With the new school year swiftly approaching, parents and students will still be facing unique ways of learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on your school district, both hybrid and 100% virtual learning have been presented as the new normal for the 2020/2021 school year. No one can tell you what is right for your family.
If in-person options are available in your school district, masks will be mandatory and social distancing will be implemented. Virtual learning won’t be new territory for parents and students, since schools switched to virtual learning in the spring of 2020 to finish out the 2019/2020 school year. However, if your children have the option to go back to school in person, social distancing protocols will be new territory. Either way, approaching a new school season when we’re still amidst a pandemic can induce stress and unease for many.
With all of this in mind, our clinicians here at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling in Ewing, NJ developed tips and strategies for parents as their children begin their back to school journeys:
Nathalie Edmond PsyD, RYT-500 | Founder and Director of MMC
Kristine Aguilar, MSW, LCSW
Taryn Chase, MA, LPC, LCADC, NCC
Lina Lewis-Arevalo MA, NCC, LPC, LCADC
Nadira Keaton, MS, LPC, LCADC, ACS, NCC
Marissa Mangual MS, LPC, NCC
Shashi Khanna, MSW, LCSW
Below is a video created by Dr. Nathalie Edmond for a local high school which addresses unique stressors we are experiencing as more discussions unfold about the Black Lives Matter movement and uncertainty persists around COVID-19. Tips for how we can reduce our vulnerability to stress are suggested. Perhaps you and your child can watch it together to come up with a self-care plan. If you need additional support throughout the year we are here for you. Learn more about our team here at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling in Ewing, NJ.
Other resources to support you:
Emily Suzuki, MA
Fear is a familiar presence in therapy. Therapy is an invitation to explore our growing edges, the places that feel uncomfortable and scary. Often, that’s where our work begins and where we find the greatest growth.
Exploring fear is in the very DNA of the therapeutic relationship. Fear comes up often in therapy, and is present even before we seek out and take what we sometimes perceive as a risk, in asking for support. When we begin working with a therapist, someone who is initially a complete stranger, we may at first be guarded and protective of opening up and being vulnerable. Naturally, a dose of fear shows up to help us assess whether or not the person and relationship is safe and can be trusted.
As we build a relationship of trust, in which the therapist offers the reassurance that their support is rooted in compassion, non-judgement, deep and active listening, clients begin to feel safer. Within the net of safety and trust, client and therapist can begin to explore the layers of fear that may be showing up, both in the therapeutic relationship and in the client’s life.
Fear is an essential survival response to physical and emotional danger. When we experience a threat, our brains are wired to act in self-protection. This process has served us as far back as our ancestors, who had to navigate much greater physical threats. Their survival level instincts turned on in the face of serious danger without so much of a thought, and their survival supported the evolution that led to our being. Check out video about our triune brain by Dr. Nathalie Edmond at the end.
In our modern world, we may not be dodging tigers or samurais like our ancestors, but none the less, there is plenty of ways to feel unsafe in our society. While fear is a universal human emotion, each individual’s experience of it and relationship with it varies greatly. The intersections of one’s social location, identification with race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability, shapes our experience and threat to one’s safety. For those whose identities intersect marginalized groups, fear is a lived experience in a wholly different way than it is for those in the dominant groups. The insidiousness of systemic racism and white supremacy, is a system of power that is rooted in fear, in which police brutality is an everyday danger to those who are BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color) and oppressed, and as a result creates and breeds more fear.
Fear shows up in so many ways, and can be a response to even small or imagined threats. Our nervous system kicks in with a fight-flight-or freeze response, always in service of our protection. However, this process can become so sensitive that it can be activated in moments when it’s not helpful to run, fight or freeze, and when turning towards and engaging whatever feels scary is more purposeful.
This is a place where we can develop a deeper understanding of our fear. Turning our attention inward and towards the fear, we can start to ask questions, and learn more about it. What is it truly afraid of? When is it showing up and getting in the way? How is it perpetuating old patterns and habits of not engaging with ourselves and others? In what ways might it be creating more pain and suffering?
When we feel safely held within a therapeutic relationship, one that is built on trust and safety, we can begin the process of inviting our fear into the room with us. Through noticing and gaining greater awareness of our fear (mindfulness), we can then practice disrupting the moments when fear attempts to turn us away from the work we need to do and instead, learn when it’s okay to trust, and bravely, lean into it.
Learn more about the therapists at Mindful and Multicultural Counseling can help you transform your fear. Read more about us here. Give us a call to begin the healing journey.
by Michelle Gerdes, RYT-200
I can’t remember exactly when I first heard the word “yoga” but it was probably sometime in college in the mid ‘90s. I wasn’t sure what it was all about but I recall being intrigued by something that seemed to be both a spiritual and physical practice. After buying “Yoga for Dummies” (yes, that’s an actual book) and flipping through it, the demands of school and life took over and my interest waned. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-30s that yoga called to me again, and this time I made room for it and its beautiful and bountiful gifts.
I was an editor in a busy and stressful New York City newsroom. I had just come out of my second postpartum depression, with the help of talk therapy and my incredibly supportive husband, and despite “having it all” on paper—prestigious job, nice house in the suburbs, two cars in the driveway, two healthy children, a loving partner—I felt as if something wasn’t right. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t living my best life. I was living someone else’s idea of what a good life should be.
Sound familiar? It’s reported that about one-third of Americans are experiencing some type of emotional disturbance right now—especially amid Covid-19: depression, anxiety, extreme stress, and with that related conditions like insomnia, feelings of isolation, digestion issues, lack of patience or joy.
At this point I knew I needed to make a change but I had absolutely no idea what that change would look like. And stepping out of my comfort zone felt too scary. It was around this time that I noticed a yoga studio just a few miles from my house. The funny thing is I had passed it hundreds of times and didn’t realize it was there.
I signed up and as I settled in for my first class the teacher did her best to make me feel welcomed, but I’m an anxious person and, to be honest, that first class was an interesting combination of uncomfortable and magical. As I moved my body and felt my breath, the teacher encouraged us to be present in the moment and listen to and respect signals from our bodies. Through this breath, movement and listening I began to catch a glimpse of the peace and joy I had been missing and a true connection with myself. Over time, the discomfort began to melt away as I learned ways to calm my anxiety, trust myself, and recognize and celebrate my innate worth. The changes I needed to make began to become clear. The fear of stepping into my idea of a fulfilling life began to melt away. I discovered myself. I was there all along, but the gifts of yoga allowed me to uncover her and celebrate her! This is yoga.
Simply put, yoga means to “yoke,” as in to join together. We join movement with breath, we join the head with heart, and we join the body with spirit. If you can breathe you can practice yoga. Yoga isn’t about being able to touch your toes or stand on your head. It’s about exploring and practicing its many tools—including breath, movement, and meditation—to help you befriend yourself, your emotions and your nervous system. It provides practices and guideposts to help you lead your best life.
If you are looking for ways to spend more time in a state of wellbeing, if you are seeking tools to help you cope with stress, if you want to map out a route to leading a more fulfilling life, I invite you to join me for the four-week series Yoga for Emotional Wellbeing sponsored by Mindful and Multicultural Counseling in Ewing, NJ. This class will provide a safe space to explore various yoga tools and use them to befriend and join together your unique body, mind and spirit. Find out more about yoga and mindfulness resources here. Check out the intro video below with Dr. Nathalie Edmond and Michelle Gerdes or sample a beginner class.
Mindful and Multicultural Counseling Clinical Team
Therapists and psychologists committed to improving well being and mindful living.