Wellness week was last week, which served as a wake-up call to the importance of wellness, especially now, while we are at home adjusting to a routine we’ve never experienced previously. “As few as 10 years ago, the idea of having a Wellness Center at a school was not on the radar of anyone. As we looked at our situation, I felt that having a Wellness Center as a hub of this work on our campus was a priority,” Mr. Crawford, West Ranch High School principal, stated in an interview with The Paw Print.
“What is happening currently has us isolated from the previously normal daily interactions,” explained Mrs. Phillips, West Ranch’s Wellness Center Coordinator and school social worker. “Sure, we see people everyday on screen and we converse with teachers in class discussion, but there is not the informal “chatter” of a classroom settling in or the possibility of leaning over to your elbow partner for some clarification or a ‘how’s it going?’ It is an isolating feeling.”
Mr. Crawford explained that “We are coming up on the year anniversary of the last day students were on campus in a “normal” school atmosphere, March 13, 2020. In the past months we have seen a rise in students suffering from anxiety and depression,” Crawford said. “I believe this situation has fostered feelings of isolation, loneliness, and for some a feeling that this will never end. It is in our human nature to want to be communal, to want to be with other people. This opportunity has been taken away. Many of the fun experiences of high school have been taken away, games, concerts, plays, rallys, competitions of all kinds, and just seeing other friends and acquaintances at brunch and lunch. Plus you also have the fear of COVID itself. All of this has taken its toll on students and staff.”
Mrs. Phillips recognizes that asking for help isn’t a natural reflex.
“I would love for everyone to embrace the idea that asking for support is not a sign of weakness, but a proactive show of strength to become the best person you can be,” she said. There is a stigma around asking for help. Why? The Wildcat Wellness Center is a safe, confidential space for you to talk to someone whose sole job is finding ways to help yourself feel better.”
Additionally, Wellness Week opens opportunities for students to more easily ask for help when they need to.
The West Ranch Wellness Center, with ASB, planned a “Wildcat Wellness Week” from Jan.19-22. With the theme being the movie “Inside Out,” the Wellness Center was able to collaborate with the Bring Change 2 Mind (BC2M) organization to help students focus on personal well-being. Some of the activities planned for each day of the week were as follows:
Tuesday: Students picked up self-care kits from school after signing up through a Google Form.
Wednesday: During lunch, from 1:15-1:45 pm, students attended a yoga session led by instructor Danica.
Thursday: For half an hour from 1:15-1:45 pm, instructor Josh led a mindfulness workshop for wildcats.
Friday: On the last day of this very special week, BC2M and ASB provided multiple activities like bullet journaling with Sanli and Emma. In addition, there was a Netflix watch party for the movie “Inside Out,” as well as a wear-green spirit day, as green is a mental health awareness color.
“While planning these events, we had the students and staff in mind. We tried to come up with the best activities to help people unwind and relax during these tough times,” says Bryce Blaugrund, a sophomore ASB member. “COVID has affected a lot of people both physically and mentally, so many of us may be feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or overall mentally unhealthy. We wanted to hold a week to help students with these problems and to help them relax.” ASB is using their platform to promote mental health, creating a safer and more welcoming environment for students to get the help they desire.
Wellness Week was also an opportunity to learn about wellness and healthy mentality. For instance, West Ranch TV viewers learned about different mental health disorders during a segment that staff members created.
Mrs. Phillips suggests three steps to keep your mental health in check on a daily basis: “The blessing and the curse of maintaining mental health is that it is so individual. The first step would be to recognize the signs of being out of balance emotionally. Can you feel it in your stomach? Do you get headaches? Are you losing motivation? Are things that were super important to you now taking a back seat? Do you lack energy? Somehow you need to make that physical connection. That means you need to be present, in the moment, with yourself every day to check in on that emotional physical relationship.”
She goes on to discuss how students can be present through meditation, which does not have to be complicated. One may meditate in any way that feels right for them: special pillows and candles are required only if it feels natural to the individual to use them. After recognizing imbalances in your mental health, “The second step might be to find what is currently missing that brings you out of your inner thoughts, so running, knitting, reading, volunteering, or whatever it is that makes you happy. The third step is to give yourself permission to seek out the support of someone who can listen, support and guide. It isn’t easy and it isn’t always completely finished. Sometimes it is like– recognize, activate your strategy, talk to someone, repeat. And that’s okay.”
Mental wellness has become a high priority for West Ranch and schools across the district. ASB and BC2M’s Wellness Week reminds us that people care about our mental health, even when we’re away from campus. “It is important to do all we can to be there for each other and to help others, and ourselves stay positive and know that soon this will be over. It is cliche but true, it will take all of us working together to get through this, and WE WILL,” Mr. Crawford says. Cats, stay safe and reach out to those around you for help if needed!
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24 hours: 1-800-273-8255
contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741
The Trevor Project, 24 hours: 1-866-488-7386
If this is an emergency, please contact 911 immediately.
Wellness Warm Line Request:
Google Forms: Sign-in
Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.
After 3:00 p.m., contact CA Peer-Run Warm-Line- 855-845-7415