School Counselor Appreciation
The first week of February is dedicated to School Counselors, so let’s show them some well deserved praise. We’d like to shout out some of the wonderful counselors we’ve worked with in fighting the mental health stigma! Thank you to all of our hard-working School Counselors! We appreciate all the wonderful work you do.
New Year’s Resolutions: Why It’s Okay To Have Them, and Break Them
New Year’s Resolutions: Why It’s Okay To Have Them, and Break Them
By: Kylee Harris
Have you heard: “New year, new me!”? Or maybe something like “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” New Year’s resolutions can be a great way to keep yourself accountable for changes you’d like to make to your life or to reach goals that you’ve always wanted to achieve. But what happens when you make a New Year’s resolution and break it? Do you feel guilty? Does setting a goal for yourself and not achieving it mean you failed? It can feel like that sometimes for sure! But, it’s not always a bad thing to break your resolution. I offer to you, here, a perspective from the other side on why it is OKAY to break your resolutions, and how you can grow from it.
Some of America’s most popular resolutions include….
“Eating Healthier”, “Losing Weight”, “Spending Less Money”, and “Give Up A Habit”. These are all great ideas, but let’s talk about goals vs resolutions. A resolution is defined as “a statement of what you want to CHANGE” while a goal is “a statement of what you want to ACHIEVE”. Setting realistic expectations can help make a resolution possible. There’s a lot of pressure as each new year arrives for people to declare what they want from themselves and even more pressure to uphold it. Creating small goals that lead to a resolution can be a great way to grow. For example, instead of “my New Year’s resolution is to lose weight” try “My New Year’s goal is to start eating one healthy meal a day” or “My New Year’s goal is to start cooking healthy meals”. With your goals structured as small achievements, it creates a more positive, encouraging outcome for yourself.
If you did create a resolution, great! Some people want to hold themselves to that higher standard to purposefully pressure themselves into success and for some people it works. For others, that standard of promise is too high and can be anxiety inducing and encourage a depressive episode post “failed resolution” with a similar feeling to relapsing. It can be hard to upkeep a promise you’ve made to yourself, and letting yourself down on that promise can be frustrating, but I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. The first step to change is to try. Trying different methods and finding out some of them don’t work is still progress! You are still moving in the right direction. The only way you will not be successful is if you don’t try at all. Sometimes it takes people researching and using trial and error to find out what path will lead them to success the healthiest way. It’s also okay to reevaluate and set a smaller goal for yourself such as instead of “my resolution is to spend less money”, try “my goal is to budget each week” or “my goal is to save $50 from every paycheck”. Seeing these smaller goals achieved help make your success attainable and keep you positive and encourage you to set more goals.
Resolutions and goals have their individual standards reserved for the individual attempting to achieve them. The standard is what YOU set it as. You are in charge of your happiness and the ability to change your life for the better. Staying positive and communicating how you’re feeling is extremely important in the process of making any change. Talk to your friends, your family, and people with experience reaching individual goals and resolutions. Ask questions, and stay flexible. Remember that it’s okay to break down a resolution into smaller goals, and it’s okay through trial and error to find out what works for you. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means there’s another path to take.
Bilingual Peer Mentor Spotlight: Emily
This school year has seen our bilingual programming flourish at an unprecedented rate. Emily is one of the amazing Peer Mentors who has allowed our bilingual programming to excel this year. We sat down with Emily, our first Portuguese language bilingual Peer Mentor, to ask her a little bit about her work with the NAN Project.
- What made you want to work with the NAN Project
“I wanted to work with the NAN Project because they were tabling at my school’s self-care fair. I went up to the table and heard about their mission and I thought it was really inspiring and I wanted to be a part of something like that”
- Can you tell me about how your cultural background connects to your mental health?
“I feel like being able to have a community that I can connect with and that shares beliefs and similar experiences was extremely important. Having that connection and feeling like a part of something gave me a sense of belonging that soothed me.”
- Do you notice that students connect more when you tell your story in Portuguese?
