Counselor Connection

Our first Counselor Connection took place on September 25 with 30 middle school parents and the three counselors. The focus for our session was to introduce the Wellness Program, share what students have been learning so far, and to get feedback on future Counselor Connections. Here is a link to our presentation.

To help focus our time, parent participants came to the session having read the article, What if the Secret to Success Is Failure? The article was chosen partly due to its information regarding character strengths, something students have been exploring during our Wellness sessions. The idea behind character strengths stems from research from Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson.

To facilitate our discussion about this article, we used a Three As protocol, where parent participants shared a word or phrase from the article that they agreed with, argued with, and aspired to. This protocol gave each participant an opportunity to share their thoughts on the article.

To wrap up our time together, we asked parent participants to give us ideas for future Counselor Connection workshops. So, if you were unable to attend, but would like to suggest future topics that might benefits us all, please let us know by filling in this form, or simple emailing your child’s counselor.

 

Starting Off Wellness

Over the next two weeks the counselors will be seeing all students in their L2L classes for their first Wellness lesson. Wellness is a new program in the middle school delivered by the school counselors. The purpose of the program is to help students learn to “live well.”  We are excited to introduce this program in our middle school, a time when students experience tremendous physical, emotional and social growth. Helping students develop skills to lead healthy, active, and balanced lives is part of ISB’s mission. We appreciate your support of this program and are eager to share it with you.

In the first lesson we are reviewing a framework we shared with students at our first community meetings.  GREAT DREAM is an acronym developed out of research from the movement Action for Happiness (https://www.actionforhappiness.org/), which has identified the following ten keys that positively impact our sense of well-being and happiness:  giving, relating, exercising, appreciating, trying out, direction, resilience, emotion, acceptance and meaning.  The ISB MS Wellness program is anchored in this framework, which includes exploration of topics from positive emotions, relationships, our bodies, and positive mindset.

An important component of our Wellness program is helping students identify their character strengths and to recognize when they are using them. In preparation for our next Wellness lesson, students must complete an online inventory to identify their top strengths (Grade 8 students have or will be doing this in class). The inventory is free and based on the positive psychology research of Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania. Instructions to register you and your child can be found by clicking HERE.

There is also a Via Strengths Survey for adults that we encourage you to complete. It does have 240 questions, but you can stop and start so you can take it over time.

 

Always look on the bright side of life…

Ms. Daneah and I hope the second half of the school year has started well for you. This will be our last entry on this blog on strategies to fight bad stress. These strategies are outlined in the book we had previously referred to in other entries on stress, “Fighting Invisible Tigers”.

Positive Risk Taking

One of ISB’s goals is to encourage its students to be positive risk takers. This can be a great skill that improves your life and reduce stress.

In the book the following questions are asked, what would you rather do:

  • Hang out with usual friends or introduce yourself to new people?
  • Take a course you know is easy or a more interesting one that will be more challenging?
  • Stick with the same activities after school or try something new?

For most, choosing the first option in these questions probably would feel most comfortable. Putting yourself in a more challenging position takes courage; this is how we grow and fulfill our potential. Positive risk taking can give us confidence and courage when life’s challenges occur. A good way to try new things is taking small steps. As you get to understand more about the new challenge you will be able to take steps along the way.

One barrier to trying new things is when we tell ourselves we have to successful immediately and good at everything we do. This is called perfectionism. Being a perfectionist can be very stressful. Here are some tips on how to fight this state of mind, and as always your counselors can help you in this fight:

  • Give yourself permission to make a mistake
  • Set limits on your time
  • Talk yourself out of negative thinking (discussed later in blog today)
  • Address perfectionism in your family
  • Give yourself a break – Have some fun…

When you are taking these courage steps seek out support and always remember to celebrate your successes, even if they seem small at the time.

Making Healthy Decisions

Having good decision making skills can reduce stress and make you feel in control. As you get older you will be making more of your own decisions. With that freedom also comes responsibility. That responsibility can be stressful!

