Tending to Mental Wellness

Posted by Communications staff on 11/30/2020

After any widespread disaster, community reactions and behavioral health tend to follow a predictable pattern. An initial honeymoon phase of people connecting and working together slowly leads to a deep dive into disillusionment.

And that’s exactly where we are right now.

disaster response graph

“We do better when we have routines, which gives us a sense of control our lives,” explained SPS Director Mental Health Services Dave Crump. “COVID took that away in so many ways: where you go, when you go, the disruption of celebrations and ceremonies.”

Physical and recreational opportunities have decreased. Spiritual supports are not happening in the same way with church buildings closed. People are being asked to take on additional roles – to not only be parents and caregivers, but employees and also teachers, and to do new things without much training.

“Everyone reacts differently, but we are all reacting to this,” Crump said.

That’s why it is so important to pay attention to mental wellness.

“Our thought process impacts our emotions and feelings,” he said, “and that impacts us physically.”

Because it’s so easy to drift into negative thinking, Crump said, it’s important to be intentional about positive thoughts, to focus on what you’re grateful for, and to find things in your life you can control.

Throughout SPS, administrators and staff are working on ways to support mental wellness by following the REST model, which stands for Reward, Establish, Share and Trust:

yourself for a job well done

  • Build reinforcements into your work
  • Help pay attention to this aspect for maintaining resilience 

Establish healthy boundaries

  • When you are off duty, stick to that boundary

Share your feelings, concerns and stories

  • Participate in support and consultation groups
  • Make time for connections and activities in your life

Trust your support network and reach out as needed

  • Refer people elsewhere if you are too tired or compromised emotionally to be able to offer support.

Tending to mental wellness doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Many administrators are having quick, daily check-in meetings with staff, and also encouraging them to take advantage of their open-door policy to just come in and talk.

Some schools have started anonymous gift giving, to provide people a little reminder that someone is thinking of them.

Sheridan Elementary has wish tree. On a card, staff can write down something that would make their day (chocolate and coffee are popular), clip their wish to the tree, and one of their teammates grants the wish.

At Lidgerwood Elementary, staff can join a support group in Teams, a lunch group with co-workers or a weekly meeting focused on ways to make a difference in student learning.

Hamblen Elementary Principal Stefanie Heinen asked her staff to make a self-care commitment. Each week in her staff bulletin, she shares a simple self-care message, idea or REST reminder.

“Real self-care goes beyond pedicures and getting take-out,” she said. “We need to focus on the things that really help us.”

Feeling low? Dr. Crump suggested a few simple things to try that can have a huge impact:

  • Take a shower and change into clean clothes. It’s easy to say, “It doesn’t matter, I’m not going anywhere,” but these things do matter to your mental wellness.
  • Make an effort to eat healthy foods. It’s easy to fall into stress-eating mode, to keep reaching for snacks and junk food.
  • Examine your sleep habits. We can put up with a lot if we are well rested. Try to keep a consistent sleep routine, don’t eat in bed, turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Do a little physical activity. Go for a walk in a safe place.
  • Do something kind for someone else. Send an email saying, “I’m grateful for you,” and explain why.
  • Avoid substances. Alcohol and marijuana are depressants.