“For sure. One time after presenting, this group of girls came up to me and said, ‘We were listening to the other stories and it’s nice to hear, but we couldn’t really relate to them. Then when you told your story, it’s something that we feel like we can relate to and it touched us.’ I feel like my Comeback Story is really a story of hope, so I feel they gained a sense of hope from hearing how I turned out. It’s nice to see people feeling represented.”
- Have you received any student questions or comments that especially stuck out to you?
“One time there was a card that said someone had been going through a similar experience as me, with having a family member deported. They asked for advice on how to cope with that. That moment was really deep for me. It made me reflect and recall that experience and was something that remained in the back of my mind. When that came back up, I thought ‘Oh wow,’ Sometimes you forget you even lived through the things in your story. So, having the chance to remember how I overcame that time in my life was a special experience.”
- Does it feel telling your story in English vs Portuguese?
“It definitely feels different. In Portuguese, it’s a unique way of expressing myself. Some things in English can feel more cold, whereas in Portuguese it can feel warmer and stronger”
- How do you think hearing a bilingual NAN Project presentation would have affected you as a kid?
“It would have helped me because we always hear stories of perseverance and overcoming adversity, but when a story is directly related to
your cultural experiences, it’s a whole different experience. The immigrant experience, and being an immigrant in America, is an entirely unique genre. There are so many different feelings and it’s a cultural experience with the different challenges we see across different stories. If I heard a story like that, I would feel a greater sense of hope to see that someone else has been through it and they’re still okay today.”
- What advice would you give to yourself as a younger kid?
“I would tell myself that it gets better and that you’re not always gonna feel weird in your own skin and so insecure. I thought I was going to
feel a sense of hopelessness, like things were always going to be that way. But, it does get better and you learn and grow and things truly get better.”
- What are your plans for the future?
“My end goal is to be a psychologist so I’m always looking for opportunities, whether it’s job opportunities or volunteering or internships. Anything that can give me more experience working in the mental health field. I plan on doing medical interpreting and will finish my Portuguese interpretation training in January. My job as an interpreter is going to be in medical settings and I will be facilitating communication between medical providers and patients”
Holiday Gift Guide: Mental Health Edition
By Kylee Harris
As the holidays approach, a lot of us struggle with our mental health. But let me let you in on a secret… IT’S NORMAL! It’s a busy time of year filled with stress and chaos. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects more people than you think. The shorter days and less daylight activate a chemical change in the brain that leads to depression. People struggling with chronic depression may feel an obligation during the holiday season to feel happy as for a lot of people, it’s the happiest time of the year. In reality, it’s really hard to struggle with depression during the holidays while everyone else experiences heightened euphoria. The overwhelming general happiness can make us second guess ourselves and activate us.
Whether you or someone you love struggles with mental health, it’s important to show patience and support. I’ve curated a list down below of possible mental health gifts for people struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder and other mental illnesses during this time.
- SUNRISE ALARM CLOCK
This clock is designed to gradually increase from 10% light to 100%, aligning with research that says: “Light has a physiological direct impact on our mood, which is why light therapy helps with seasonal depression”. Starting the day with healthy lighting has been proven to help lift the onset of depressive symptoms in the morning, especially during the winter.
- ROLL ON ESSENTIAL OILS
A more recent study, it has been proven that certain essential oils can have an anxiolytic, or anxiety reducing effect, which increases production of serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for mood, sleep, and other important body functions.
For anxiety, try…. Peppermint or Bergamot Oil
For depression, try…Lavender, Ylang-Ylang, and Frankincense
- WEIGHTED EYE MASK
A weighted eye mask has many benefits both mentally and physically! KindFace, a company that specializes in restoring both our mental health and our planet says: “Our circadian rhythm is a biological process that mainly responds to light and dark; add light and you naturally wake up, remove light and you instantly become sleepy. It is otherwise known as your sleep-wake pattern, which changes after a 24-hour cycle. Sleeping experts also agree that a dark environment is vital to dozing off faster and having an overall good night’s rest. Nowadays, we are exposed to more artificial blue light than when technology was not yet the trend”
A weighted eye mask also has many benefits for Sensory Processing Disorders that help calm the nervous system, and help the individual become more relaxed inducing the stimulation of sleep hormones.
