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Wherever you are in the world, we hope you and your students are doing well. With the disruptions from and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever to make mental health a priority, both yours and your students.
 
For this issue of Upbeat News, we’re sharing our favorite mental health resources, with excerpts from our titles on stress management and mindfulness. We can all use some support in coping with uncertainty, helping children calm down, and shifting our focus from stress to practicing the power of positivity. You can also browse a list of mental health resources on our website: freespirit.com/health.

How to Cope with Uncertainty and Powerlessness

Adapted from Stick Up for Yourself: Every Kid's Guide to Personal Power and Positive Self-Esteem (Revised & Updated 3rd Edition) by Gershen Kaufman, Ph.D., and Lev Raphael, Ph.D.


Stick Up for Yourself book coverPower and certainty are different, but to feel safe and secure, you need some of both. You need to be able to control and predict events. This is true for kids and adults.
 
But powerlessness and uncertainty are part of life, even if we might wish they weren’t. When you experience them, especially at the same time, it can be deeply upsetting. If you can’t predict or control a situation, you may feel fear, shame, or anger. Your sense of inner security is at risk. You might feel these emotions one at a time, or all at once. Your feelings can get very strong, very fast.
 
This may all seem a bit confusing.
 
Power and certainty are both important to inner security.
 
But power and certainty aren’t always possible. They have limits.
 
Fortunately, we can learn to deal with powerlessness and uncertainty. One of the most important ways is through accepting them.
 
Accepting limits on our power and certainty helps us cope with worries and fears. It helps us build personal power and inner security. And it helps us move on and focus on what we can do.
 
Acceptance is powerful. But it can be hard to achieve. This is a challenge we all face! Here are actions to take toward acceptance:
 
1. First, name your feelings. It’s important to be able to name your feelings clearly. You also need to name powerlessness and uncertainty before dealing with them. Notice what is happening around you and inside you. You can say to yourself, “I feel angry because I’m powerless in this relationship or in this group.” Or, “My uncertainty feels overwhelming. I don’t know what will happen and that really scares me.”
 
Naming feelings like this helps you clearly see how much power or certainty you have or don’t have. Knowing when you’re unable to control or predict a situation is a first step toward accepting your limits.
 
2. Next, look for choices. Say to yourself, “I can handle the situation this way or that way.” Then decide on your best choice. Ask yourself: “What are the possible results of each choice? What might happen if I do this? What could happen if I do that?”
 
Remember, choice = power. Seeing and making choices builds personal power and inner security. It helps you move past worry, fear, jealousy, and shame.
 
3. Now practice accepting what you can’t control or pre­dict. Step back and say, “I know I can’t control every situation. I can’t know everything that will happen. No one can! And that’s okay.” You might not believe these words the first time you say them. You might still not feel ready to truly accept limits. But with time, you’ll move toward acceptance.
 
4. Finally, focus on what you can do. Turn your attention to what is in your control. You can make thoughtful, realistic choices. You can also use the tools you’ll learn about in the rest of this chapter. They give you more ways to build inner security.
 
Doing this takes time and practice, just like learning any skill. But the more you practice, the better you’ll get. You’ll experience more personal power and inner security. Also remember that powerlessness and uncertainty can give you chances to grow and learn. You may not be able to change a situation, but you can change your behavior. You can even change your attitude.

To get free shipping when you spend $50 or more on freespirit.com, use code FSAPR at checkout. Sale ends April 30, 2020.

Helping Children Calm Down

Adapted from Worries Are Not Forever by Elizabeth Verdick, illustrated by Marieka Heinlen


Worries Are Not Forever paperback book coverSet up a quiet space. Children enjoy having a safe space to chill out in when stressed. This place can be as simple as a beanbag chair with earphones. Lower the lights, provide pillows, keep books handy . . . teach children that they can go to this space to breathe deep, relax, and feel restored.
 
Keep worry tools handy. Little things like stress balls, putty, squishy toys, and “fidgets” can help children focus and calm down. So can art supplies, such as clay, markers, and paint. In places where it’s not possible to have such tools, ask a child who is stressed to press her hands against the wall, pushing hard against the flat surface to push her worries away.
 
Practice belly breathing. Belly breathing is a special way of controlling the breath to feel calmer. If you can, teach this skill ahead of time so children can use it in moments of difficulty.

  1. Imagine a balloon on your belly. Put a hand on top of your belly.
  2. Breathe in slowly through your nose. As you do this, count to three, pausing between each number (1, pause, 2, pause, 3). Feel the imaginary balloon filling with air.
  3. Breathe out slowly through your mouth. Count to five, pausing between each number. Imagine that the balloon is getting flat. Picture your negative feelings leaving your body as you breathe out.
  4. Repeat the belly breathing several times. Notice your muscles relaxing and your worried thoughts slowing down.
To enhance belly breathing, give children bubble wands to blow through or pinwheels to move with their breath.

To get free shipping when you spend $50 or more on freespirit.com, use code FSAPR at checkout. Sale ends April 30, 2020.

Shift Your Focus and Practice the Power of Positivity

Adapted from Fighting Invisible Tigers: Stress Management for Teens (Revised & Updated 4th Edition)by Earl Hipp


Fighting Invisible Tigers book cover“Seeing the upside” means remembering all the good things about you and your life. While this may sound too simple to be effective, it truly works. After all, stress is a reaction to how you perceive the world, so how you view and think about the world affects how you feel. Have you ever been down or depressed about some­thing, maybe even something small, and it grew and grew in your thoughts until it seemed like a huge problem? Focusing attention on anxious or frightening thoughts is like looking at them with a magnifying glass. When you do that, they appear much bigger than they really are, and then it’s easy and natural to feel over­whelmed and out of control. Focusing on the negative is a sure way to become your own worst invisible stress tiger.
 
The opposite is true too. When you have a positive attitude about yourself and your life, the world is a less stressful place. Instead of dwelling on the negative things that might happen, you can focus on your strengths and abilities to overcome challenges. It’s true sad events or stressful situations will still occur and you’ll have to deal with them, but when you can see the upside, the good things inside you, and the people who care about you, you’re in a much stronger position to deal with tough times. That’s why people often say that life is all about having the right attitude.
 
How do you begin to see the upside?
 
In the same way you strengthen your muscles by lifting weights, you can have a more positive attitude by practicing upside thoughts. Think about the great parts of your life and write them in a list. Include things you like and the people you care about. You might also list your talents, accomplishments, and any­thing else you appreciate or are proud of.

The Power of Positivity
Positive thinking has a powerful effect on your body. Research shows that people who are optimistic not only have better mental health, but also better physical health. Optimism can help your heart and lungs stay healthy and strengthen your immune system so that you are sick less often. It’s even been shown that people with serious illnesses live longer when they have a sense of humor and a brighter outlook on life.

 After you’re done, take a close look at your list. It’s important to recognize all the things that are right with you and your life. Keep your list on hand and review it often. Add to it when new things come up.

To get free shipping when you spend $50 or more on freespirit.com, use code FSAPR at checkout. Sale ends April 30, 2020.


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