The first month of the year can be overwhelming. The shorter days, colder weather, return to school and work can be a struggle and trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD’s). It’s important to recognise that this is a universal struggle, and we can take steps to combat what we are feeling and support ourselves and our students as we move into the new year. Here are some tips for prioritising positive mental health in your classroom this January.
Exercise is great for your mental health. Physical exercise raises serotonin levels, which are normally low when you have the winter blues. PE should be prioritised daily, whether the time is allocated in the school for a PE class, a short walk or students are actively encouraged to exercise after school. It will really benefit their mental health. Start a school initiative where students must log the hours of exercise they do for the month of January. Ask them to record how they are feeling at the return to school and then how they are feeling at the end of the month. Often, their feelings will reflect the actions they took and they will have a more positive mental attitude.
Nourish your Body
A big focus in January should be what students are eating. Eating healthy meals as well as drinking lots of water will help keep a clear mind. When students are feeling healthy, it will be easier for them to concentrate in class. Like the exercise activity mentioned above, ask students to keep a food journal. This again can help them pinpoint changes they might need to make to feel happier and healthier throughout January and continue it through the rest of the year.
Learn how to deal with Stress
Stress is a normal part of life for everyone. Everyone deals with stress differently and some of us need to be taught how to deal with it. In a classroom and with our students, we will see all different types of stress manifesting. Some students are stressed about things at home, others stressed about exams and we are all still stressed about Covid-19. At the beginning of your class for January, perhaps try a 1-minute de-stress strategy, this can be anything from a minute of breathing exercises or a quick chat to put students at ease.
Helping students set goals can be a big morale booster. Small, structured goals can break up the long month of January and give them something to work towards. Being clear about coursework goals can be beneficial as well. Outline to students what topics they will be covering each week will help exam students especially have structure to their weeks and know what they need to do to achieve their study goals.
Start Something New
The new year is a great time to start something new in the classroom. Students dread the return to the mundane course books and course work. Starting a new and exciting programme can be a great way to boost morale.
It’s essential that students know they can come and talk to us about any issues or concerns they have. Communicate this to students so they know you’re always there to listen. You could even appoint a designated teacher for each year group who can support any students struggling. Considering all these factors will help our students see out the last of the winter period in a much more positive light and help them maintain a positive mental attitude.
We know in Ireland there is a lot of uncertainty around schools opening and what the next few months will look like for us and our students. The above points might seem irrelevant or unimportant when we are so unsure about the future, but maintaining some kind of normalcy and prioritising mental health is more important than ever for our young people.
The Magical Leaders Programme
Zeeko’s Magical Leaders programme is a peer-led programme that helps children develop 21st century and transversal skills. The programme is engaging, fun, and interactive! The Magical Leaders programme is fully developed, with detailed lesson plans and instruction manuals included.
Funded by Enterprise Ireland, the programme is currently free to schools in Ireland. For more information visit our website, or get in touch with the Zeeko Team today. And make sure you share the programme with your child's teacher. Hopefully, your children will have the opportunity to meet the Magical Leaders in the New Year!