In this series, Ms. Stachina discusses the concept of Self Care, sharing strategies and tips for focusing on your mental, physical, and emotional health. New videos are released each Friday during the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year.

View the Full Playing on  YouTube.

February 5: Determination

In recognition of National School Counseling Week, Ms. Stachina discusses determination as a form of self care.

I know you have faced many challenges this year as school moved online. You’ve missed out on time with friends and family, and many of your regular activities were postponed or cancelled altogether. Everything is different, and that is a lot to handle. Determination is an important skill, and it’s one we all have to practice regularly.

In Iron Man, Tony Stark said, “It’s an imperfect world, but it’s the only one we have.” Using determination when everything is different is hard. First, you have to accept that change has happened and will continue to happen. You just need to find your footing and do the next right thing. There are lots of tools to help you stay on target. Making lists, setting goals, and taking time to process your feelings can help you keep going and stay determined. You may not have an Iron Man suit, but you do have people you can rely on, like your school counselor!

Next week, we’ll discuss ways to take care of ourselves as we move into Blended Learning later this month. Stay tuned!

February 12: Getting Ready for Blended Learning

This week, we focus on ways students and teachers beginning Blended Learning on Tuesday can take care of themselves during this transition.

First, it’s important to remember when to report to school for in-person classes. Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students will be coming to the building for their arts classes one day each week, which fifth grade students will be learning in the building every weekday. Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students will still take their academic classes online.  

If you’re coming into school for your classes, be sure to complete the At-Home COVID-19 Symptom Screening Checklist with your parents every morning before getting on the bus or in the car. If you are having any of those symptoms )or have had close contact with someone who is), please stay home and do not come into school.  

We’re also adding other procedures to help keep everyone safe, including temperature checks for everyone— including staff and students—as they enter the building each morning. We are also encouraging social distancing of at least six feet throughout the building, with markings in the hallways and desk spacing in classrooms.  

Everyone in the building will be required to wear masks at all times during the school day and throughout the building. You’ll be able to remove your mask when eating or drinking, of course, but it must be worn properly at all other times. Remember, your mask needs to fit comfortably but firmly against your face and completely cover your nose and mouth.

If you start to feel sick during school, ask your teacher if you can see the nurse. And, as always, if you aren’t feeling well, stay home and rest. It’s important not to push yourself too hard when you’re sick, and staying home can help prevent others form getting sick, too.

That’s all for this week! Enjoy your long weekend, and we’ll see many of you back at school on Tuesday! Stay well!
February 26: Connecting Your Mental and Physical Health

This week, Ms. Stachina encourages us to think about how our mental and physical health relate to each other.

If you feel your mental health is deteriorating or affecting your physical health, you can consider treating yourself as though you were physically sick and take time to rest. For example, you could nap, drink lots of fluids, or catch up on movies or TV you’ve wanted to watch. The rest of the world? It can wait. When you’re not feeling well – physically or mentally – it’s important to take care of yourself.

Friday, March 5: Self Advocacy

This week, Ms. Stachina explains what self advocacy is and how it relates to self care. Self advocacy – looking out for yourself and making sure you have what you need to be successful – is very important for adults and students alike.

There are many steps to self advocacy. First, you need to believe in yourself and understand your rights. (Yes, students have rights even though they’re not adults yet, and it’s important to know what those rights are.) It’s also necessary to decide what you need, get the facts about what you need, and make a plan to get where you want to be. You’ll also need to gather support from those around you – parents, teachers, friends, and – yes – even your guidance counselor.  

It’s also important that you focus your efforts on what you want or need and communicate and express yourself clearly. It will be very difficult to advocate for your own needs if you are unclear about what you want to need to achieve. Assert yourself clearly so others know how to help you. You’ll also need to be firm and persistent about your needs. This doesn’t mean you can or should be nasty, but there’s nothing wrong with being persistent and not giving up until you have what you need to succeed.

Friday, September 18: What is Self Care?

Self care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to care for our mental, emotional, and physical health. Last spring, I talked a lot about stress management – what to do for yourself when you’re already stressed or anxious. Self care is something we should be doing every day in order to prevent ourselves from getting to the point of stress and anxiety.  

Self care is NOT something you should feel forced to do. It is something you should enjoy and look forward to each day. As we continue through the series, try incorporating these strategies into your routine and see how your days improve!

