(-: Welcome to The Well :-)
My name is Kelly Korach and I am a School Psychologist in Eugene School District 4J. This is a
wellness resource for the whole school community, including charter schools!!
I hope you will visit now and then for timely (and timeless) tips and resources to promote
WELLness for your child(ren) - and yourselves!
Lesson of the Month
ROUTINES, BRAIN BREAKS & CALM CORNERS
ROUTINES: THE HEALTHY MIND PLATTER & SETTING UP FOR SUCCESS
Some days, everything is goes well in our homes, positive attitudes abound, and we have the flexibility to respond well to our own emotions and support each other. Other days, it feels like we are fighting an uphill battle all day with conflicts and frustrations. The biggest difference between the two can be as simple as this: following a routine that is proactive in including all essential activities in our day.
- Routines have far-reaching psychological benefits, reducing depression, anxiety, stress, ADHD symptoms, and more.
- Routines help ensure you do things well. Routines are things you can do well to boost your confidence to tackle other tasks.
- Routines help ensure we make time for what is important to us.
- Routines help orient our body and mind to the activity at hand, increasing focus, engagement, and efficiency.
- Routines are typically done more than once and followed each time you engage in the same sequence of activities (routines for self-calming need to be practiced and familiar, but might not be used daily)
When setting up routines with your family, think about activities your follow within your day (i.e., getting ready for the day, when preparing to leave the house, etc.).
When developing a routine, consider the following questions:
- What steps are needed to complete the activity? Do they need to be completed in a specific order?
- What prompts or reminders may be helpful for competing the routine successfully?
The "Healthy Mind Platter," created by Dr. Dan Siegel, includes 7 mental activities that are essential for optimal brain development: Focus Time, Play Time, Connecting Time, Physical Time, Time In, Down Time, and Sleep Time. When these activities are included within daily routines and schedules, we are typically more flexible, more able to focus our attention, and better at noticing (and regulating) our emotions.
When scheduling for the entire day, think about varying between the essential mental activities from the Healthy Mind Platter, alternating between focused and play time, physical and down times. Our brain needs the less structured and focused time to organize and make sense of the focused times; our brain is doing some great and essential work during this "down-time." Schedules can be arranged by doing certain activities at set times; schedules can also be a sequence of activities or tasks to complete during the day with some choice within the schedule. Let your child be part of that decision making!
All of our children are different. We all benefit from routine and structure, but while some children are fine with more flexibility with routines, others need (and depend on) more strict adherence to a schedule, or predictable sequence of events. Try taking a collaborative problem-solving approach with your child. Lay out the "must-do's" (expectations) and then collaborate to problem-solve and create a plan that works for everyone.
Elementary students are expected to sustain engagement for about 10-15 minutes at a time. Even with a 30-minute lesson in the classroom, students are allowed (and expected) to have time when their focus and mind drifts and is not specifically oriented and focused on instruction. While middle and high school students are expected to sustain attention for longer periods, their brains (just like those of adults) still need these brain breaks.
Brain breaks are short breaks or changes in mental activity and focus. Brain breaks help break up monotonous or sustained tasks which deplete our attention and alertness over time. Brain breaks help re-energize our minds, making our thinking more efficient and our focus more sustained.
For an elementary school student, brain breaks should be provided for 3-5 minutes for every 10-15 minutes of concentrated attention. They may include standing up to take a short walk, stretching, singing a song, or sharing a joke. Also, when spending time at the computer, it is important to not only give the brain a break but the eyes as well. Looking away from the screen and into the distance every 20-30 minutes is recommended.
Feeling blindsided or overwhelmed by emotion is not the time to learn a calming strategy or calming routine. Learning and practicing calming strategies and calming routines when in a calm and content mood makes accessing (and making use of) the strategies much easier when they are needed.
Sensory boxes and calm corners are used in some schools and may be helpful to prepare in the home as well. While some items will be specific to the child, a sensory box and calm corner will have essential items that could address multiple sensory modalities, methods of expression, and visual prompts. For example, at one school the calm corner boxes included play dough, glitter jars, paper and colored pencils, calming fidgets, and a visual calm book that included calming/breathing strategies, positive statements, and mood rating chart.
Essential elements of a calm corner:
- A space considered calming or soothing: may include pillow, beanbag, weighted blanket, etc.
- Feelings check-in and strategy menu and/or prompts
- Materials to use for calming tools/strategies (i.e., stuffed animals, chart of yoga poses, stress balls, music, etc.)
How to use:
- Talk with your child(ren)/family about what calms you when stressed and what you notice in your body that lets you know when you need to use calming strategies.
- As you talk about what calms you, ask your child what calms them.
- Create a calm corner space that is comfortable, easily accessible, and allows for some privacy and includes the items you identified together.
- Practice using the calm corner and materials when in a calm and content mood.
- When entering the calm corner, use a feeling check-in (visual chart) to note current emotion and what you are feeling
- Identify possible strategies (together, if possible) to help return to a calmer mood
- Engage in a strategy
- Check in (with feelings) and determine if ready to leave the calm corner and re-engage with the previous activity, or if continued calming time is needed.
Focus on Feelings with... "The Feeling Wheel"
Do you ever find yourself at a loss to narrow down how you're feeling in the moment?
Accurately naming our feelings is often a powerful first step toward healing from trauma or for letting go of toxic stress or negativity. Conversely, it also allows us to hone in on our positive feelings.
For children of all ages, developing a robust vocabulary to better express what they are feeling in the moment is a wonderful gift that is so powerful and affirming. Gloria Willcox created 'The Feeling Wheel" to help us do just that.