Here are some good questions to consider before making a decision:

  1. Will anyone be put in danger?
  2. Will anyone be disrespected or insulted?
  3. Will this decision make a situation worse?
  4. Will anyone’s property be damaged or stolen?
  5. Will I be breaking any laws?
  6. Will I have to lie about something?
  7. Will I be escalating a conflict?
  8. Will I be in trouble with my parents?
  9. Will I be letting people down?
  10. Will I feel bad about myself afterwards?

Unless you can answer “NO” to all of the above then there is a very, very high chance that your decision is not a good or healthy one.

Middle school students can quite often feel a lot of peer pressure, which can sometimes lead them to doing something they really do not want to do. Here are a couple of suggestions when you are feeling this pressure from your peers:

  • Be straight up: “ I don’t want to smoke. End of discussion.”
  • Offer another suggestion: “ I’m not going to write anything about Daneah on my website. Let’s put up a list of fashion tips instead”
  • Make a joke or change the subject: “ No way man, that stuff makes people act like zombies”, “ Nah, I don’t want to do that. But, hey, are you going to the game Thursday night?” 
  • Always remember you are not alone in making these decisions. Your parents, teachers, counselor, coach can help you. Even as adults, asking trusted ones on life decisions can be so helpful in making a healthy decision.

Choose to be Positive

This title sounds really simple, but quite so often we choose to do the opposite. How we view the world and our life effects how we feel. Sad or difficult times will still happen in our lives but with a positive attitude and positive outlook taking on these tough times can put us in a stronger position.

Just take a few minutes some time to write down some positive thoughts. Think about great parts of your life, things you like, people you care about, things you appreciate, your talents, and your accomplishments.  Keep this list handy and review often.

Practicing positive self-talk can really help. Quite often we have conversations with ourselves in our thoughts. Whenever you hear a negative thought in your mind replace it with a positive one. In doing so you will build self-confidence and fight the stress associated with negative self-talk.

Humor is also a great way of relieving stress. Humor and laughter has been proven to have both physical and emotional benefits – surround yourself with people that make you laugh, seek out funny jokes, video clips, comics and have a giggle!

Keep on taking care of yourselves!

xx Photos Attributed to Microsoft Word

 

 

 

 

…and some more stress reducing techniques

Once again we’re back with some more ideas on how to get a handle on that stress in your life. Now that we’ve returned to school and our routines are reverting back to the norm, we might need some help coming off of that holiday mode! We are sticking with our theme of using the book Fighting Invisible Tigers to provide us with some guidance.

Give me a  little R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Some times stress in our lives is increased because we feel a sense of powerlessness, that everyone else is making our decisions for us. It is important to realize that in many cases, you do have more control than you might realize. Learning how to be more assertive, and to stand up for yourself in positive ways, can help you to ease some of the stress in your life.

Take this quick “Assertiveness Quiz” that the author created:
1. If teachers are unfair, do you talk to them about it?
2. If you know a friend lies to you, do you say anything?
3. If a person sends a nasty text message about you, do you talk to someone about it?
4. If you’re waiting in line and someone cuts in front of you, do you speak up politely?
5. Do you confront people who try to embarrass or gossip about you?
6. If a friend wants you to do something you’re not comfortable with, can you say “no”?
7. Can you discuss family rules without arguing?
8. If someone is bullying you at school, are you able to talk to an adult about it?
9. Are you able to tell your friends the truth about what you think and who you are?
10. Are you able to resolve conflicts with others without getting angry and aggressive?
If you answered “No” to many of these questions, assertiveness is definitely something you will want to work on!

It is important to note that while being ‘assertive’ is important, it differs drastically from being ‘aggressive’. When someone is being assertive, he/she is taking into account other people’s feelings and being considerate. Being aggressive hurts others and can actually lead to an increase in your stress level! Remember, you do have rights. Some of these include the right to have your feelings, needs, and opinions heard and considered, you have the right to have input into the decisions that affect your life, and you have the right to stand up to the people who threaten, tease, or put you down.

Help, I Need Somebody!

