Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) starts today, and it’s all online! Each day will have its own theme, with corresponding activities, organized by AISB’s counselors.

“Now more than ever, our coping strategies are being put to the test,” says 6th and 7th grade counselor, Stephanie Finnell. “It is so important that we remain gentle with ourselves and continue to reach out for help when we need it.”

It’s also important to remember that we’re all in this together. Hopefully some of the activities listed below will help with this. Here’s a quick overview of the week:

Monday: Connection

One of the most negative side effects of social distancing and distance learning is feelings of isolation and loneliness. Humans are social beings, and, as 8th and 9th grade counselor Michaela Young explains, “face-to-face contact, hearing people’s tone of voice, and physical touch and contact releases feel-good endorphins and oxytocin in our brains that help us to calm down.” Without this, our “fear response” is activated, and we can experience adjustment difficulties as well as feelings of grief and loss.

The good news is that through technology, we can still easily connect with each other without being physically close. To share how you’re staying connected, or to read how others are connecting with loved ones, visit this Padlet link.

Tuesday: Managing Stress

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that “people who may respond more strongly to stress of a crisis include older people who are at higher risk for COVID-19, people who are helping with the response to COVID-19, like doctors and other health care providers, people who have mental health conditions including problems with substance use, and children and teens.”

Young says that to combat some of this stress, it’s important “to focus your attention on things that are in your control and try to accept/let go of the things that are outside of your control.” This could be as simple as making a routine and trying your best to stick to it. To see how others are coping with stress, visit Tuesday’s Padlet link.

Wednesday: Sleep

Objectively, it might seem like we could easily get more sleep during this time of distance learning: we start classes and hour later, there’s no commute. However, with so many changes to our schedules and lives, plus the stress, many of us are getting much less. The National Sleep Foundation reports that focusing on sleeping well offers “tremendous benefits” like promoting an effective immune system, improving emotional wellness and mental health, stress management, and our ability to deal with depression and anxiety.

Related Article: 5 Ways to get a Better Night’s Sleep

On Wednesday, make sure to join the Padlet discussion to see what’s helping other AISB students get a good night’s rest during this time.

Thursday: Gratitude

Recent research suggests that gratitude may be the key to happiness. In fact, Harvard Health reports that small acts of gratitude (writing a thank you note, keeping a gratitude journal, praying, meditating, or even mentally counting your blessings) “helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

On Thursday, make sure to start your day off by writing or saying three things you’re grateful for. Then, head over to the counselor’s Gratitude Padlet to see what other students are thankful for as well.

Friday: Creative Activities

Now, more than ever, we have the time to start new hobbies or find creative ways to entertain ourselves. Have you started writing poems? Are you learning to bake? Have you already completed a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle?

The counselors are putting together a Padlet to celebrate all the cool things students are doing during their “flex time.” Make sure to visit on Friday and add to the list.

Related Article: Following Your Passions: Why is it Important?

Tell us: How are you staying mentally healthy during this strange time? Comment below to start a conversation, and be sure to check out the official Mental Health Awareness Week website for more information and resources.