The Feeling Wheel is composed of an inner circle which corresponds to six primary feelings: mad, sad, scared, joyful, powerful, and peaceful. It also has two outer concentric circles identifying secondary feelings that relate to the primary ones.
Building an emotional vocabulary is empowering for a child and will improve their communication quality and outcomes making it more likely that they will be better understood when it matters most and that needs will be acknowledged - and met!
*The feeling wheel was created for the benefit of adults as well, so I recommend creating your own unique feeling wheel by selecting vocabulary that is appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child.
Forest Bathing (Shinrin-Yoku)
‘Forest Bathing’ Is Great for Your Health. Here’s How to Do It
BY QING LI
MAY 1, 2018 10:51 AM EDT
We all know how good being in nature can make us feel. We have known it for centuries. The sounds of the forest, the scent of the trees, the sunlight playing through the leaves, the fresh, clean air — these things give us a sense of comfort. They ease our stress and worry, help us to relax and to think more clearly. Being in nature can restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us.
But what exactly is this feeling that is so hard to put into words? I am a scientist, not a poet. And I have been investigating the science behind that feeling for many years.
In Japan, we practice something called forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku. Shinrin in Japanese means “forest,” and yoku means “bath.” So shinrin-yoku means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.
This is not exercise, or hiking, or jogging. It is simply being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Shinrin-yoku is like a bridge. By opening our senses, it bridges the gap between us and the natural world.
Never have we been so far from merging with the natural world and so divorced from nature. By 2050, 66% of the world’s population is projected to live in cities. According to a study sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of his or her time indoors.
But the good news is that even a small amount of time in nature can have an impact on our health. A two-hour forest bath will help you to unplug from technology and slow down. It will bring you into the present moment and de-stress and relax you. Numerous studies I’ve conducted have shown that shinrin-yoku has real health benefits.
So how does one go about forest bathing?
First, find a spot. Make sure you have left your phone and camera behind. You are going to be walking aimlessly and slowly. You don’t need any devices. Let your body be your guide. Listen to where it wants to take you. Follow your nose. And take your time. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get anywhere. You are not going anywhere. You are savoring the sounds, smells and sights of nature and letting the forest in.
The key to unlocking the power of the forest is in the five senses. Let nature enter through your ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hands and feet. Listen to the birds singing and the breeze rustling in the leaves of the trees. Look at the different greens of the trees and the sunlight filtering through the branches. Smell the fragrance of the forest and breathe in the natural aromatherapy of phytoncides. Taste the freshness of the air as you take deep breaths. Place your hands on the trunk of a tree. Dip your fingers or toes in a stream. Lie on the ground. Drink in the flavor of the forest and release your sense of joy and calm. This is your sixth sense, a state of mind. Now you have connected with nature. You have crossed the bridge to happiness.
When it comes to finding calm and relaxation, there is no one-size-fits-all solution – it differs from person to person. It is important to find a place that suits you. If you love the smell of damp soil, you will be most relaxed where the natural landscape provides it. Then the effects of the forest will be more powerful. Maybe you have a place in the countryside that reminds you of your childhood or of happy times in the past. These places will be special to you and your connection with them will be strong.
When you have been busy at work all week, it can be hard to slow down. You may have been rushing around so much you no longer know how to stand still. Walking with a guide who is a trained forest therapist can help you feel more comfortable and find the right environment to fit your needs. In one of my favorite forests, Iinan Furusato-no-Mori, the forest-therapy program includes guided walks. Doctors are on hand to offer general health assessments. When you arrive, you are given a physical health check and a psychological questionnaire. The therapist then works out the best walking plan for you.
But it is just as easy to forest-bathe without a guide. And there are many different activities you can do in the forest that will help you to relax and to connect with nature. Here are some of the things people do: forest walking, yoga, eating in the forest, hot-spring therapy, T’ai chi, meditation, breathing exercises, aromatherapy, art classes and pottery, Nordic walking and plant observation. It doesn’t matter how fit – or unfit – you are. Shinrin-yoku is suitable for any level of fitness.
You can forest-bathe anywhere in the world – wherever there are trees; in hot weather or in cold; in rain, sunshine or snow. You don’t even need a forest. Once you have learned how to do it, you can do shinrin-yoku anywhere – in a nearby park or in your garden. Look for a place where there are trees, and off you go!
From FOREST BATHING: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness by Dr. Qing Li, published on April 17, 2018 by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Qing Li, 2018.
A Resource: Presentation to Families at The Village School (K-8 Charter School)
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If any such concerns exist, please consult with a medical provider.
Consider investing a little over an hour listening to this Unlocking Us podcast on ‘What Happened to You?’
Recommended by The Village School Social-Emotional Learning/Restorative Practices Committee: “A conversational, concentrated lesson on trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and the history of behaviors. For us. For our kids. For our community. It will change your brain.”
Deep Breathing Exercise with Dr. Ellen Contente (IBH)
How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime with Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris (2014)
Child Mind Institute
American Academy of Pediatrics
Anxiety and Depression
*Lane County Crisis Response Team - 1-888-989-9990. When a child is experiencing a mental health crisis, the Crisis Response Team is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, throughout Lane County.
*White Bird Clinic: 541-687-4000; 800-422-7558 (24-hour local crisis line)
*Looking Glass Youth & Family Crisis Line: 541-689-3111
*Prevention Lane County - https://preventionlane.org/prevention-topics/suicide-prevention
*Yoga Ed - Free tool kit for families: "How to Communicate and Connect with your Kids" https://yogaed.com/toolkit-mental-health-resources