Sometimes we are all guilty of thinking we can do it on our own, we don’t want to ‘burden’ anyone with our troubles. It is important that we create a web of support, a safety net of trusted friends and adults that we can rely on when our stress hits the overload mark. The author talks about rating your relationships on a 5 point scale, 1 would equal a low level of trust, all the way up to a 5 which is the most you could trust someone. Know that while we all have lots of people that we’d put in the 1-4 categories, we all need a few people that fall into the 5 category, the highest level of trust. These are the people we can rely on when we truly need them, these are the people that are the foundation of our ‘safety net’.

If you are worried that you don’t have any or enough people that fall into the level 5 category, here are some strategies to strengthen some of your existing relationships:
1. Spend some time together: get to know each other better
2. Be honest: you can’t strengthen a relationship built on dishonesty
3. Take an interest in things that are important to others: showing that you care about someone else’s passion helps to build that bond between two people
4. Don’t pressure others: being demanding and bossy tends to push people away, not bring them closer, accept people for who they are
5. Avoid overemphasizing yourself: it is important to share your thoughts and ideas, but make sure that it’s a two way street-that you also take the time to listen to the other person too
6. Offer your help: generosity and supporting other people when they might feel stressed, leads to stronger relationships because people like having you around and want to help you in return
Remember, good relationships take work!

Stay tuned for some further tips and techniques…

 

 

Two more strategies…

We promised more, so here are two more quick tips for dealing with stress from Fighting Invisible Tigers.

Ready, Set, Action!

Often we can feel that life just ‘happens’ to us, that we have no control over the events in our lives. But it is important to realize that you can take action, you can take charge of your life and bring about change. A really good way to feel like you are back in the director’s seat, is to set some goals. Think about what it is you want to change in your life, then set about ‘writing your script’ for your life’s movie. Here are some questions to help you get started with those goals:

What are your interests and special talents? We feel happiest when we’re busy doing what we love to do and feel successful at, make sure that this is part of your script!
What would you most like to be known for? When we achieve something, we feel good about ourselves and are happy-decide what are some achievements you’d like to have.
What’s most important to you?
Prioritize things in your life, when you are engaged in meaningful activities, you will feel more rewarded, and happier.
Who are your heroes? Often we can learn a lot about ourselves when we examine the people we admire, they give us examples of who we’d like to be ourselves, they help us determine what skills we’d like to build upon to become a better person.
Where do you want to live? Think about what you’d like your life to be in the future, setting goals now that can help move you towards that helps us to feel empowered.
If you could do absolutely anything with your life, what would you do? Try not to set limits on yourself, open up your mind to every possibility, what is it you really  want?
If you spend some time considering these questions, it might help you to set some goals for taking charge of your life, for getting yourself back into that director’s seat.

Once you’ve spent some time thinking about these questions, now you’re ready to actually set some short term goals that will help you get where you want to go. When we first look at some of our bigger goals, we can begin to feel overwhelmed with the ‘greatness’ of the goal. This can increase our stress level which is exactly what we don’t want to do! That’s why it is important to break your goals down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Here’s a guide for a Five-Step Goal Setting Plan:

Write a goal statement: it is essential to define your goal, be specific.
Make a list of steps that lead to your goal: make sure these are small manageable steps that won’t overload you or increase your stress level!
List some of the roadblocks you might encounter, and some ideas for getting around them: it is tempting to give up on goals when we run into a glitch, make sure you plan for that and come up with strategies for getting around the roadblocks.
List some of the resources that might be helpful toward achieving your goal: create lots of ways you can support yourself in reaching your goal-people, books, websites, organizations, etc.
List the ways you will measure progress towards your goal: It is important you celebrate you successes! Make sure you have planned ways to evaluate how you’re doing in reaching your goal and the progress you’ve made.

Taking charge of your life by setting goals is one way to reduce stress in your life. Once you feel like you are in control of parts of your life and you feel successful, in can help you to work through the parts of your life that you can’t control. Remember, you are in the director’s seat, you decide how your movie script goes.

Tick Toc Tick Tock

Time. It is a beautiful thing and also your worst enemy. Working to ‘get time on your side’ is essential to managing your stress. How many times have you found yourself in a situation where you have a huge math test tomorrow, a Humanities paper due, a Habitat for Humanity meeting, and it’s your sister’s birthday so your parents are insistent on going out to dinner to celebrate…ARRRRGGGHHHHH! Learning to create a schedule and practicing good time management skills is a life saver.

