As we responded to the news of school closures last week, Year 7, 10 and 11 students took time in assemblies to reflect on how they could take steps to promote their wellbeing during the uncertainty of the current times, particularly as we adapt to social distancing measures, including school closures.
The basis for these assemblies was the Five Ways to Wellbeing research conducted by the New Economics Foundation and used by the NHS and a range of leading Mental Health charities including Mind.
The research identified five key things it is valuable to incorporate as part of our daily lives in order to help build resilience, boost our wellbeing and maintain positive mental health. These Five Ways to Wellbeing are: to connect, to keep learning, to be active, to give and to take notice.
In the current climate, a degree of creativity is needed if we are to do each of these things safely and while following government guidance on social distancing, however our staff and students had some excellent ideas about how they could focus on each area even while remaining in the home. We will share some below and look forward to hearing of other ways members from across our school community are working to consider these.
Feeling close to and valued by others is important. Given the current advice about social distancing, students considered how to maintain positive connections with those they may not see in person for a while, such as older family members and friends. We also considered how to maintain positive relationships with those we live with while adjusting to spending considerably more time together at home.
Some top tips:
- Make the most of the technology we have available to help us stay in touch with family and friends in a meaningful way; schedule in time for Facetime / Skype catch ups with family who we don’t live with, or get out some paper or cards and spend some time writing letters that might brighten up someone’s day.
- Think carefully about how we are connecting with others on social media and ensure that we are being mindful of how comments and messages may make others feel. Think also about what limits we put on our social media use; It’s important to have some time away from the steady stream of messages and updates. Purposeful, positive and intentional interactions are much better than a continual drip-feed of updates.
- Take time to enjoy the company of family; dig out the board games or puzzles or work on something you enjoy together. Ask others how they are feeling and really listen to their answers.
- Stay connected with St Bart’s; read BartholoNews and SchoolComms messages from staff to stay up to date with what’s happening across the school community.
Research continually shows how positive learning can be for your mental health. Beyond that, once school reopens and your classroom based learning begins again you’ll want to be ready.
Some top tips:
- If you are well, make sure you are staying on top of the work that is being set for you by class teachers and that you are submitting work when asked to.
- Take responsibility for your own learning at home; establish routines to help, like regular times of the day you will work and some ways you will reward yourself for work completed.
- Beyond completing schoolwork, there are many other ways to keep learning while you are at home. Reading has to be top our list of things to do while you are at home, but it’s also a unique opportunity to invest time learning beyond our school curriculum; is there a language you’d like to learn, or a new skill like origami or knitting you could find tutorials for online? There are many providers offering free online resources and we will share more of these in the coming weeks.
For many of us, our current means of keeping active isn’t available at the moment as clubs and activities have been shut down and our access to outside spaces is limited. However, there are many ways to include daily exercise as part of your routine while at home as exercise, along with other healthy lifestyle choices like eating and sleeping well, is keep to protecting our mental health.
Some top tips :
- Try the PE department’s exercise challenges each week. These will be posted on SMHW for all students and are a fun way to fit some activity in each day.
- Lots of you are already following Joe Wicks’ daily PE lessons on Youtube; if you haven’t yet, why not give it a go?
- Many tasks around the house and garden are great for exercise; Think about how cleaning, hoovering, cutting the grass can give you the opportunity to be active and to be helpful.
- Government advice is currently that we can continue to walk, run or cycle with members of our household. Where it is safe for you to do so, and you can maintain social distance from others, make the most of opportunities to get outside and get some activity and fresh air.
Research shows that those who regularly do something kind for others have higher levels of wellbeing and are more likely to identify as feeling happy. While it is important that we are safe in how we are supporting others at this time, there are still opportunities for us to give to others, particularly when it comes to giving our time.
Some top tips:
- Be generous with our families. Give of our time and efforts to help others. That could be helping more proactively with household tasks to ease the burden on other family members or being thoughtful in our interactions with each other.
- Use some of the skills you have to teach others; that could be using your ICT skills to help elderly relatives by ordering their online shop for them, or supporting younger siblings with school work.
- Give some of your time to help those in our communities. This needs careful thought out so as to be managed in line with advice about keeping your distance from others but think of ways you can reach out to those around you.
Paying attention to the present moment, or ‘mindfulness’, as it’s often referred to, to helps us enjoy life more and understand ourselves better.
There are many activities that can help us carve out a little time for pause and reflection and many of you will already have activities you do regularly to do this. These could include ‘colour me calm’ activities, or a gratitude journal to reflect on the things you are thankful for each day. With world news so focussed on Covid – 19 and our daily lives so affected by it, it’s important to take time off from worry about the pandemic and mindfulness activities can help with that.
Some top tips:
- Take time away from social media and regular updates; turn off your phone or, at the very least turn off notifications and limit the frequency you check messages and updates each day.
- Take time to notice things others do for you at home and thank them for it.
- If able to spend time outside, focus on the natural world around you, make the most of the opportunity to observe the changes Spring is bringing each day.
- Make use of mindfulness resources you’ve considered in PDP, assemblies, lessons or tried before yourself that you’ve enjoyed.
The suggestions above are by no means exhaustive, and we are sure that each families will have their own creative ways in which to try and incorporate some of these areas into everyday life as we adapt to the current circumstances. We hope we’ve given you some ideas to get you thinking and look forward to hearing about what you try.
If you’d like more details about the Five Ways to Wellness, further information from the NHS and Mind can be found below:
For anyone who needs some support with their Mental Health, or who is worried about someone else’s wellbeing, there are a range of resources and places to access support signposted here