CMHA’s Mental Health Week is here, and this year’s theme is #GetReal, a campaign aimed at naming, expressing and dealing with our emotions. Considering that many students are experiencing heightened emotions these days as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it’s an important issue to address. Whenever I talk to friends, family or colleagues, or even scroll through social media, it’s clear that most of us are grappling with their emotional health right now – and rightfully so. However, if we allow our emotions to overwhelm us, especially over a long period of time, we could be doing more harm than good for our overall health, and this could impact our ability to perform well at work or school and function normally at home.
In order to help your students better regulate their emotions, here are some strategies I recommend sharing with them that can be applied in the workplace, school, and at home.
Self-awareness and acceptance
Oftentimes, people try to suppress their emotions. Unfortunately, this is an ineffective way of dealing with them. Instead, I encourage people to acknowledge the emotions they’re experiencing by asking themselves: “Do I feel sad, disappointed, angry, or hurt, etc.?” By exploring our emotions and actually naming what we’re experiencing, it can help us pinpoint what the actual cause is and allow us to effectively address it.
Additionally, I encourage you to provide your students with the opportunity to address their emotions throughout their workday. If they feel overwhelmed, allow them to step away from their environment for a moment and address their feelings – without fear of being reprimanded. This goes for those working or studying virtually as well. Otherwise, suppressing emotions during our day could lead to tension and conflict among colleagues, classmates, and family members, and affect morale and productivity.
Mindfulness is another great strategy for regulating our emotions. According to the Mayo Clinic, mindfulness is “a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgement.” Essentially, mindfulness is an effective way of resetting our brains, or giving them a break, by way of solely focusing on physical sensations and not giving into deep thought. After a mindfulness session, many people feel calmer and more relaxed.
Mindfulness can easily be integrated into the workplace or the school setting. Whether in-person or virtually, I recommend hosting mindfulness workshops for your students, or you can even introduce a quick mindfulness session at the start of team meetings and classes There are also web-based and wearable apps that are easily accessible, such as Calm and Headspace, to ensure that mindfulness practice and monitoring are never too far away.
Sometimes, we need a bit of support to help us make sense of our emotions, and that’s ok! A mental health professional can guide students with specific and beneficial strategies to address their struggle.
Since one of the most difficult things someone can do is ask for help, it’s important that your students are aware and feel comfortable with the resources available to them. In addition to email campaigns, posters, and infographics, I encourage you to verbally remind your students that their Student Assistance Programs are great resources for them to access to support them with the challenges that today’s world has presented. More importantly, ensure that you have an open-door policy that allows your students to actively seek support or accommodations.
At this time, more than ever, it is important that we practice patience, empathy and compassion for ourselves and others. By sharing these tips with your students, you can contribute to making positive changes in their personal, work, and student lives. Stay well and safe!