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Episode 28: Staying Healthy: Coping Skills During COVID-19 Crisis

As we all navigate these challenging times with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to know that students and families are not alone, even though we all may be spending the majority of time at home.

On this episode of the Supercast, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey talks to Jordan School District Health and Wellness Specialist McKinley Withers about how families can find comfort and cope in this time of uncertainty.


Audio Transcription

Anthony Godfrey:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. And this is a little bit of a different Supercast because I'm actually super casting from the basement of my house. I'm in the room where we normally keep the wrapping paper and the irony board, and a few other things to make sure that I'm maintaining social distancing, but still not being socially isolated. I've missed being able to connect through the podcast and I'm glad to be back doing it. And I'm really happy to have McKinley weathers with us for the super cast today. He's a friend of the show, a fan favorite always feels good to talk with you, and it's good to see you there in your basement bunker McKinley.

Speaker 2:
Thanks for having me. I'm really grateful for another opportunity to be, to be on the super cast. I love this show and you do a good job.

Anthony Godfrey:
We're doing this through Google Hangouts and I see the cement walls and the pipes above you. It really is a basement bunker.

Speaker 2:
It is. Yeah. It's the only place where I can be where where kids won't be trying to, to, to have their say on the super cast. So

Anthony Godfrey:
I'd be open to having some weather's children on the city. That could be very interesting. I could ask them lots of questions about

Speaker 2:
You. Yeah, that's true. Well, you look,

Anthony Godfrey:
You look well-protected down there, so I'm glad, I'm glad you're safe. Yep. Staying safe. I just want to start off by expressing gratitude to the employees, students, parents who have jumped in to really make the best of a difficult situation. Everybody experiences this in a different way. Everyone's impacted in a different way, and I'm just grateful to be associated with all of these great employees and parents and kids who have stayed focused on education, despite the difficult circumstances. And like I said, varied circumstances, everyone experiences this at a different level and in a different way. And I've just been extremely impressed with the the way this has brought out the best in people.

Speaker 2:
Yeah. And just to add to that it's, it's interesting because there are actually researchers that study, you know, disasters times of crisis, and it's actually more so normal that people reach out, they connect, they, they give so more than they did before a crisis or a disaster or something like COVID-19 like we're facing right now. So I think just knowing that our, our norm as humans is not to pillage and to, you know, fight and to be angry and to fend for ourselves. But our, our norm is actually to reach out and connect and to take care of each other. So that can reduce some of the panic that we might feel, you know, thinking the world is falling apart. We've been through as humans, so many disasters and our norm as humans is to come out more connected, better off and taking care of each other. So I think that's, that's the positive outlook of what, of what this could lead to, you know, so

Anthony Godfrey:
The, over the years you have emphasized the need for gratitude. And it seems that right now is a really important time to be focused on gratitude. Regardless of our circumstances, there are things to be grateful for, and that is important for our own health and wellness to express that as well as the health and wellness of those who would be on the receiving end of those expressions of appreciation.

Speaker 2:
Yes, absolutely. And one thing just to, just to kind of compare or to make clear what kind of gratitude we're talking about here, because it's okay to be frustrated and you know, to, to feel feelings of anxiety or a little bit of nervousness about what's going on, but what usually causes our deepest frustration or unhappiness or discontent, whatever you want to call it is that we have expectations that really in a lot of ways may not be able to be met. So rather than because right now, I mean, there are a lot of expectations that have been frustrated. I mean, some people have expected to be at school right now or expect to be at a school dance or, you know expecting certain things about their circumstance, but as often as we can, it's best for us to exchange expectations for appreciation.