The author suggests creating an ABC to-do list:
1. Start by creating a list of all the things you need to get done in the near future. Make sure to include everything you can think of!
2. Then rank each item on the list according to the following scale:
A= Very important, must be done right away
B= Pretty important, but a bit more time before they need to be completed
C= Need to get them done, but they are not essential
3. Now group all the A’s together, then the B’s, then C’s. Then you can rank the items in their individual groups (list the A’s in order of priority, the B’s, etc).
Now you know what things are at the top of the list. Check them off as you complete them to give yourself that sense of satisfaction-you’re getting it done!

Remember, that list isn’t carved in stone, sometimes you have to be flexible as things come up. You may need to revisit your list and prioritize things again if something changes. But at least you have a starting point! As you’re looking at prioritizing your list, keep in mind the following time management tips:

1. Give yourself the freedom to say ‘no’: many of us struggle with this, but sometimes, you just have to say “I can’t do it, next time.”
2. Know when you’re at your best: figure out what times you’re the most productive and use that to your advantage. If studying straight after school is when you get the most done, block out that time for yourself.
3. Get your rest: sleep is critical to managing your time. If you’re rested, your mind works better and you can accomplish more of those things on your to-do list!
4. Schedule breaks: our brains need a break from time to time, make sure you schedule in some time to give yourself a chance to decompress.
5. Beware of time wasters: this is a tough one with YouTube and Facebook so easily accessible. Set some tough rules for yourself if you know that you are easily scooped up into some ‘time wasters’, make those things inaccessible when you time is precious.
6. Use a calendar or planner: writing things down and keeping track of them is one of the best ways to make sure you don’t find yourself stuck without enough time to get things done. Using a digital calendar, like your gmail calendar, can be a fantastic resource for helping you to stay on top of things. Spend some time getting comfortable with all the features of your calendar, practice with setting reminders, it can be a very valuable resource for you and help with time management.

Learning to prioritize things and manage your time are probably two of the most important strategies in reducing your stress.

Stay tuned for yet a few more stress reducing techniques!

images:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/jekkone/
https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3543/3459346334_200a2b2523_m.jpg
https://www.flickr.com/photos/bgwilson89/

Fight the Stress – Take control!

We hope that you were happy to be back in school the last couple of weeks; seeing friends again, getting to speak in person to your teachers, and all those great things about life at ISB MS. However, there is a pretty good chance that the transition back to school may also have resulted in some added stress. We are hoping in this post to elaborate a little more in regards to some of the strategies we had shared in our last blog from the book Fighting Invisible Tigers.

Get Moving & Get Your Groove on!

Being physically active can be such a huge stress reliever. The human body is constantly producing chemicals. Being active can burn off some of those stress chemicals released as well as produce other chemicals that help you feel good. Just putting your body in motion can help you feel mellow, slow down, and even sleep better.

Being a student at ISB you have so many opportunities to be active in organized activities and sports. Please keep informed of all available activities through the “in the mix website” or visit the athletics section of the ISB website. Building a personalized activity program can also be really helpful too. The book speaks of a FIT formula. FIT standing for “Frequency Intensity and Time”. It is suggested to take at least one hour of physical activity most days of the week. In regards to intensity find out a level that is right for you. To get the most out of your activity you need to keep at your target heart rate for at least 20 -30 consecutive minutes.

We are very fortunate at ISB to have such a wonderful Physical Education Program with such expert teachers. They are always willing to help you in designing a personal activity program. Also a great motivator is having a friend join in the fun and design a program together.

Run on high performance fuel!

You may of heard of an old saying, “what you put in, you get out”. Well that certainly can be said for the foods that we eat. Again we are lucky at ISB to have such healthy choices of foods. A good way of easing stress is giving your body all the right fuel to function at its best. Eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains does just this, providing the body with minerals, proteins and vitamins.

At the same time while putting the good fuel in – try to avoid some unhealthy fuel choices. Both caffeine and sugar can give temporary energy lift which is not too long after followed by an energy crash that can often have you feeling wiped out. In fact caffeine releases the stress hormone cortisol and can ultimately make you more stressed out!

