The title of Dr. William Koehler's August 9th Psychology Today article states the question/sentiment of the year:
"Ready or Not, Here We Go... Back to School?"
Some children, teachers and parents have already started back amidst the pandemic wonkiness. Others are on the cusp.
We can't change the circumstances, but can strive to manage the stress.
Dr. Koehler offers five suggestions in his article that align with Mahogany Manifesto's tenets -- and they apply to anyone -- not just parents, teachers or students in upper grades or college/grad school:
1. Determine your priorities: When your brain is distressed, you are operating from survival mode. This limits your ability to fully assess and think through your options. "If you start feeling anxious when receiving notice of yet another change of plans, rather than making a survival-brain decision, engage your logic brain by looking to your longer-term priorities instead." WRITE out (with a pen/pencil and paper) your priorities and rank them. Make choices based on what meshes with your highest priorities.
2. Identify distorted thoughts: "Most of us think we make decisions based on the facts we have before us. In truth, we act on our interpretation of what is happening, not some objective version of reality." Dr. Koehler recommends slowing down your decision-making. Rather than giving in to negative self-talk, peel back the layers of what you are thinking and contemplate how you can pivot toward a more desirable outcome.
3. Acknowledge your feelings: Some of us wear a logic-only mentality like it is a badge of honor. (I may or may not be guilty of this... but I digress.) While persistent survival mode is no place to dwell, neither is an emotion-less universe. Dr. Koehler writes: "Ignoring our emotions is precisely what causes us to lead with them." The goal is to slow down enough so that we can connect our thoughts with our feelings and make informed decisions based on both.
4. Engage all of your resources and supports: Survival mode and stress limit creativity. You cannot think through all of the resources that you have available to you when you are overcome with emotion. Sit down, look ahead at next week, next month and the whole grading period. Research your options. Call on family, friends, church members and other trusted people in your community for help. Create a quarantine pod. Share meal planning, child care, learning support structures, etc. Calm yourself so that you can connect effectively with others. I have personally asked for assistance from a retired educator in the subject that I have a difficult time teaching my son.
5. Respond rather than react: "[O]nce you are out of a state of survival, determined your priorities, identified your automatic thoughts, acknowledged your feelings, and gathered your resources and supports, you are ready to respond to the new information rather than react. Unless you are truly in a dangerous situation and need to let your survival brain take over, a thoughtful, emotionally sound response that utilizes your full resources and supports to meet your highest priorities first will always be better in the long run," states Dr. Koehler.
In summary, set yourself up for decision-making success and emotional balance by slowing down and crafting YOUR plan.
-- Jera Oliver