Managing Emotions December 2020
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December 2020
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Taking Care in Difficult Times: Managing Emotions During the Pandemic

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We are entering the 10th month of our collective worldwide experience - the impact of COVID-19. The concept of pandemic fatigue has been acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO). Pandemic fatigue can occur when people get tired of the prolonged public safety measures and experience a sense of burn out.  Key strategies recommended by the WHO are to understand the challenges and support people in being able to reduce risk while doing the things that make them happy. 

The goal of this snapshot is to open up the conversation about the very real challenges and how we can support ourselves and our families particularly through the upcoming holiday season.
10 Signs of Pandemic Fatigue
1You‘re not as diligent about wearing a mask or washing your hands.
Remind yourself that these practices can help you feel empowered in helping your family and community keep safe.

2. You‘re less careful about social distancing than you were.
Stick with your immediate family for now.   
7. You‘re getting enough sleep but still feel exhausted.
Check in with factors that can impact your sleep routines, stress, nutrition, physical activity.

8. You‘re feeling more impatient and more irritable.
Let the people around you know how you‘re feeling.  Take some time, be mindful with your communication.
9. Things are upsetting you that previously hadn‘t.
Remember to reach out when you‘re struggling. Connect with friends, family, or a mental health professional. 

10. You‘re feeling stressed by tasks or situations you typically manage well.
It‘s okay to not be okay.  Sometimes ’It‘s enough for today‘ can be your mantra. 
3. You‘re not engaging in things you used to find enjoyable.
Think about your favorite activities. What did you enjoy about them? How can you revisit them perhaps in an adapted way (hobbies, swimming, crafts, cycling).

4. You‘re feeling hopeless about the future.
Reach out and connect with friends and loved ones to share coping strategies. 

5. Your consumption of alcohol, substances, or food has increased.
Instead of over indulging, practice talking about difficult feelings and alternate activities for release (meditation, exercise, music)

6. You‘re finding it harder to focus and concentrate.
Take it easy on yourself. Take breaks as needed. Get some air. Go for a walk.
Signs of Depression During COVID 19
Depression can be easy to miss, especially in teenagers, since adolescents are often moody. But with sadness and irritability widespread during this crisis, the signs can be even easier for family members to overlook. Likewise, kids and teens who are struggling may not recognize their own symptoms for what they are. 

Symptoms of depression include:
Unusual sadness or irritability, persisting even when circumstances change
Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
Reduced feelings of anticipation
Changes in weight
Shifts in sleep patterns
Harsh self-assessment (“I’m ugly. I’m no good. I’ll never make friends.”)
Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness
Thoughts of or attempts at suicide
If several of these symptoms are present for at least two weeks, they can suggest depression. Reach out to seek help from professionals for your child or yourself.
If you’re worried your child is sliding into depression, don’t panic. There are things you can do to help. Encouraging them to make changes in how they’re thinking and how they manage their feelings can help head off serious depression before it gets worse.

Start by helping your child:
Keep a sense of perspective. People experiencing depression often magnify problems or screen out positive events and experiences. Help your child avoid exaggerating or obsessing on how bad things are right now. As parents it helps if you model this for your children, by avoiding what clinicians call “catastrophizing” – obsessing over the worst possible outcomes.
Stay active. Encourage kids to engage in activities that will give them a sense of accomplishment, pleasure, fun, or social connection every day. Doing something for others can lift spirits. Activity itself helps protect against (and sometimes treat) depression.
Challenge negative thoughts. Getting stuck in negative thinking patterns that are distorted or unrealistic can contribute to depression and make painful feelings seem overwhelming. For example, your child may be thinking this will go on forever and they’ll never see their friends again. Help them think through the facts: Realistically, this will not go on forever. So, what are some things they could do to feel more connected with friends in the meantime?
Make new goals. When you’ve lost something valued in your life, as we all have lately, it helps to find something to replace it. Help your kids make new goals. If holiday trips aren’t looking realistic,   what can they focus on for next summer? What new skill can they learn that will be beneficial when this situation is over? What can they do to benefit others?

