Snapshot: September 2021
Managing Stress and Adapting to Change

Getting Back to "Near Normal"

Every one of us has been on a significant journey since March 2020. For many, the stresses and losses felt during the pandemic will have lasting impacts, and ongoing restrictions continue to add a layer of stress. At the same time, hope is on our doorstep too - vaccination rates are up, reopening plans are getting closer to “near normal” in many areas, including schools, and many of us have discovered our own increased tolerance for setbacks, greater resilience and adaptability, and a larger awareness of community supports. It is important that we not only acknowledge the impact of the pandemic, but also the growth that has come through that experience and the hope and opportunity that a new school year can bring. 
Full Image

What is Stress? (and what it isn't)

Stress often gets a bad rap, but often that stems from a misunderstanding of both the purpose of stress and the ways to overcome it. Stress is our body's natural response to a challenge or stressor, and serves to gear us up to find a solution to the problem or perform the task that is the stressor. And, while there are ways to decrease stress in the moment (some of them are listed below), in most cases the best way to resolve stress for the long term is to solve the problem or perform the task, which then makes it less stressful the next time around. You'll be pleased to learn that it becomes a whole lot easier when we recognize the value in stress and think a little differently about stress when it comes on. Watch the video linked below to learn more.

The Varied Stress Responses to the Pandemic

Acknowledging that everyone will have had varied responses to the pandemic - some more acute, others more prolonged - is vital as we look for ways to reconnect and plan to support ourselves and others in getting back into pre-pandemic routines. For some, the health concerns of COVID have been the most significant stressor, for others the isolation of restrictive measures or worries about economic hardship have been most prominent. However, just as not all stressors impact us in the same way, "negative" emotions are not always unhealthy.

“It‘s a sign of good mental health when someone can experience a full range of emotions, and recognize, understand and manage how they feel—even when it‘s uncomfortable. Being able to make an emotional connection is also part of how we seek comfort and reassurance from people in our lives.” - Margaret Eaton, National CEO of CMHA

In much the same way, there can be healthy and less healthy ways of coping with that stress or worry. The article linked below gives a picture of the range of Canadian stress responses to the pandemic, and why it's important that we think about stress and how we manage it. 


Empathy and Connection

The pandemic has changed the way we interact with each other, the way we evaluate our safety, and for many it has led to losses of some kind. When supporting others through hard times, acknowledgement and connection are often the most important responses. 

Carry Forward the Positives

While acknowledging the losses and lasting harms of the pandemic, it is also important to carry forward the realizations we had and positive lifestyle changes many were able to make when life first slowed down under the PHO’s restrictions.

Stress Management Strategies

Stress Management in the "Near Normal" Period

For many of us, the uncertainty, restrictions, and health concerns of the past year and a half have increased stress. However, many of us are also more equipped to manage stress than we were before the pandemic. Below are some ways families and students can strengthen stress management.

Approach vs Avoidance Coping to Relieve Stress

In many ways, the pandemic restrictions may have made it easier to avoid doing things that challenge us. Sometimes, this kind of avoidance can increase stress, by:

- Allowing problems to grow
- Creating more anxiety
- Frustrating those who care about us
- Disappointing our own expectations

While there are times that avoiding something stressful can be helpful to improve our response to the stressor, often moving towards more active or "approach" coping methods is helpful.

Managing the Uncertainty of the Pandemic

It's important to understand what actions we can take to retain control in an uncertain world and mitigate the stress and anxiety that comes with uncertainty. Connection with others, self-care, limiting social media, supporting others, and practicing self-management strategies are all ways to help cope with uncertainty. 


How to Talk with Kids About Stress

Exploring how stress affects your child through judgement-free conversation can help children reframe stress to recognize the ways that certain kinds of stress can help us, as well as recognize what helps and what doesn't in stressful situations.

Resources to Help Manage Stress

Bounce Back

BounceBack® is a free skill-building program designed to help adults and youth 15+ manage low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress or worry. Delivered online or over the phone with a coach, you will get access to tools that will support you on your path to mental wellness.

Anxiety Canada

Stress can often result in anxiety. Anxiety Canada offers numerous strategies and resources to help yourself or others manage stress and anxiety.


Mindfulness for Teens

Being a teen can be really stressful! Mindfulness is a powerful way to handle stress, and live life more fully. Mindfulness is all about living fully in the present moment, without judgment, and with an attitude of kindness and curiosity. It’s about breathing, noticing what’s happening right here and now, sending a gentle smile to whatever you’re experiencing in this moment (whether it’s easy or difficult), and then letting it go. This website provides information, tools, and resources to help you get started.

Breathr App

Developed by the BC Children's Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre and BC Children's Centre for Mindfulness, along with young people, this free app provides ways to get started with mindfulness. 

Breathr provides opportunities for youth and young adults to try a variety of mindfulness practices, from guided meditations to simple practices that can be used anywhere. 

It also teaches interesting facts about the brain science behind those practices. For example, did you know that regularly practicing mindfulness can improve your relationships and connection with others? Or that it has been shown to change parts of the brain that improve memory and reduce stress? 

...And don't forget about the Mental Wellness Hub

This site compiles both local and online mental health and wellness resources for families and educators, and is updated monthly with new resources.
SD63's Mental Wellness Hub