Next week, we will discuss strategies for starting your day in a positive way.  

Friday, September 25: How to Wake Up

This week, we’ll talk a bit about our first Self Care idea: creating your own morning routine.

One of the best things we can do for our selves is to wake up at a set time every day by setting our own alarm. When you wake up, use the first five minutes of your day to do something just for you. This could be journaling, meditating, reading a chapter from a book, or anything done just for you. This will help you start your day strong with lower anxiety and stress levels because it gives you something to look forward to as soon as you wake up. A big part of this is setting your own alarm, which allows you to take responsibility for starting your day.

Next week, we will talk about something I call a Mind Sweep. Stay tuned!

Friday, October 9: Self Care Questions

Self care questions are a great way to check in with yourself each and every day to make sure you are treating yourself well. Here are a few ideas for self care questions to think about daily.
  • What’s going on inside my body right now?
  • How am I feeling?
  • What do I need right now?
Asking yourself these three questions can help you refocus your emotions, needs, and wants and help you find a place that’s as stress-free as possible. This isn’t just for students; it’s great for anyone – adults included.

Be kind and compassionate to yourself. Love yourself. Make sure you are taking care of yourself. We can’t help or take care of others unless we are taking care of ourselves.

Have a great weekend!
December 5: Getting Enough Sleep
This week, we’ll discuss why it’s important to get enough sleep each and every night.

Middle school students should sleep between eight and twelve hours each night. That might sound like a lot of sleep, but it’s important for your mental and physical health and your success overall. It can be difficult to get this much sleep on a regular basis, especially if you have a lot of work to do or have after-school responsibilities, but it’s important to try to prioritize this as much as you can. If you don’t sleep well, you’ll lack energy and focus, and your whole day could suffer. Sleep is incredibly important, even during busy times like the upcoming holidays.

Next week, we’ll look at some relaxation exercises. Have a great weekend!
December 11: Relaxation Activities
There are many different relaxation activities you can try anytime during the day! These exercises are an excellent way to promote self care.

One technique to try is listening to calming music. This is something you can do from home while learning virtually and is a great choice while you do independent activities or homework. Another option to consider is setting aside time during the day for yoga or stretching. This can help get your blood flowing again if your energy starts to slump during the day. Meditation is also helpful, especially when you need to focus or are feeling overwhelmed. Finally, there are many different breathing exercises that can help you calm down and refocus when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.

These are just my top choices for relaxation activities. I encourage everyone to try any of these, especially during the busy holiday season. There’s so much going on in our country and our world right now, and I hope these suggestions help you find new ways to relax. Check out this week’s Virtual Learners’ Toolkit newsletter for helpful links and resources on these relaxation activities.

Next week, we’ll talk about ways to have fun, even during the pandemic. Stay safe, and have a great weekend!
January 15: Relaxing Activities Every Day

This week, we’ll be talking about the importance of finding ways to relax every day.

Think of some activities you enjoy doing – something that relaxes you and brings your stress and anxiety levels down. Can you find a way to incorporate one of these activities into your routine once each day? You don’t need to do the same thing every day. Maybe today you take a walk and tomorrow you spend 30 minutes practicing mindfulness. Other ideas might be working out, talking to friends and family, or even taking a bubble bath. There’s no wrong way to relax. Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to take time every day to wind down and relax, even on the craziest of days.  

Next week, we’ll talk more about fun, COVID-safe activities to try as a form of self care. Have a great weekend!
Friday, October 16: Talking to a Trusted Adult

Many times, it’s hard for students to open up, especially to adults. It’s easy to think that an adult can’t possibly know what you’re going through. In some cases, that may be true. Many adults may not have gone through what you are going through. Some may have, though, and may understand your challenges. Even if an adult doesn’t know exactly what you’re going through, they can be good listeners. Just asking a trusted adult to listen can help you feel less alone, isolated, or overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed is one of the worst feelings in the world, and talking to someone you trust can provide some relief when it’s difficult to find that relief on our own.  

Next week, we’ll talk about how to create a “No List” as a form of self care.
January 22: Fun Outdoor Activities

This week, we’ll talk about doing fun activities each day as a form of self care. This is obviously challenging given that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, so we will focus on safe, COFID-friendly activities you can do without being in a large group of people.