Speaker 2:
So even though, you know, things are hard and we can acknowledge that it's difficult. Changing those that mind frame from, you know, frustration at the things that aren't just looking at, the things that are and, and appreciating the, a little bit of extra time you might have around your parents or, or children, or the time at home, you know there are, there are many things that we can acknowledge that have gone, right. And in order to do that, we have to first let go of some of those expectations that we're hanging on to. So tightly

Anthony Godfrey:
Exchanging expectations for appreciation. I think that's really important concept. It makes a lot of sense. It's probably easier said than done. Yes. If we really focus on that and are deliberate and intentional about shifting our thinking in that way, that's something that can really make a difference. Yeah. What are some of the things that you would recommend we do to really talk about how we're feeling about the Corona virus and particularly for parents talking with kids about Corona virus and how, how do, how do we manage that and how do we have that conversation

Speaker 2:
As with, as with any hard topic? I think that it's, it's important to be open and honest to acknowledge whatever feelings do exist, not to shut them down or minimize and and say, well, it's not that bad. You know, I, I have it worse or I had it worse when I was your age, but just to openly listen. But then that openness and honesty, it's probably going to depend on the age of a child. I, so I have a four year old who has been confused about why we can't go to the jump place or to grandpa and grandma's anymore. And, but now he has an understanding whenever, you know, something comes up and he asks, why can't we, we just talk about the germ that's going around and we're trying to stay safe and trying to keep the people that we care about safe. So but that's, that's an honest explanation that a four year old can understand. We're not saying we're not making up stories. We're saying there's a germ, people are concerned about it, and we're just trying to stay safe, you know, for for an adolescent, you can be a lot more straight forward about it, but it's, it's important not to pretend and, you know, just, just allow the actual conversation to happen. So and being direct as honest as, as, as they will understand.

Anthony Godfrey:
So genuine, honest, direct conversation, that's calibrated for the age of the child, right? Yeah. Yeah. I, I sympathize with the jump place. The jump place is going to be that much sweeter when we can all return back to the respective jump places and resume some normalcy McKinley. I understand you've been updating your website, the health and wellness website. First of all, tell us how we can access that.

Speaker 2:
It's just wellness dot Jordan, district.org. You can also get to it from the main Jordan district page, just click on the health and wellness, but

Anthony Godfrey:
You have a list of home wellness ideas during the Corona virus pandemic.

Speaker 2:
Yes. And we also have several of the counselors, social workers, psychologists, principals, teachers have already shared with students, a lot of good tips and strategies. But this is just one more resource that's out there. So there are some, some at-home lessons on wellness that you can do with your, with your, with your children or students. A lot of content on happiness and wellbeing. And then also kind of if, if you're at home and your child has been struggling with anxiety maybe depression there are specific pages that address those kinds of concerns.

Anthony Godfrey:
Tell us, walk us through some of the home wellness tips that you have on your website to help us manage all of this.

Speaker 2:
So I would suggest that one of the biggest considerations for families would be keeping a routine. But when I say keeping a routine, that's, this is a new routine. You know, people always say the hardest part of going to the gym is showing up. And that's true because it's a routine that you're just starting. So when we were all sent home to do online school we didn't have a routine. We didn't have a normal, you know, that helped us feel comfortable and confident and successful in that new setting. So still showering, still getting ready and dressed you know, eating at scheduled times. Those are all things that help us feel comfortable and adjust to our new setting. So if we can do our best as a family to, to take, to make scheduled time for things, you know, when you're working on school and when you aren't, because when you're kind of turned loose to work on it whenever, and you eat whenever and you sleep until whenever, then every single step of your day is a decision that you didn't have to make before. And that's exhausting. So your brain power is, is depleted. The more decisions you have to make the, the more tired your decision-making brain gets. I don't know if that made sense, but

Anthony Godfrey:
It does because I, the first time I heard the term decision fatigue, it makes so much sense to me because there's a point where at the end of the day I get home and, you know, we had plans to go out to eat or whatever. And I don't want to be a part of that decision thinking through so many things throughout the day. I don't care where we go. I just don't want to decide. And I can absolutely see that not having a routine would create this decision fatigue and that it would multiply and compound over time. And it may be difficult to put your finger on that and say, why do I feel exhausted? Why is this so taxing and the way you described it makes a lot of sense.

