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New Blog Post! Embracing Balance: Self-Care Strategies for Students

Self-care during a pandemic may look and feel different than we are used to. When I think about how best to practice self-care these days, the first word that comes to mind is balance. During this challenging time, it is so important to put effort toward self-care, but it’s also just as important to let ourselves off the hook a bit. Things may not look like they typically do right now and that’s ok—balance. 

Self-care and coping strategies are specific to each individual. What works for one person might feel stressful for another. Here are some general strategies to think about and adjust to meet your own needs. 

1. Have a routine and set a schedule. 
We’ve seen so many students struggle with the lack of routine, particularly students that are learning in a fully remote format. School and activities typically create our routines for us. The pandemic has created a situation where we may have more free time, and that can be both a good thing and a big challenge. For example, some students have started staying up late, which makes it more difficult to wake up for school. It can throw the entire day off when you wake up and find you have missed your first class. Consider setting a schedule that includes time for school, fun, self-care, and time for sleep and all your other daily responsibilities. 

2. Keep the connections. 
We’re all a bit more isolated and it might take a bit more effort to connect with friends and family. Go for walks with friends, hang out virtually, play social video games; go ice skating, skiing, or ice fishing. Make time for social stuff if you can do it safely. Many clubs at school are meeting in person or virtually—this might be a great time to rejoin a club or even try something new. 

3. Move your body in a way that works for you. 
We all know the benefits of exercise, but now isn’t the time to set too aggressive of a goal, like running every day if you don’t enjoy running. Find something you enjoy and set a time to do it. Even a short walk has physical and mental health benefits. The winter sports season recently started at school, and teachers and coaches are working hard to keep these activities safe during the pandemic because they are so important for so many students. Jump back into your activities if you feel safe and comfortable doing so. 

4. Find your personal version self-care!
What do you enjoy doing? Art, journaling, watching Netflix, meditation, taking a bath, talking to a friend, sports, singing, playing or listening to music, taking pictures, making a spreadsheet? The possibilities are endless. Find something you enjoy doing and dedicate time to doing it. 

5. Be mindful. 
Meditation is one of my favorite personal self-care strategies, and research shows that it is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Some of the identified benefits of mindfulness practice are enhanced mental health and functioning, improved focus and attention, and even a stronger immune system! (You can read more about this research here.) But, what does it really mean to be mindful? I like these two definitions: 

“Being in the moment without getting carried away by it”. – Dan Harris
 

“The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”. – Jon Kabat-Zinn

We spend so much of our time thinking about events of the past or planning for the future. When we are mindful, we allow ourselves to simply be in the present moment. Here are a two practices you might try: 

Just Notice—One of the best ways to connect with the present moment is to focus on one sense at a time. Sitting quietly, let your mind scan your senses—hearing, touch, smell, taste, and sight. Give yourself permission to not have to do anything. Just notice all of the sensations around you that you may miss when your thoughts are on the past or future.   

Two Minute Breathing—Tune in to where you most feel your breath in your body. Is it your nose, chest, or belly? Set a timer and pay attention to the feeling of your breath going in and out for two minutes. Notice the balance between your inhale and you exhale. 

6. Eat food that feels good for your body. 
Food can feel like a challenging topic, especially if we’re feeling any of that societal pressure to look a certain way. This may be a place where balance is key. The things we eat can have a direct impact on how we feel. It might be helpful to try to include healthy, whole foods in your diet AND to cut yourself a break when you don’t. 

It’s also important to acknowledge that the pandemic has changed economic resources available to many families. We have several resources available at school and in Saco if you could use some extra food in your home. I’ll include some resources at the bottom including a link for the backpack program and our partnership with Saco schools to drop off food at your home every Wednesday. 

7. Set boundaries. 
Boundaries can be a helpful way to take control of a situation. All of the suggestions mentioned above are important, but too much of any one of them can become a problem. Keep an eye on the balance between your boundaries with yourself and with the people around you. Technology is another good example for practicing boundaries. We’re all required to spend so much time on tech right now. It might be a good opportunity to set a boundary with TikTok or YouTube or, perhaps to assess why you’re reaching for your phone in the first place. Is there another need you’re addressing or is it just a habit?

8. Remember that it’s OK not to be OK. 
There is so much going on right now. Hopefully, you’re living your best life, but chances are some things may feel extra challenging right now. Statistically, we know that rates of depression and anxiety are on the rise, let alone in the midst of a global pandemic. We’re seeing this play out in the higher rates of students struggling academically than in non-covid times. We want you to reach out if you’re struggling or if you’re worried about a friend. Below, you can find a list of signs to look for, in yourself or others. Any significant change in emotions or behavior might be something to consider bringing forward to a trusted adult. The school has social workers and school counselors available to talk to students and caregivers about any concerns. 

9. Be kind, especially to yourself. 
Above all, remember that we are all doing the very best that we can. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings, and to reach out when you need support. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes and try to find the lessons learned when this happens. Don’t expect to feel happy all of the time; life is always a balance between happy and sad, challenge and ease, fun and work. Embrace the work of finding balance in your life, and try to find the moments of comfort, joy, and peace that punctuate each day.

 

Helpful Resources:

  • Saco Food Program:

    • The Saco School Nutrition Program is offering curbside pick-up of meal bags every Wednesday at Fairfield School from 11:30-12:30. Meal bags are available to ANY child 18 or younger and contain 5 breakfasts and 5 lunches, and a half-gallon of milk. Simply drive up curbside, tell staff how many children you have 18 or younger, and we will place your meal bags in your trunk or car back seat! You do NOT need to sign up ahead of time, but we do ask that you wear a MASK when you are picking up.

    • Volunteers can drop food off at your home if transportation is a challenge. 
       

NAMI’s Warning Signs for Depressions 

 

Thornton Academy School Counseling Team:

Ms. Hodgman-Burns (Director of School Counseling): k.hodgmanburns@thorntonacademy.org x4487

Mr. Camire: jeff.camire@thorntonacademy.orgx4412

Mr. DeFrancesco: mark.defrancesco@thorntonacademy.org x4411

Ms. More: abigail.more@thorntonacademy.org x4413

Ms. Ramsey: kelsey.ramsey@thorntonacademy.org x8270

Ms. Tibbetts: sarah.tibbetts@thorntonacademy.org x4415

Ms. Wallace: lucretia.wallace@thorntonacademy.org x4414

Social Work Team:

Ms. Blake: jill.blake@thorntonacademy.org x4466

Ms. Cumbie: margaret.cumbie@thorntonacademy.org x4475

Ms. Gash: megan.gash@thorntonacademy.org x8293

Ms. Hadiaris: ariana.hadiaris@thorntonacademy.org x4462