Stress, anxiety and coping skills at school. Bea Inclusive TV and Podcast Episode 019
Happy Thursday. Today’s video is fantastic, and I’m super excited about it.
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My name is Bea, and this VLOG is dedicated to advocating truly inclusive school provision through well-researched, safe and recommended approaches such as Lego®-based Therapy.
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But let’s get into this inspiring idea – coping skills at school. What is it? And why should all teachers use it?
I wanted to talk about this because I mention coping skills all the time when I teach about self-regulation, relaxation and coping techniques when teaching children, especially with SEND.
I love using coping skills, and I use them every time as they help me and my children get through school life's difficulties.
What I like about them is that they are free tools that don't require a lot of training and are easily incorporated into school, class, small groups and one-to-one work.
We all have to deal with stress; our children are no exception. Whether they go through challenging circumstances or are stressed about the morning routine or going to school, they must cope with different types of stress.
First, let's define coping skills.
Coping skills help you tolerate, minimise, and deal with stressful situations. We all use coping skills to create those "defence mechanisms" or "coping skills" to help us better manage or lessen stress. These can be distraction techniques or tools to help us process all we may feel. But not all coping skills are healthy for children.
Our children can develop healthy or unhealthy coping skills when dealing with persistent stress or anxiety. As you probably suspect, using healthy coping mechanisms can allow our children to be in control, calm and ready to handle whatever is causing their stress.
Unfortunately, children can rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms primarily when working for the short term but automatically may end up hurting their physical and mental health. Here are a few examples of an unhealthy coping mechanism: self-harming (banging head, cutting, biting, pulling hair). This is very dangerous for children, and if you have children using this as a coping mechanism, you should seek professional help immediately. The unhealthy coping mechanisms include extensive eating, alcohol, drugs, undereating, avoiding problems, social withdrawal, aggression, etc.
Today I will not focus on unhealthy coping mechanisms, but I will talk about healthy coping skills.
There are many types of coping skills, but I will focus mainly on distraction and problem/process techniques as they work well in the school, community, and home environment. These techniques are free to use, highly effective, proactive and positive ways of dealing with stress.
Distraction technique (is any activity you engage in to redirect your mind off your current emotions. Instead of putting all your energy into the upsetting feeling, you reset your attention to something else. This will help you to get your children away from developing unhealthy coping skills such as self-injury, breaking things, hitting, shouting, and avoiding. So, teach children to use healthy coping skills when dealing with stress.
But first, let's get through the distraction techniques:
Walk or get fresh air (connect with nature). Getting a break from technology can help us to focus on our immediate surroundings, tune into how we are feeling and connect live with others.
Read a book or listen to an audiobook (especially one with sound effects – it's a great way to escape your problems and live in a more exciting or happy one).
Listening to music/singing or dancing routine.
Breathing activities, breathing techniques (four-by-four breathing, start breathing, Lego® belly breathing, hand breathing, a breath of fire technique). This will slow down our children's breathing, make their hearts beat slow down and activate a calmer response.
Grounding techniques such as 5-4-3-2-1, where we are distracting our brain by naming 5 things that we can see, 4 things that we can touch, 3 things that we can hear, 2 things that we can smell and 1 thing that we can taste. This will help your children ground themselves in the present moment and reduce or slow down racing thoughts.
Yoga, guided meditation.
Blowing bubbles (if the child imaging that he puts all the worries inside the bubble and watches the bubble burst can associate with letting the bad feeling go away).
Exercise releases endorphins, bursting our mood and releasing the pain we can feel.
Self-reflecting calm space where children can self-regulate their emotions, relax and have time to recover or decrease anxiety. Create special card/s and make sure you explain how to use them.
Cleaning, sorting, arranging (my children love this, and they feel helpful, so I allow them to use the bottle spray and paper towel to clean). They can feel relaxed and proud afterwards at how nice and clean your place looks.
Draw or colour activities – there is something relaxing when colouring, but remember to individualise as this activity may not work with children who dislike colouring or have difficulties with fine motor skills.
Sensory boxes with different materials (where children can bury things or find something). You can use sensory toys, slime, water, stones, colourful beats, etc.
Do the puzzle (crossword puzzle, picture puzzle).
Build Lego collaborative set – challenge your children's brains and distract them from unhealthy coping skills.
Writing positive and motivating quotes and reading them aloud. This can improve our mood, make us feel better and overcome any unhealthy urge (picking our skin, biting our nails).
Let's move on to the problem/processing types of coping skills.
Write a lovely card to a friend, mum, or teacher – this positive activity will remind you that you're not alone with all that you are going through or do an act of kindness to somebody (these help to reduce stress and feel our bodies with feel-good hormones, increase or connections with others or with our community (cleaning park when walking)
Diary/journaling –These tools are great for helping our children to process what they may be feeling and going through and slow their impulses down so they don't make unhealthy decisions. Maybe this will stop their panic or decrease their anxiety level.
Feeling charts (the Incredible 5-point scale) or zones of regulation – slowing down and taking time to go through the emotions that may have come up that day can help our children to see why they are feeling sad, angry, tired, excited, or frustrated that day, morning, afternoon.
Write down one or two things that you like about yourself and your situation. When children are upset, use gratitude, and find something you are grateful for. For example, things are hard right now (name what's complicated), but I'm thankful for my health and friends.
Talk to your teacher time (I like to give my children the talking card explaining how to use it. If you have one teacher, 1 TA, and 1 LSA in your class, make three cards and explain how to use them. You can also involve your SENCO and Headteacher in that process. I know that this may need a bit of planning and thinking on how to implement it so it works for you and your children, but it's worth the effort. Sometimes, we are so upset that we can't focus on what we are doing, or these feelings can escalate and cause our children to release this in lashing out, trashing class, etc., and it's avoidable. Talking to the teacher could help them with everything they may not be able to cope with alone. This may seem too time-consuming but trust me. This is a time-saving machine and investment into your children's emotional skills development.
Helping children identify how the emotions feel in their bodies by describing parts of the body, for example, the face (red, hot, itching) and explaining and understanding how this feels physically.
Remember, we all have to deal with stress, and children and teachers can use all the coping skills I mentioned today.
Using a positive/healthy coping mechanism helps us deal with stress actively and positively. It doesn't matter what our stress maybe we can use these coping skills and problem-solve in proactive, healthy ways.
I know I gave you enough to get you started, but there is more. Please leave the healthy coping skill that you use in the comments down below.
What coping skills do you find to be the most helpful to your children? Which one works best for you?
Ok. There you have it!
I hope you enjoyed my video today, and I look forward to hearing from you.
After you've finished, please join the discussion below. Tell me if you want to learn more about coping skills, and I will see you soon.