Hopefully some of these gift ideas can help you, or a loved one struggling with their mental health this season. Remember that it’s okay not to feel okay! Talk about how you are feeling with a trusted friend, family, or adult! Just because everyone around you is experiencing happiness does not mean that you are obligated to match those emotions. Be true to yourself, practice self care, and have a safe and happy holiday season!
Managing Time Alone and Combating Depression While Living Alone
by Kylee Harris
Recently, I started to understand that time alone isn’t necessarily always a negative thing, but it can still trigger tough emotions. In the past few years with COVID 19, we’ve had to learn how to cope with isolation and fill our time. I thought it would be useful to jot down some of the things I did after a surgery with a 4 week post op period of bedrest.
Having time alone can be really relaxing. You can use the time to journal, clean, do self care, and catch up on your favorite shows. But what happens when you have done it all? How many ways can you rearrange your room or make a new recipe before you lose that motivation and get lost in your own thoughts and silence? I’ve had 4 weeks to myself, and here are a few things I did to fill the time.
-Grocery shopped for my favorite items (so I could have some comfort food!)
-Cleaned my apartment! (my space is so important to me, and I truly felt I was able to relax more when my apartment was clean)
-New Blanket (I wanted a little treat for myself. That blanket was definitely getting some use in this chilly weather!)
-Candles and ambiance lighting (the vibe of your space is going to contribute to how you’re feeling)
Was mostly used for recovery. Toward the end of the week, I started to feel disconnected from the world and was having a hard time staying at home in bed all day.
-A lot of napping (after surgery, my body needed a lot of rest to heal!)
-Caught up and rewatched some of my favorite shows (Prison Break, Bob’s Burgers, Charmed, and The Office)
-Started writing “movie reviews” for each genre and explored films I never thought I would like
-Lit candles around my apartment (to make the vibe more peaceful)
-Stayed connected with family and friends to get ahead of feeling lonely (I started to do check-ins with a couple friends to stay updated and informed on what I was missing)
I loved having so much time at home. From working a 40 hour week to having endless time in my own space, I was feeling relaxed and cozy although I was having trouble feeling I was missing out on what was going on around me. So instead of texting my friends, I started phoning them to have a more intimate conversation and feel isolated.
-Breathing therapy (for when I started to feel anxious or dysregulated)
-Yoga (I did poses that I was comfortable doing post op. This really helped me stay active both physically and mentally. I made a routine of doing a yoga pose a day!)
-Started crafting. (I ordered a bunch of beads off of amazon and started making bracelets! Having something beautiful that I personally handmade made me feel a sense of accomplishment.)
-Organizing my space (I wasn’t able to be too mobile, but I was able to sit in front of my closet for an hour to organize and donate clothes!)
Here is where the depression really hit. It had been 3 weeks since I had seen my friends, I had family members stop by, but it wasn’t the same as being able to go out on your own terms. I started feeling trapped in my own space. Alone with my thoughts for hours, I started to spiral a bit into my depression. Luckily, I had a lot of support and here is how I got through it!
-Explored podcasts I normally wouldn’t listen to! (After discovering so many films I didn’t think I would be interested in, I started branching out on my podcast selections. This included mindfulness and meditation podcasts to help keep myself grounded!)
-Made a new recipe everyday! (I bookmarked the pages on thrift store cookbooks and online recipes)
-Yoga. A lot of yoga.
-Journaling (I journaled in my notes app everyday whether it was a plan for the day, a to do list, or just how I was feeling. I felt so much better putting my thoughts into the universe, even if they were just for me.
