Templates & Lessons
May 4, 2021
New Pear Deck Templates: A Student Self-Care Recipe
Michael E. Creekmore, Jr. LPC, CPCS
The 2020-2021 school year has been like something out of a suspense — no, no, a drama — no, more like a horror movie. From an educator perspective, the relentless debate regarding in-person versus virtual school has been exhausting! The debates, conversations, and decisions regarding which format to choose are overwhelming for every educator, parent, and adult with vested interest. Ironically, these conversations and debates occur around students but rarely with students. For a moment, let’s reimagine this from a student perspective:
You’re a bright-eyed, energetic student. You have been home since March 2020. At first, it was a bonus Spring Break. You figured you would get an extra week off but nothing more. Fast forward to a year later, you are still learning virtually, trying to foster estranged relationships, trying to muster enough motivation to complete assignments and receive passing grades. You are also experiencing anxiety, escalating fears, and unparalleled angst because there is a pandemic wreaking worldwide havoc. Just when you feel your spirits are at an all-time low and you’ve worn the same t-shirt and lounge pants for the hundredth time, the light at the end of the tunnel comes into focus. Hope is near! Vaccines are administered to educators, ushering in a return to traditional in-person school.
After a year, everything is finally returning to normal. Gone are the anxiety, fears, and angst, right?
Not so fast. School buildings are different now. If you transitioned to elementary, middle, or high school in the past year, you have never seen the inside of your school before. Where are your classes? How are you supposed to find your way around without being late to class? It's like the first day of school all over again. Educators and other adults have been vaccinated, but you haven’t. Does this mean you will contract COVID-19 from a classmate? Will you have to wear a mask all day? What about recess? PE? Lunch? Prom? Graduation? Wait a minute. It’s standardized testing time. How are you supposed to be ready to take a standardized test after virtual school for the past year?
The reality is that fears, anxieties, and angst will still exist post-COVID-19, and social-emotional learning (SEL) is the key to helping manage these emotions, for both students and educators. Healthy self-care stems from SEL competency and self-management.
Here's how we can help students build those skills:
Students may wonder, what exactly is self-care? It’s been talked about a lot and seems to have many definitions. In short, self-care is an intentional act one takes in effort to promote their own mental, physical and emotional health. Although many experts and professionals talk about self-care and how essential it is for adults, students can benefit as well. Self-care may not be the answer to all of life’s questions, but it most certainly can help students (and us!) manage those difficult times when life becomes hard and overwhelming.
As ceremonial events and celebratory milestones near, uncertainty grows. Some may wonder, what does self-care have to do with this? Well, it depends on your recipe — yep, your self-care recipe!
In a lot of families, there is someone who cooks exceptionally well. The ingredients are proportionately distributed throughout the dish, the seasoning is perfect, and the taste is exquisite. To those that love the dish, it’s delicious, but not everyone will agree.
With self-care, you’re the amazing chef, cooking the perfect dish just for you! Of course, you’ll need some main ingredients — relaxation, sleep, and exercise — but you will undoubtedly add different ingredients to your finished dish. The moment that recipe loses its amazing taste, consider changing the ingredients. Don't worry about someone else's critique of your recipe. What tastes good to you may not taste good to someone else, and that’s OK, as long as your recipe works for you and is:
- Addressing emotional management
- Improving physical health
- Improving mental health
When you think of self-care, you may wonder what makes one plan better, more effective. The three target areas above serve as a fundamental compass when creating your recipe. Throughout your life, there will be times when you feel physically exhausted; you’ll need to sit down and rest. Sometimes social situations, friendships, or the state of society will upset you and cause you emotional distress; you’ll need to step away to catch your breath, to put your phone down, to disconnect. Of course, by now you realize life can be tough; you can feel great today and terrible tomorrow. If you want to shake that terrible feeling away but you can’t — if it sticks with you, causes you discomfort, makes life harder — those thoughts and feelings may be indicative of worsening mental health. By targeting those three specific areas, your self-care recipe adopts a holistic approach to mending your mind, body and soul.
A self-care recipe for students
Reducing our amount of social media consumption can improve our emotional state. It’s harder to become upset or vicariously traumatized if we don’t watch the videos. Sometimes we simply have to stop scrolling. Our mood is often influenced by what we see and hear, and interactions we have with others. During those times when we’re feeling a little down, something as simple as listening to some upbeat music may help put a little “pep in our step.” We can also try to surround ourselves with people who have a positive effect on our emotional wellness. For example: we all have friends that may require more time, attention, and energy, but when those friends constantly leave us feeling exhausted and with limited energy for anything else, it’s time to re-evaluate that friendship. It is okay to prioritize yourself and say “no” sometimes, even to a friend.
Even though “working out” may not be one of your desired self-care recipe ingredients, consider this: exercising regularly has been scientifically proven to combat and decrease the likelihood of anxiety and depression. When we exercise, the body releases endorphins (chemicals) that make our bodies feel energetic and serve as a natural mood boost. Here’s a list of some endorphin-producing activities:
Walking, hiking, jogging, running, jump rope, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, jump squats, kickboxing, burpees, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts, step aerobics, yoga, and pilates, just to name a few.
This school year has served as one of the most challenging times in many of our lives. We’ve all done hard things this year, but our students have had to do hard things at a younger age. Trying to navigate feelings associated with COVID-19, being traumatized by racial injustices, and feeling socially disconnected from friends takes a significant toll on your mental health. It’s often recommended that you go to a doctor when you feel physically ill, right? Why shouldn’t the same be said when we’re not feeling well mentally? There is no shame in seeking help from a mental health professional to work through those feelings. Seeking help is actually a sign of strength and a wonderful display of self-awareness.
As students embark on the creation of their own self-care recipe, remember — creating the perfect recipe is a matter of trial and error. Someone’s specific ingredients may change over time due to life circumstances and individual growth. Just don’t forget the most important fact about self-care: it’s a verb — it only works if you do it! Let’s help students create a recipe just for them.
To help students develop a strategy for self-care and a greater understanding of what that term means, we’ve collaborated with Michael to create a set of Pear Deck templates for building a Student Self-Care Recipe.
Be sure to also check out Michael’s Pear Deck Templates for School Counseling: Feelings.
You can also boost SEL learning with Pear Deck’s SEL templates, available for free in the Pear Deck Orchard.
Michael E. Creekmore, Jr. LPC, CPCS
Professional School Counselor
Michael is currently a Professional School Counselor for 4th and 5th grades, and has been a Licensed Professional Counselor for 16 years.