Counseling Newsletter

Mental Health & Wellness

Welcome!

Welcome to our counseling newsletter that has been created to help support students and their social and emotional well-being. Knowledgeable and useful information has been provided to encourage and care for our students at Harriton and Lower Merion High School. We hope students can find something in any of these articles or resources they can connect to or find meaningful.

Wellness

Something for your Mind by Eric Scroggin

According to the Harvard Gazette, mindfulness can actually change the way the brain works for those dealing with emotional challenges, but what exactly is mindfulness? Meet Mr. Joshua Gansky, a school counselor from Welsh Valley Middle School who this year is working with the seventh grade. Many consider Mr. Gansky a local expert on this new way of thinking about our thoughts, and in discussing where his knowledge came from, he says he has a mentor to thank. “I knew she was getting into it and I was interested in it and at the time when I met with her I was really stressed out.

I just needed to take better care of myself.” He went on to tell the story about how mindfulness came to him in a very important time in his life, and that sharing this knowledge not only helped him personally, but those around him, most notably the students he works with and the coworkers he supports. “I mean, two lightbulbs went off at the same time: I can help myself, I can help others!”

Now that we have established that mindfulness works, I pressed a little on what exactly mindfulness is. Gansky handily provided some clarification in saying, “Essentially it means you’re paying attention to everything out here, like out in the world, and you’re also paying attention to everything that’s happening inside of you, and while paying attention, having a certain attitude about it.”

It was becoming clearer that mindfulness was a practice you can use to reflect on how you are thinking and feeling, but how can it help people like you and me? He went on to answer this question in pointing out mindfulness helps us feel “it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling right now. It’s okay to have that experience.”

In talking about the choice to use mediation, the act of practicing mindfulness, Mr. Gansky explored with me the idea that uncomfortable and unpleasant thoughts do not have to be dealt with immediately. Part of practicing mindfulness is allowing ourselves to be upset for a time, with the knowledge that we cannot make the situation better without taking time. “It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling right now. It’s okay to have that experience. It’s okay to have a busy mind, if that helps,” says Gansky.

Wrapping up our conversation, Mr. Gansky wanted to let everyone reading know that mindfulness is just one item on the menu of skills you can choose to make yourself feel better. “It’s not the only way. And to me the most important thing is for people, number one to be open to different things, to take care of themselves, but most importantly you’ve got to figure out the best way for you to take care of yourself.” He emphasized that you are the expert on what you need, and that mindfulness just might be one of the missing pieces needed to deal with tough times.

Mental Health

Anxiety-What it is and how to Cope with it by Julia Loverdi

Everyone experiences anxiety. It can be the feeling of worry over an important test, butterflies in your stomach, feeling tense and sweating. According to Mental Health America, anxiety is “a normal reaction to stress and can be beneficial in some situations.” For each individual person, anxiety can look differently. When anxiety becomes overwhelmingly intrusive and impacts a person's day to day tasks and routine, professional help may be needed to determine if there is an anxiety disorder.

According to National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. An estimated 40 million adults in the U.S., or 18%, have an anxiety disorder. Approximately 8% of children and teenagers experience the negative impact of an anxiety disorder at school and at home.”

Here are some coping strategies for stress and anxiety from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

Take a time-out. Listen to music, practice mindfulness, learn some relaxation techniques, go for a walk, step outside and breathe in the fresh air. Stepping back from the problems helps clear your head.

Exercise Daily to help relieve stress and stay healthy

Welcome Humor. A good laugh goes a long way

Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly. Count to ten slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.

Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.

Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective. Is it really as bad as you think?

Maintain a positive attitude. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Get involved. Volunteer or connect with your peers and family members safely.

Learn what triggers your everyday anxiety. Is it school? family? Look for a pattern and keep a journal.

Practice self-care. Do something for yourself that you love or enjoy.

Talk to someone. Let friends and family you are feeling overwhelmed and how they can help.

School counselors are also available to help!

https://adaa.org/tips

Take a look at https://screening.mhanational.org/content/what-anxiety if you have additional questions about anxiety.
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Opinion

What’s More Important Than My Grades? By Eric Scroggin

When you think about how important your school grades are, what kind of feelings do you get? What do your grades say about you? You might feel embarrassed because you would like to do better in school. You might feel proud of the grades you’ve earned here. You might even feel frustrated that your grades aren’t as high as you think they should be, but why do we care so much about these letters and numbers in PowerSchool?

The culture that our nation adopts places a high value on your productivity, or how much work you do. If you work in a factory and you make thirty-seven bumpers or you see seventeen legal clients or you take one hundred customer phone calls, you have done enough to prove you are a productive worker that day. If you are productive, you feel good because a lot was done, but also you feel good about yourself for achieving such a high score in the game of work.

On the other hand, how do we feel about ourselves when we’re not productive? If you didn’t have such a great day, does that mean you’re a bad student? That you are not a good enough person? Grades for a student like you can often feel like a score for yourself as a person. Bombing that important test can feel like a personal rejection at times, especially if you feel like you did your best.

Being a hard worker and getting grades can be good, but you should not focus on your performance as a measure of your worth as a person. You are acceptable just the way you are, even if you don’t like the letter next to that one class on your report card. Your value expands beyond your output as a student because you mean something to those around you, you have goals to contribute to the world, and you deserve to feel good about that! So, what is more important than my grades?

Your health and well-being will always be more important than your performance. How you are feeling, inside and out, will matter more in the long run than your grades, and I can prove it! First of all, your health, safety, and feeling good are what keeps the ship running. Without a clear mind, free of worry and doubt, you may not actually ace that test, even if you studied all night. And speaking of studying all night, if you abandon your health by losing sleep, you may learn to regret that when you’re expected to be awake, alert, and focused for class the next day. Your health comes first because it matters more in the long run and it can affect your grades in ways you don’t yet know.

So, if my health and wellness are more important than my grades, then why do we care about them? Don’t get me wrong, grades are still very important, here’s why. But did you know that there’s a difference between how intelligent you are and how well you do in school? Cognitive scientists and education experts call this Aptitude and Achievement. Your aptitude is your raw mental talent, while your achievement is how well you perform showing off this talent on assignments, projects, presentations, and homework. You can be really smart, take your education very seriously, and still struggle to score well where it counts. This is where the grades really come in handy. Grades are a measurement of your performance at school, and they tell you a lot about how you could be spending your time. Getting an A minus in Chem but a D in Algebra II? Well, you’re probably going to be focusing more this week on that big math test than getting that lab report picture perfect. The rewards of having good grades include earning the recognition for your efforts to pay attention, to remember important facts, to explain how you got an answer, and to do well on your tests and quizzes. Instead of thinking of your grades as a measure of you, think of them as a score on how effective you are studying. Have a bad grade in English Lit? Maybe switch up how you prepare for the test, who you study with, and how much in advance you start, because chances are if you do any of these things (or all three!) your grades will reflect that effort.

Remember, your grades are not the most important thing in the world, your health and well-being are. While they do tell us a lot about what we should do, grades should not reflect on your worth as a human being. You are fine just the way you are, even if you need to make flash cards next time for Global Studies. Your talent is there and your worth is not in question. Do your best, take care of yourself, and you will be more prepared to succeed than you could ever imagine.

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