Okay, if last week was that tough, I’m sure I can get through this week. I kept reminding myself how much support I had and how strong I was! Being home alone for so long felt so isolating, and I wasn’t ready for another week of it. I knew I had to keep myself occupied. 7 MORE DAYS I GOT THIS! Here is where it all fell into place, and I was really able to get myself into a routine that worked for me and that I looked forward to everyday. The routine was as follows.
5:30am: LIGHT CANDLES YOGA/STRETCHING
7:00am MAKE COFFEE and WATCH A SHOW OR MOVIE TO REVIEW
9:00 am OUTSIDE WALK (even if it’s just to the mailbox and back, fresh air is great!)
10:00am CRAFTS AND DIY or CLEANING or ONLINE WORK
12:00 pm LUNCH
1:00pm: CONNECT WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY
3:00pm: LIGHT CANDLES AND INCENSE PLAN DINNER WHILE WATCHING A SHOW/MOVIE
5:00pm: START DINNER
6:30pm: READ A CHAPTER OF MY BOOK and PLAN TOMORROW’S AGENDA
8:00pm LIGHTS OUT
While most of us probably won’t be spending a full 4 weeks alone, I hope I was able to provide some ideas on how to fill time alone. Whether you live alone, are quarantining, recently have had surgery, or just need a self care break, these are all things to fill the time with. Isolation can be tough, but hopefully my experience can help someone else figure out how to enrich their alone time, and combat depression.
Honoring State Senator Cindy Friedman as a NAN Project “Friend for Life”
Managing Mental Health During the Holidays
We all think of the holiday season a little differently. Some of us become joyful, giddy, and excited for all the holiday season brings, that is what is commonly portrayed. However, there is another side to the holidays. There is a side of secret dread, nervousness, anxiety…some of us just experience “the holiday blues”, and for many it is a mix of both extremes.
For students in particular, there are many stressors that come with the holiday season. Whether you’re a middle schooler, high schooler, or college student the holiday season generally means spending more time at home with family due to vacations and breaks. Having that down time at home with family can be stressful for some people and can impact mental health for a number of different reasons. You might miss your friends, maybe there is financial stress, or difficult family members, or it might be your first holiday without a loved one. Whatever the stress, there are resources available to help you get through the holiday, break, vacation.
Remember that social media is a highlight reel, if that, it may even be fake. No one has a life like what is seen on instagram, they may have moments of it, but it’s not sustainable. It is very hard to recognize and remember that when you’re scrolling. Know that it is okay to not be okay. It’s okay to not be happy or joyous, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you, it means the holidays have their own unique parts that can be hard and it is okay for you to feel them. In fact 64% of people who struggle with their mental health felt that their conditions worsened around the holidays. So it is probably more common than anyone thinks it is to have a hard time during this time of year.
- Assign holiday work knowing that some students may struggle to complete it and that holiday work can increase things like anxiety
- Be aware that students may “act out” more around the holidays and that they’re often is reason for it
- Be compassionate and empathetic towards students who may be having a harder time
- Notice grade changes, appearance changes, mood changes, and provide a space for students to open up about their holiday struggles
- BASE Education is a great resource for how educators can be helpful around the holiday season Student Mental Health During Holidays – BASE Education
Native American Culture and Mental Health
November is Native American Heritage Month
Native Americans just like any other population of people face unique challenges. Living on a reservation can be hard and some of the challenges people living on reservations deal with include addiction, abuse, lack of quality education, unemployment, poor mental health, oppression, historical trauma, and generational trauma. Some statistics on the impact historical trauma has on this community are:
36% of those surveyed had daily thoughts about the loss of traditional language in their community
34% experienced daily thoughts about the loss of culture
49% provided they had disturbing thoughts related to these losses
Some Native Americans have used their challenges with diversity to increase awareness within the mental health community. One individual in particular, Autumn Rose Miskweminanocauq (Raspberry Star Woman) Williams uses her experience to help others. As someone who struggled with body image she became a plus size model and has had the opportunity to give over 100 motivational speeches across the United States. She has also been able to advocate for accurate representation and inclusivity of Indigenous communities. You can learn more about her and her work here: https://nativemaxmagazine.com/autumn-rose-williams-of-humility-heritage/
Some activities going on for Native American Heritage month consist of:
- The Plimoth Plantation teaching about the Wampanoag people, which is located south of Boston
- The MFA has a Cyrus Dallin sculpture of a Ute tribe member
- At Harvard’s Peabody Museum there is a hall dedicated to the North American Indian
- The Mohawk trail is a beautiful scenic walk along what used to be a trade route from New York to Canada for Atlantic Indian tribes
- The Natick History Museum has a section dedicated to Natick tribes
October is Bullying Prevention Month
As the month wraps up, let’s not forget that October is Bullying Prevention Month.
