As lockdowns continue across many states and the uncertainty of this pandemic persists for all of us, let's remember the importance of kindness and showing compassion for one another and ourselves! Many of us are all too familiar with feelings of helplessness, frustration and languishing that are common in ongoing stressful and isolating situations. Here is a reminder of some of the helpful strategies that are taught in Second Step® that can help students and adults alike manage emotions and practice kindness during times of uncertainty and heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
Using Emotion Management Strategies
Lessons in the Emotion Management unit teach a variety of calming down strategies. In particular, the following techniques are very helpful:
Breathe in slowly through the nose and out through the mouth. A slow exhale stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it produces a calm and relaxed feeling in the mind and body. Triggering the parasympathetic nervous system helps reduce levels of anxiety and stress. Other benefits include improved mood, strengthened immune system and reduced blood pressure.
A variation of belly breathing is to breathe in memories of feeling safe and happy and breathe out any uncomfortable feelings.
Try counting back slowly from ten. Doing a cognitive exercise like this can help to shift your thinking from your amygdala (fight or flight response) to your pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for modulating emotions, focusing attention, problem solving and inhibitory control.
Research suggests using positive self-talk assists with problem-solving, coping with hardships or challenges and can help to reduce the effects of stress and anxiety.
Help students identify negative self-talk related to COVID-19 and being in lockdown
Discuss helpful or positive self-talk that they could use instead. (e.g. ‘I am trying my best’, 'I am safe in my home and keeping others safe too', 'While I can't control this situation, I can control my actions and thoughts').
Mind Yeti® Mindfulness Session - Slow Breathing
Showing Empathy and Kindness
Lessons in the Empathy unit at all year-levels teach students to identify how others are feeling, and to show their care and concern with acts of kindness. When we show care and kindness to others, it helps us to feel better as well.
Remind students that others can have the same or different feelings in response to COVID-19, lockdowns and online learning (perspective-taking).
Have students reflect on how it feels when someone else has empathy for them - that is when another person feels and understands how they feel.
Ask students to identify acts of kindness or support that would feel helpful to them as individuals.
Have students identify acts of kindness or support they can offer each other in the classroom and in their homes.
Research has shown that practicing mindfulness decreases stress, alleviates anxiety and increases focus. It has also been shown to strengthen interpersonal skills and increase compassion. Fifteen of the Mind Yeti mindfulness program sessions are freely available for anyone to use, no experience necessary! Designed for educators and families to do alongside children, or for older children to do on their own, Mind Yeti provides a great way for everyone to practice mindfulness during this difficult time.
Positive Pieces Education is the Australian and New Zealand publisher and distributor of the evidence-based Second Step program.