Last February during our annual Forum Week our whole school spent some time learning about ways to take care of ourselves. We heard from speakers about a variety of wellness topics including yoga, hair/skin care, meditation, anxiety management, massage, laughter and healthy eating. With everything that's going on in our world right now, we thought it might be a good idea to revisit some of these topics to help everyone in our community take good care of themselves.
Katie Schacht is a Mental Health Counselor at Parkland College in Champaign. Katie helps students of all ages to manage feelings of anxiety, and she encourages people to try a technique called "4-7-8 breathing" to help calm down. As Katie explained to us, our bodies respond to stress and anxiety by activating the sympathetic nervous system. This speeds up our heart rate, releases adrenaline into our bloodstream, and basically gets us prepared to run or fight our way out of trouble. This works great if we are in physical danger and actually need to run away or fight--but it doesn't really help us to cope with anxiety about school or stress in general. In fact, it's not healthy to have our sympathetic nervous system activated all the time. We can manage stress better when we activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps the body to relax. One way to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system is to use 4-7-8 breathing, which is demonstrated in the following video:
Katie also shared some other ideas for reducing intense feelings of anxiety and stress. These include acknowledging our feelings, visualization, and making time to do something uplifting or joyful. These ideas are detailed on the attached handout.
Finally, don't forget one important fact: you are not alone! Talking to a parent, friend, teacher or counselor about your worries can also help to reduce your stress.