Generally speaking, outdoor activities are safer than being indoors when you’re with people outside your household. There are a number of recreational activities you can try, even in the winter, like running, walking, or hiking. Just make sure you’re dressed for the weather with a warm jacket, hat, gloves, and scarf, and don’t forget your mask. It’s very important to wear a mask, even when you’re outside, and especially if you may not be able to maintain social distancing. As long as conditions allow, you could also try rollerblading or biking, too.

There are many other fun winter recreational activities, like ice skating, snowtubing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, and skiing. We have many ski resorts within a short drive where you can try these activities. Just be sure to dress appropriately and wear your mask!

A few other options to consider are outdoor farmers’ markets, drive-in movies, or even outdoor dining at restaurants. You don’t have to stop socializing just because it’s cold outside. Just make for the weather, wear a mask when meeting up with anyone outside your household, and maintain healthy habits like handwashing and social distancing.

Next week, we’ll talk about that important of taking care of yourself medically.
December 18: Staying Socially Active During COVID-19
This week, we’ll talk about some fun and safe activities to try during the pandemic that can support your mental, emotional, and social health and well-being.

During the pandemic, it’s been very difficult to connect with others. This isn’t surprising, since we’re supposed to stay physically distant from each other. There are still a lot of fun activities you can try that will help you from going stir-crazy, especially as it gets colder.

First, you can try visiting your local downtown area to check out the holiday decorations. This is something you can do with family or friends. Just make sure you stay safe by wearing a mask and maintaining at least six feet of distance from anyone outside of your household. Getting outside is important, even when it’s cold.

Lights on the Parkway in Allentown is another great way to celebrate the season! The lights are beautiful, and you can enjoy the views with your family from the safety and comfort of your car.

If you’re getting together with people outside your household, outdoor activities are safer than indoor gatherings right now. There are many outdoor recreational activities you could try like ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, and snowtubing. Even though you’re outside, still be sure to follow CDC guidelines to stay as safe as possible.

If you prefer staying indoors, you might consider setting up a Zoom meeting with friends or family and creating your own gingerbread houses or baking cookies. While you won’t be in the same room, it’s still a good way to connect and spend time together.

Being socially active is an important part of maintaining your mental and emotional health, and getting outside is great for your physical health, too. What fun activities can you integrate into your winter break plans this year?

Tune in again next week for a surprise topic! Enjoy the snow!
January 29: Keeping Up with Medical Care

This week, our Self Care series focuses on taking care of your medical needs.

Many people have been putting off routine doctor’s appointments because of the pandemic. In some cases, we weren’t even allowed to make appointments for routine visits like physicals or check-ups at the dentist. Now there are many guidelines and mitigation measures in place, and doctor’s offices and medical facilities are probably some of the safest places you can be in public. Be sure to schedule your well visits with your pediatrician or dentist!

Advocating for your own medical care is a form of self care. It’s okay to remind your parents if you haven’t been to the doctor in a while or speak up if you aren’t feeling well.  

When you do go out to a medical appointment, be sure to keep up the mitigation strategies we hear about so often: wear a mask, keep a minimum six-foot distance from others, and wash your hands frequently. Many medical facilities are having you wait in your car until the doctor is ready to see you rather than sitting in a crowded waiting room. All in all, don’t let COVID-19 keep you from maintaining your health care.

While this series is primarily for students, this week’s topic is especially true for parents and other adults as well. Parents shouldn’t neglect their own medical care, either!

Next week’s topic is a surprise – stay tuned!  
Friday, October 23: Creating a No List

A “No List” is a list of things you don’t like or no longer want to do. Although we sometimes have to do things we don’t like, we can often find ourselves doing something out of obligation or because of some outside pressure. Some examples of these activities could include checking your email at night, attending parties or social events you don’t like, answering your phone during lunch or dinner, and going out with friends when you’re tired or need some time to yourself.  

It’s okay to say no to things you no longer find joy in doing. When I was younger, I was on my school’s swim team. For a while, I stayed on the team because I thought it was just something I was supposed to be doing. After a while, I realized that I no longer enjoyed being competitive, even though I still liked to swim. In a way, I put competitive swimming on my no list. It helped me stay in a healthier, more positive state of mind.