Speaking of feeding our bodies with the right stuff – we can not forget water – after all 70% of our body weight is just that. Feeding all your organs – including the mighty brain – should involve drinking the recommended 8-10 glasses of water per day. A good website to visit to find out more about healthy eating options is www.mypyramid.gov.

Chill out – find peace of mind…

Learning relaxation techniques can help you ease your stress by helping you pull yourself back together. Look at the list below, can you spot the true relaxation techniques:

  1. Watching T.V
  2. Going for a walk
  3. Focusing on your breath
  4. Taking a nap
  5. Gradually tensing and relaxing your muscles
  6. Reading a book
  7. Meditating
  8. Chatting with a friend online

If you guessed 3,5, and 7 you are right. The other activities, no matter how enjoyable, are classed as coping strategies. This is because these activities are not giving your brain a rest or your body is not still. These strategies can help temporarily as they give a distraction from stress and anxiety. However, the real relaxation techniques of focused breathing, meditation and muscle relaxation are where it is at!!!!

Below are some helpful links and video if you are interested.

https://www.innerhealthstudio.com/free-relaxation-scripts.html

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_xEGLueiLM&feature=related[/youtube]

xx Photos Attributed to Microsoft Word

Be well!!!!

Feeling Stressed?

HI ISB Middle Schoolers!

This blog is a way for Mr. Davy and Ms. Daneah to communicate some thoughts with you (and your parents too!). Periodically, we will post an article, some resources, a questionnaire, or other information that we’d like to share. Comments are open, so always feel free to write a response to us.

In light of all the chaos around the flooding in Thailand, and with the move to an ‘e-learning’ format, we thought we’d share with you some information about STRESS. We know that many of you are stuck at home, some are evacuated to other places, and others are struggling with sketchy Internet access.

Stress is something we will all encounter in our lives. We usually experience higher levels of stress when we are faced with many different ‘challenges’ all at the same time. We start to feel overwhelmed and helpless, when this happens some of us might start using ways to cope with stress that are not so helpful. In the book Fighting Invisible Tigers, the author identifies three unhealthy ways to cope with stress: Distraction, Avoidance (yes, this does include procrastination!), and Escape. All three of these coping techniques will only increase  our stress levels in the long run.

The author asks you to imagine two different scenarios when you are at the zoo and you are visiting the tiger enclosure:

Scenario 1: You are happily going about visiting the tigers when you are suddenly asked to enter the tiger enclosure and help to feed the animals. You panic because you have never been around wild animals, you know nothing about tigers and how to feed them, you are pretty sure you might end up being lunch!

Scenario 2: You are visiting the tigers at the zoo when you are suddenly asked to enter the tiger enclosure and help to feed the animals. Thank goodness you have graduated from Zoo Keepers School with high honors and know everything you need to know about feeding tigers.

The author is demonstrating that stress is something that happens to all of us, it is your preparation and how you deal with the stress that makes all the difference. If you practice some healthy coping techniques that help you when you feel stressed, then you will feel ready for when life throws challenges at you (like e-learning and school closures!).

Ten different healthy ways to cope with stress, according to the author, are listed below. We will elaborate on these more in the coming weeks.

1– Get moving: staying active and exercising can effectively reduce stress
2– Fight stress with food: having a healthy diet and proper nutrition is important
3– Find your calm center: learning relaxation skills are good for your mind and body
4– Stand up for yourself: being able to assert yourself and state your needs can help
5– Weave a safety net of support: strong relationships with friends and family can help in times of stress
6– Take charge of your life: learn to set goals and make plans
7– Get time on your side: time management skills are essential to reducing stress
8– Risk trying new things: learn to find ways to positively challenge yourself
9– Stand on solid ground: making decisions that are right for you is an important step in reducing stress
10– Choose the upside view: having a positive outlook and seeing what’s good about yourself is essential to helping with stress

Stay tuned for more information on Stress. Remember, if you are feeling overwhelmed it is important that you talk to someone about it. Mr. Davy and Ms. Daneah are available by email and can call you if you need someone to talk to to-just let us know!