Speaker 2:
Yeah. So if a, if a student can already decide, you know, even setting an alarm or a timer or something, I'm going to do school for one hour, you know, at this time I'm going to wake up at this time. Those are decisions that you can make ahead of time. That won't, I mean, you're going to default to what's easiest. So if you're fighting against the urge to play video games, or just to watch something on Netflix or do schoolwork, and that's a decision you're constantly deciding between Netflix games, those are going to win every time, unless you can make it a decision that you don't make, if that makes sense. So when, when you go to school, that's a decision you don't have to make anymore because you're stuck in a classroom. And the teacher's going to tell you, this is what you're doing, but as often as you can taking away those little decisions that will make you less productive or less focused, that's a, that's a really important step.

Anthony Godfrey:
And if you don't concentrate the time that you're working or working on school, then it can feel like it's all day. And it's all you're doing because it's not focused within a particular slot of time. I have a ten-year-old, who's doing school from home, of course, like everyone else. And it is interesting to watch he's good at school. He likes school, but adjusting to a new routine was very difficult the first few days. And now he has his routine down. We have some visual markers on the, on the wall. There's a sign for every subject that he needs to be studying. And he moves that on the wall when he's done with it. And the routine has made a huge difference.

Speaker 2:
Yeah. And, and that's a really good example because that helps your child feel more confident and capable to like having things on a to-do list that we actually are able to check off is much more satisfying than work on school sometimes, you know, when you feel like it. I think, and the other thing to really keep in mind about routines is we actually adjust and adapt really well. So once that routine is set, once at home learning is the normal, it's gonna feel so much more, you know, I mean, we've only been doing this for two weeks now, so it's normal to be struggling with it still, but in a couple of weeks, if you can keep to a routine, it just feels like every other day,

Anthony Godfrey:
We're going to take a quick break. But when we come back with McKinley weathers, health and wellness specialist for Jordan school district, we'll talk about how to maintain good relationships in close quarters. How we all get along during this pandemic.

Speaker 4:
Hello, my name is Steven Hall. I'm director of the Jordan education foundation. Have you ever experienced what it's like to surprise a teacher in the classroom with school supplies, books, or a classroom grant? Have you seen students all smiles because you carry enough to give them a backpack, a winter coat weekend, food packs, or a free holiday shopping spree. It's something we see all the time, because it is exactly what Jordan education foundation does. The foundation exists due to the generosity of people who care about kids, if you would like to be a part of supporting students and teachers in the classroom, contact Jordan education foundation, and start making a difference today, you can find us@jordaneducationfoundation.org,

Anthony Godfrey:
Back from the break. And I wanted to talk with McKinley about breaks. We need to take breaks from, from the routine. And maybe even from the people we love that we're very close to now that we find ourselves staying at home as much as costs.

Speaker 2:
Yeah. I think that it's still, it's good to have our, our social connection, but it's also good to take our time to continue our personal development. I think humans really need all of us need to feel like we are able to make a meaningful contribution. And, and I think that it's really good to have your alone time where you're I have this little saying, I don't remember where I got it from, but trying to create rather than consume. So if we have a chance to turn it on, you know, what, what we would like to contribute or create that part of our brains rather than our breaks, if our breaks are always, consumer-based like, we're just watching something or listening to something it's good to have some creative giving time. And that can help us take a break from just being around each other.

Speaker 2:
If we can find, you know, creating maybe a new meal, trying to create something new, trying a new instrument, or, you know, building something that creation is really important for a person to feel a sense of accomplishment. So we got to find ways to do that and have it be a little bit individual, and we can create together, you know, having a task to do with people rather than just being around each other. 24 seven can help concentrate our energy away from maybe getting a little bit flustered or angry. If, if we're just any, each other's space all the time,

Anthony Godfrey:
What other tips do you have from the website to help manage this situation? So

Speaker 2:
I have several ideas for people. One, one thing that I emphasize often I guess in some other podcasts and there will be some content on the website related to this, but it's really important also to pick your battles between what you can and can't control. Because there are a lot of elements of this situation that are outside of our control. And the more time we spend trying to fix the things that we can't means, less time making the things that we can control better. I think that it's important to make that distinction, you know, th these are things outside of my control. You can't control those things, but you can control how it will affect you personally. You can control what you will do with your time at home. And in order to make that pivot that and like we talked about earlier, the exchanging expectations for appreciation in order to make that shift, we have to first acknowledge I can't control these things.

