School can bring a number of stressors

Working on good habits for mental wellness important, writes McGregor

“So, how was school today?”

Many of us with young people in our lives have likely asked this question (and received concise answers like “OK,” “fine,” or “boring”) more times than we can count. Now that school is back in, it’s important to think about going beyond the usual questions to support students’ mental health and wellness.

School at all levels can bring a number of stressors: Homework, social relationships, different learning styles and special needs, quizzes, tests, and trying to balance it all with the number of other things going on in young people’s lives. Back to school should not just be about new pens and notebooks, but also working on good habits for mental wellness and building resilience to cope with challenges throughout the school year and after.

So what can we do to support young people’s wellness and encourage positive coping?

Ask specific questions about thoughts, feelings, and strategies. Something like “How are you feeling about your test tomorrow?” can help us see how a young person is coping. Revisit discussions and recognize positive coping – something like, “I know you were stressed out about your test and your studying schedule really helped. Well done.”

Validate and encourage. It can be tempting to dismiss problems that may seem trivial to us, but focus on the young person’s feelings and not just the problem. Talking openly can help him/her accept and work through the feelings and cope in positive ways now and in the future.

Show the importance of self-care. Go for a bike ride after school one day where you can chat and catch up or have a surprise trip to get ice cream when you can take time away from technology and other demands. Talk about the importance of a balanced diet and getting enough sleep and exercise and how these can be built into down time and self-care.

Know what supports are available. Check out what is offered at school or in the community if a young person needs more help with coping strategies. And normalize those needs by explaining that we all struggle from time to time and it’s OK, and important, to talk about not being OK.

If you are looking for more support for a young person’s mental health, talk to your family doctor or contact us at the Canadian Mental Health Association CMHA.

And enjoy the year!

– Melanie McGregor is the communications and advancement specialist at the Canadian Mental Health Association Halton Region branch, which provides mental health/addictions community support and education. Visit for more information and follow @cmhahalton on Twitter for news and updates.

Original article can be found HERE

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