Balancing the mental health of the students in our space as well as making sure they are progressing their physical skills they are there to learn, can feel like an impossible job some days.
I have been having this conversation recently, with as many people as I can in order to find some solutions to use in our studios, rinks, fields and dressing rooms. Having this knowledge within us, we can continue to do the very best we can for our kiddos.
The consensus has been that the key is acknowledgement. Recognize the emotions, validate the feelings, and then get on with the business of learning.
In a recent conversation with our amazing mental health pro Keyva Jacobsen MA CCC, Keyva said something that I think I needed to hear as a coach and teacher.
We need to teach our kids that their feelings matter. 100% yes. But they also need to know when and where is an appropriate time to work that out. During practice, when the focus is on the learning of other skills related to the activity, be it hockey, or gym, or dance, or circus is not that time. They actually need to also learn how to compartmentalize when and where things are appropriate. This is an important life skill.
“This matters, just not right now”
This is a phrase that we as coaches and teachers need to feel ok using, because their feelings do matter, but right now is not the time to work through that.
“Let’s talk about this after practise”
“If you cannot set that aside and work on our skills, then it’s OK to take the day and go home instead of being at practise.”
That said, I am a firm believer that physical activity is one of the best methods for emotional problem solving. When we sit with our thoughts and ruminate over a problem we do not give it the time, space, and room to change. If your thoughts cycle round and round on “I’m so sad, my life is miserable” then you will be sad and your life will feel miserable. If you can participate in something physically strenuous so that your brain has to be focused on “breathe, pull, contract, invert, 2 wraps or 3?, lift, contract” (as it would sound in aerial circus) then the brain has a chance to change its perspective on the “I’m so sad, my life is miserable” mantra. Your physiology tells your brain a different story.
I also believe that naming what we are feeling helps us not only identify it specifically but also helps us then start the process of deciding “What am I going to do with how I feel?”
In that vein, we have introduced 2 new posters to our space.
How are you really feeling? This poster helps us use really specific words to better name how we feel. Disappointed and overwhelmed are not the same thing but often get lumped together as sad. Embarrassed and frightened are not the same thing but often get lumped together as anxious.
We started using this poster to better understand the language of feelings. (Thanks to Keyva for this chart!)
1.What energy are you bringing to the space today? Using the emotions chart we started getting students to first identify the feelings and energy they are bringing into the space, and then second decide what they are going to do with that energy. Teaching them a second important lesson. You CAN control your feelings and make decisions about how you are going to cope with them.
Using these 2 charts students come to class, grab a sticky note, decide what energy and emotion they are bringing, write down what they intend to do with that energy during class, and stick the note on the chart in the appropriate quadrant. This takes less than 5 minutes and helps teach them to take control of their emotional well being.
If you are interested in purchasing these posters from me, click on this link: https://www.robinjoanneszuch.com/shop