Focus on gratitude. Encourage kids to list and reflect each day on things and individuals they feel grateful for. How can they express that gratitude?
Make plans. Work together to come up with plans or activities that will help them feel more engaged. For example: If taking an online dance class would help them get some much-needed exercise, get started by looking up cool classes online and make a project of creating a practice space. Or if they just miss being social, encourage them to start a FaceTime book group, or make Zoom dates to watch a miniseries with friends. The act of making plans, completing fun tasks, and coming up with strategies, can make them feel less helpless and hopeless.
Tolerate uncertainty and ambiguity.
These are uncertain times. There are no guarantees about when the pandemic will end, so we can only live with it. Mindfulness practices can help your child accept the uncertainty of the moment. You can help by expressing confidence that they can manage. See the 6 tips below for coping with uncertainty.

This video features youth and young adults discussing their experiences practicing mindfulness, and how mindfulness has benefited different aspects of their lives.

Coping with Uncertainty

This pandemic that we're all going through feels unprecedented — but the feeling of uncertainty is not. People live through all kinds of scary things all the time.
Here are six tips on coping with uncertainty: 
Reflect. Check in with yourself. Allow yourself to get in touch with how you're feeling. Reflect both on what's hard and on what's still good. Maybe that's in a journal or through a prayer or a conversation with a friend.

Don't "should" on yourself. Give yourself some grace.

Know when to shut it down.  After you stop obsessing about what you should do, find some things you want to do — things that take your mind off your worries during uncertain times.
Find your "best gift" for the day. Once you've set aside external expectations and taken time to recharge, that might free up energy to do good, meaningful, even productive things.

Move past shame. Uncertain times mean navigating changes in your life that you can't control. They may mean doing things differently, even reaching out for help — that's part of being resilient, and it's nothing to be ashamed of.

 Find your "resilience circle." Call, video-chat or text with a friend; join an online community; or even go old-school and write a letter.
Reconciliation Canada presents a video series on staying resilient during the troubling times of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is Episode 1 - Reconciling our mind, body, soul and spirit. Through traditional teachings, Chief Robert Joseph explores how to respond to challenges, recover from difficulties and setbacks, and build emotional and spiritual resilience
Rose a student film that continues to reinforce the concept of attachment and need for connection throughout our lifetime. Rose's life-long security blanket represents her mother's love, which she clings onto as a toddler, tosses aside as a teen, and realizes she desperately needs at the start of adulthood.




Tips to Reduce Stress During the Holidays
December has arrived and with it comes a myriad of cultural celebrations! Whatever holiday your family may celebrate it is likely you are struggling to make plans appropriate for the pandemic. How do we celebrate when we can‘t be together as usual? How do we resolve differences of opinion about what is safe? How do we deal with more disappointment and frustration — and help our kids do the same?
Don‘t wait to make plans
Discussions about this year‘s holidays can be painful, but making plans ahead of time will make the days themselves much less stressful. If you wait until the last minute to figure out plans, kids won‘t have time to deal with any confusion or disappointment, which will make the holidays that much more stressful for the whole family.
Discuss rules in advance
Differences of opinion about how to gather safely may be a huge source of stress this holiday season. Where do we stand on hugging? What are our rules about masks? Avoid conflict by making clear agreements ahead of time with everyone who‘s going to be present.
Start new traditions
If you‘re not going to be able to celebrate in the way your family is accustomed to, be proactive and find new activities to make the pandemic holidays special. Give the whole family a voice in planning some of the activities.
It's okay to express disappointment
If traditions are looking different it is helpful to acknowledge feelings and validate disappointment. Keep your teens involved in the conversation as you model disappointment as well as hopeful optimism for the future.  
In this podcast of The Brain Architects, experts discuss what supporting your own mental health can look like, as well as ways to support children you care for at this time. They also talk about what mental health professionals all over the world are doing to help take care of our societies in the midst of the pandemic, and how they‘re preparing for the challenges that come next.


Several copies of this poster have been delivered to all middle schools for student learning. 

The goal is to help students re-frame stress into something positive that can motivate them. To learn more about this concept you can view the video below How to Make Stress your Friend. 

In daily life a certain amount of stress is normal. However chronic, ongoing stress is not healthy and students are encouraged to speak to a trusted adult if this is their experience.  

We are wishing you a joyful holiday season!
Sources and Resources
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If you have a child or youth with mental health challenges, you may already adapt things around the holiday season. Many of us do. As the 2020 Holiday Season may be one for the record books, let’s get together and talk about what that might look like for families like ours. We’ve also gathered ideas from our team and can share great tips for how we can increase connections, reduce holiday stress and find a little more breathing space during this important time. Dec 2 @ 4:30 pm

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