Most people know the general definition of a bully and what that means, but as a quick review “traditional bullying” is defined as aggressive behavior where someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person physical, emotional, or sexual discomfort. With the modern advancements in technology, there is another type of bullying that promotes a serious threat to children and youth mental health … Most have heard of it, cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is done through cell phones, computers, tablets, and gaming systems. It can also be communicated via social media, text messages, and posts.
Traditional bullying and Cyberbullying are oftentimes hand in hand these days.
Some statistics on cyberbullying are;
1 in every 4 teens has experienced cyberbullying
1 in 6 has been a perpetrator
1 in 5 tweens, or kids ages 9 to 12 have been involved in cyberbullying
Cyberbullying increases stress resulting in anxiety and depression symptoms which in turn can lead to poor academic performance, attendance issues, substance use, self harm and suicidal ideation. Although there is no direct correlation between bullying and suicide, bullying can contribute to the intense feelings of helplessness and hopelessness involved in suicidal behaviors.
It is important to help kids navigate social media. Parents can help curb cyberbullying by monitoring their childs’ technology use and social media accounts, talking about online behavior, and teaching kids how to report cyber bullying either online, with a parent, a teacher, or other trusted adult.
Traditional bullying is not at lower rates than cyberbullying. Signs of traditional bullying include unexplained injuries, damage to physical property, loss of interest in activities, avoidance of attending school.
Some statistics on traditional bullying are:
22% of students get bullied during each school year
Verbal harassment is the most common type, it makes up 79% of bullying at school
43% of transgender students have been harassed on school grounds
While victims are at risk for mental health challenges, let’s not forget that the bullies are too. Bullies are at risk for antisocial and violent behavior, dropping out of school, substance use, criminal behavior, and abuse of a partner or child in adulthood.
Bullying resources and information for this blog post can be found at:
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is October and it can greatly impact a person’s mental health. Not only do the victims of domestic violence experience significant mental health repercussions, but so do those who have witnessed it. Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status.
Domestic violence (DV) is when there is physical violence, sexual violence, or psychological aggression by a partner and when there is a pattern of stalking by a partner or someone close in a relationship. Although those are the official types of domestic violence, really anything within a relationship that causes one to feel unsafe, hurt, or fearful can be classified as DV.
DV is linked to an increased risk of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and suicide across those who have experienced it. In addition, those who have witnessed or been exposed to DV are at increased risks for stress, fear, and isolation, which can lead to depression.
Since DV does not discriminate, children and teens who are experiencing or witnessing DV are at a greater risk to struggle with mental health. Some repercussions for children and teens involved somehow with DV are:
- Substance abuse
- Emotional numbing
- Sleep Issues
- Antisocial behavior
- Self harm
- Eating disorders
- Difficulties at school
- Risk taking behavior
- Running away
Educating youth about bodily autonomy is one of the key ways to help a child or teen that may be experiencing or witnessing DV. Showing a child or teen that you are a trusted adult and someone they can talk to is the next most helpful way you can impact them. Listening and supporting a child or teen with acceptance can help them to feel more able and willing to open up and take action in the situation.
Some resources for a teen or child experiencing or witnessing DV are:
Text: LOVEIS to 22522