably most importantly, know that top-reported student needs are space, understanding, and no additional pressure!
Whether it’s about academics, relationships, sports or extracurricular activities, even the most routine student conversations reveal the power and influence of the adolescent inner-critic. The voice that tells us we’re not good enough is destructive and inhibitory but it is possible to change its tone. Practicing self-compassion has so many evidence-based benefits from increasing your compassion for others and enhancing motivation, to reducing your output of the stress hormone, cortisol. How to practice self-compassion isn’t complicated: treat yourself the way you would treat a cherished friend. How self-compassionate are you? Remember that kids model themselves after us. This link to a self-compassion test from Dr. Kristin Neff will show you how you’re doing at being self-compassionate. You’ll find lots of resources on her site for learning more and beginning your practice.
I am thrilled to be working with the Acalanes Unified High School District (AUHSD) this year!
I am currently attending St. Mary’s College where I have successfully obtained my School Counseling credential, and am now finishing the Marriage, Family Therapy portion of my Masters in Counseling. I have been in the education field for about 10 years, beginning as a teacher and now moving into a more therapeutic space with students. When I’m not at work, I’m spending time with my family and friends, traveling around the world, or relaxing with a great book or movie.
I believe we all have a story to tell, that our experiences and relationships impact who we are, and that sometimes we fall off our paths and need support to see the way. I look forward to giving my all and working with the AUHSD community this year!