Speaker 2:
So I'm going to stop worrying about them, and it's okay to check in every once in a while. But I would say one of the biggest distractions right now would be reading about every single update of the Corona virus, you know, checking the news constantly because that will, that's something that it won't affect whether or not you, or your loved ones will catch it, just knowing the latest news, what will affect that is, do you wash your hands? Are you keeping the social distancing recommendations? Are you you know, taking care of those, you and your neighbors, there are so many things you can do, but checking the news constantly, you know, I would even, I would limit yourself to once or twice a day as a family say, you know, news is off until this time. Maybe we, you can check it once, but if you're constantly monitoring that and reading the latest it can make, it'll just make you more anxious. Cause there's not much you can do about it.

Anthony Godfrey:
You know, I've, I've found that to be true just about the news in general, but it's particularly true now with the Corona virus and so many fast developments I have at various times had news alerts turned on on my phone. And so from sometimes even three or four different news sources, I'm getting an alert from the app. I'm getting a text message. I'm getting all of these updates that are constantly coming right to my shirt pocket. And it's a constant interruption throughout the day. And I start to feel like I'm going to miss out. If I'm not constantly checking, I won't know what's going on. And I read an article and it was actually an article from one of the newspapers that I had alerts from. I turned, I turned off the alerts and I just checked at, at, at set times during the day. And I found that there wasn't anything that had happened that I missed out on. Now these last few weeks, it feels very different from that, that, that things are happening all the time, but I have personally experienced how much better it feels to catch up on the news at specific times of the day, rather than whatever it happens to, to come to your phone. What are, what other tips do you have for dealing with stress and anxiety?

Speaker 2:
So there are I, I've added a couple of links on the website as well for this, for what we call social and emotional learning. We've got there, a lot of emotion, regulation strategies out there, you know, meditation, mindfulness, there are apps like the calm app, which actually has some free online meditations you can use. But one of the key factors to emotional wellness still is related to our physical wellness. So if we're not sleeping, we're, you know, distracting ourselves so that we're not actually getting enough sleep, we're not going to have that emotional resilience. And then also getting outside as often as we can still maintaining all of the social distancing expectations, but getting outside, getting some sunlight, getting enough sleep. And then really one of the most important factors, again for wellness is still social connection. So I know at the, at the introduction you said, you know, I'm social distancing, but I'm not socially isolating. And I think that's a really important thing. So whatever ways we can try and connect in in this unique circumstance, through technology, writing letters to someone, if you can't FaceTime them, you know, try and write some letters of gratitude, you know, this week to a couple of people that may not be in your life as often.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thank you and McKinley. It's always great to talk with you. You always have great advice. You're kind of the Dr. Oz of the superhero. I just, just don't go off on your own super cast or your own mind counts.

Speaker 2:
Yeah, no, definitely not.

Anthony Godfrey:
It always, it always feels good to talk with you. I appreciate your advice. Tell us the website one more time.

Speaker 2:
So it's wellness dot Jordan, district.org, and there's plenty of tips there.

Anthony Godfrey:
And I know that counselors, I know that counselors from schools are also reaching out to students. They have disappeared. There's no need to chance for a physical, a in-person meeting, but there is certainly a lot of opportunity for interaction. So if anybody needs help, anyone needs, please reach out to the school, email, the principal, email counselors, and school psychologists. They are eager to help. Right? Exactly. Yeah. It's been great having him a kid late. It's always nice to have you on the podcast. Thanks for listening and be safe and be well out there everyone. And remember education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see you out there. [inaudible].

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