It’s that time of the year again, students and educators setting into a new school year. This can be an exciting time, but it can also be stressful and produce anxiety for some families, students, and educators. Although getting into the routine of going back to school is an adjustment, there is hope!
How can educators support students and promote mental health and wellness in classrooms and in school?
This is a question educators, administrators, and families often ask out of concern for their students. Primarily, as part of their role, school counselors provide interventions to help students reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; however, all educators have the opportunity to share resources, tips, and tools to improve mental resilience and wellness.
What strategies can educators share to address mental health in schools?
Teaching positive coping skills to students can help reduce stress, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. It’s a great idea to teach positive coping skills year-round, but September is a special month to focus on mental wellness because September is National Suicide Prevention Month. One way to support students is to teach them how to manage their emotions and encourage them to utilize positive ways to manage stressful situations.
Here are some helpful, free, and low-maintenance activities all educators can utilize in the classroom to promote a positive learning environment for all students and support their mental and physical well-being.
Mindful meditation involves focusing on the present moment. This allows us an opportunity to be aware of our feelings, emotions, and surroundings. According to research, deep breathing exercises are an excellent and fun way of sharing mindfulness exercises with students.
There are many benefits associated with practicing deep breathing exercises. It can help students be successful academically and socially by decreasing stress and anxiety, increasing energy and productivity levels, and boosting concentration and focus.
There are some simple ways to incorporate mindfulness in classrooms. Be sure to check out the video above for examples of deep breathing exercises.
2. Positive affirmations
Positive affirmations are simple and effective ways to increase self-esteem and compassion for others. Educators can share positive affirmations with their students to increase their grit and growth mindset.
One of the easiest ways to use positive affirmations in the classroom is to do an online search and find examples to share daily or weekly. It is a best practice to allow students to choose the examples that resonate with them. This will make it easier for students to internalize their words and hone in on their uplifting power.
3. Allow creativity
If you’re noticing students are having a hard time focusing, try giving them an opportunity to choose how to complete their work. There are multiple learning styles, and some students are visual learners. One way to support these learners while simultaneously encouraging the usage of coping skills is to allow students to draw, color, write, rap, sing, or perform assignments in class. Not only is art therapeutic, but it can potentially increase their engagement and also allows students ways to express themselves.
4. Move your body
If you notice students are getting antsy and losing focus, try some brain breaks and let them move around. There are many ways to incorporate movement into any lesson. One example involves associating song, dance, or movement with vocabulary words and practicing with your students. This is an excellent tool for memorization and retention.
Additionally, educators can find movement exercises on YouTube or other online platforms. GoNoodle has some GREAT examples of brain breaks you can share in the classroom to increase engagement and bring a sense of joy to school.
5. Music, the universal language
Playing calming music in the classroom is an excellent way to decrease stress for staff and students. Educators can access playlists on YouTube or Spotify and play music during independent work time. This creates a positive environment and can help students focus. Incorporating music in the classroom also builds a sense of community when educators ask students for their input and suggestions for songs.
Pear Deck has some excellent resources for educators to use in the classroom to support student wellness. Pear Deck offers interactive templates and features for educators to incorporate into their presentations and lessons. For example, Pear Deck offers some helpful templates for daily check-ins, deep breathing prompts, gratitude, and ways to introduce different perspectives.
This is an amazing FREE resource. Be sure to download your copy!
If educators are noticing students are struggling, they can share these proactive ways to address the mental health crisis. By incorporating coping skills in their daily lessons, teachers can help increase students’ self-esteem, strengthen their emotional resilience, and support their overall well-being.
Other helpful resources
September is Suicide Prevention Month — a time to raise awareness of a topic affecting students across the globe. Organizations like The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America (MHA) provide resources, tips, and tools for educators and families. Additionally, there is a new suicide and crisis hotline available for all students. If students are in crisis, they can call 988, which is a toll-free crisis intervention hotline.