Webinar Recap: Managing Mental Health Issues
Amid unprecedented school closures and social distancing, we’re living a new normal. Transitioning to a world where learning takes place virtually for the first time ever and families are holed up in their houses for an unknown period of time is bound to affect the mental health of every person in the school community. So how can you help keep your students and staff—and yourself—mentally healthy during the coronavirus pandemic?
In this webinar, Joy Winchester, director of Early Childhood Development and Professional Support at the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, and Jen Thomas, veteran principal of Olive B. Loss Elementary School in Bear, Delaware, offer tips to overcome the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of students, staff, and administrators.
Breaking Down the New Normal
According to Winchester, the brain is pattern-seeking, survival-oriented, and a social organ that needs new connections to grow. But in a new situation, like what we’re experiencing with the coronavirus pandemic, the brain struggles to find patterns; the higher thinking areas shut down, leading people to react instead of respond; and our brain growth slows because technology doesn’t provide the same connections as in-person interactions do.
Impact of Toxic Stress
Trauma and toxic stress have an impact on both the teachers and the students.
In students, trauma:
- Adversely affects attention, memory, and cognition;
- Reduces the ability to focus, organize, and process information;
- Interferes with problem-solving and planning; and
- Results in overwhelming feelings of frustration and anxiety.
In teachers, trauma:
- Increases irritability and impatience;
- Creates difficulty when planning lessons and activities;
- Decreases concentration; and
- Leads to feeling numb, detached, and helpless.
Coping With Trauma
Winchester and Thomas offer tips to cope with trauma in a time of high stress. Mindfulness—creating a mindful mantra, setting intentions, finding ways to show gratitude, laughing, and being present—is a great place to start.