Virtual talks to help students manage mental health in our new normal

While there has always been a little trepidation going back to school after a long summer, there has never been a term quite like this autumn one.

Not only are we adapting to a new normal with social distancing and staggered lunch breaks, teachers are also having to manage increased levels of student anxiety.

Over lockdown, as well as falling behind on their education, young people became fragmented from their friendship groups, developed fears of being contaminated with coronavirus, and faced long periods of isolation if their parents continued to work.

In addition to this, they also face an uncertain future with job prospects damaged by the aftermath of the global pandemic.

Yet while headlines scream fear, and mainstream media continues to focus on the problem rather than solution, we can help our young people rewrite the narrative.

And this is exactly our ethos at The Self-Esteem Team, giving future generations the best possible opportunity to go on to reach their full potential.

The Self-Esteem Team deliver a variety of wellbeing workshops – from mental health to body image, anxiety to self-esteem, and drugs to addiction – across the UK to students, parents and teachers in the hope of achieving a whole school approach.

Along with my fellow co-founder Grace Barrett, we too have had to explore ways to adapt to these unprecedented times and now deliver classes virtually as well as face-to-face.

With backgrounds in journalism and music, we initially set out to lift the smoke and mirrors of pop culture. However, our classes now go even further to equip young people with the tools needed to navigate an ever-changing world.

All of the talks are rooted in clinical study, twinned with strategies so that participants can experiment with cost-free tips and tricks from the second the class is over.

In particular, the mental health workshop aligns with living in our extraordinary times by looking at how to create a lifestyle that balances brain chemistry; how to develop coping strategies; how to spot the warning signs of poor mental health; and how to communicate and seek support.

Whether you’re 8, 18 or 80, all of our lives changed during the pandemic. Words like ‘lockdown’ and ‘furlough’ became part of our daily vocabulary; social distancing ripped us apart from family and friends; and food on the table changed as purse strings tightened.

No one has all of the answers, and that’s okay, though by helping students find their inner strength with advice on building resilience, boosting self-worth, and questioning the world around them we can help them adapt to whatever life throws at them.

Here are The Self-Esteem Team’s top tips for surviving in a new world.

1) Set boundaries

If it seems like all friends and family want to do is talk about the virus and it’s feeling overwhelming, then let them know where you stand on the matter. Saying ‘no’ is not synonymous with being rude, it’s about protecting yourself. Being transparent creates healthy barriers around you and let’s others know not to cross them. It’s not always easy to be assertive but shielding how much information you allow yourself to engage with can safeguard wellbeing. If unsure how to phrase it, you could try, ‘I need a break from talking about the virus right now’ or ‘I’m not comfy hugging, but we can elbow bump.’

2) Take one day at a time

Looking at time in large chunks can feel paralysing. At Self-Esteem Team, we’re big believers of reducing anxiety by looking at what’s going on in the next five minutes rather than the next five hours, five weeks, or five months. As soon as we start looking at the future, we can start to feel out of control by the grades we have to achieve or the expectations we put on ourselves to accomplish things in that timeframe. By existing in the present, we slow down time and similarly slow down the anxiety of the unknown.

3) You are not your problems

When we feel anxious, we tend to feel the problems inside of our heads and hearts, weighing heavy on our shoulders which often then affects physiology as our mental health causes physical health complications with poor posture or back ache. However, if you envisage your problems down at the floor around your feet instead, you start to realise how much bigger you are than them and how much more in control of them you feel when they are ‘other’ to you and not defining you.

For more info, visit: Self-Esteem Team.

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