Next week, we’ll talk about spending time with people we love as a form of self care. Have a great day!

Friday, October 30
Friday, October 30: Spening Time with Loved Ones

This week, we’ll talk about how spending time with our loved ones can be a form of self care.

Many students may be thinking, I’m with my parents and siblings all the time at home!” There is a difference between being with someone and spending quality, focused time with them. Spending time with loved ones doesn’t have to be limited to your immediate family, either. It could include extended family—aunts, uncles, cousins—or even friends. Sometimes our close friends feel like family, and that’s okay, too. What’s important is spending uninterrupted time with our loved ones. You could try cooking a meal together, watching a movie, going to a festival (outdoors and socially distanced, of course), or anything you enjoy doing together. These types of activities give us something to look forward to, especially during uncertain times like these.

Next week, we’ll talk about nutrition, maintaining a healthy diet, and caring for our bodies as a form of self care.  
Friday, October 2: Mind Sweep

This week, we’ll talk a bit about our first Self Care idea: creating your own morning routine.

One of the best things we can do for our selves is to wake up at a set time every day by setting our own alarm. When you wake up, use the first five minutes of your day to do something just for you. This could be journaling, meditating, reading a chapter from a book, or anything done just for you. This will help you start your day strong with lower anxiety and stress levels because it gives you something to look forward to as soon as you wake up. A big part of this is setting your own alarm, which allows you to take responsibility for starting your day.

Next week, we will talk about something I call a Mind Sweep. Stay tuned!
Friday, November 6: Promoting a Nutritious & Healthy Diet

Eating healthy is very important because our bodies need energy to feel good and be functional. This, in turn, helps us to put our best foot forward and be as successful as we possibly can be. When we put food or drinks into our body that aren’t good for us, we are less likely to feel good, be productive, and work at our best. This is not treating yourself with kindness or in a healthy way. Even if eating junk food now and then doesn’t feel like a big deal at first, it can add up over time and have a real, negative impact on our bodies. In the long run, you could end up really hurting yourself.

A good way to promote nutrition in your life is by cooking your own meals. It may be easier to grab fast food or eat out, but you give up control of how your food is prepared. This can be quite dangerous. By cooking your own meals, you will know exactly what ingredients are being used and how it is prepared. There are an unlimited number of healthy recipes you can try out, whether you cook by yourself, with family, or even with friends. And when you do go out to eat, try out some of the healthier menu options.

Next week, we’ll learn more about self care through exercise. Have a great weekend!
January 8: Allowing Yourself to Laugh

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a restful and fun winter break!  

Today, I’d like to talk about a form of self care that is really very important, especially with everything that’s going in our world.  

It’s really important for us to find opportunities to laugh or smile every day. Sometimes, it can be hard to find way or reasons to laugh and smile. Even so, there are no many beautiful, little things that happen to us every single day.

Sometimes, if I’m feeling down, I’ll decide to create my own reason to laugh or smile. I might watch a TV show I know will make me laugh – something funny and light-hearted. I might also call a friend I know always makes me laugh, or I might just spend some quality time with my dog. We need to find those opportunities to laugh as a way of coping with everything that’s going on in our country and our world. Our lives are so different now than they were just a year ago, and the little things that make us smile can really help us find peace in the chaos.

Next week, we’ll work on finding one relaxing activity we can do every day. Enjoy your weekend!
Friday, March 12: Gratitude

In this week’s video, Ms. Stachina focuses on practicing gratitude.

Studies show that practicing gratitude can actually change the brain to focus on the positive and help you feel more at ease during times of stress and uncertainty. One helpful strategy for practicing gratitude is to think of three things for which you are thankful each day. Then, try sharing your list with a family member or friend!

Today, I’m grateful for blackberry scones (like the one I ate before making this video!). I’m thankful for my puppy, Theo. And, I am grateful for The Price is Right, which is on TV while I’m working. 

I challenge each of you to try listing three things for which you are grateful every day and sharing it with a friend or family member, too!  

Have a great weekend! We’ll see you again next week!

Friday, November 13: Exercise

This week, Ms. Stachina discusses how exercise is a beautiful way to care for our bodies!

Exercise is great for our emotional and mental health because it creates endorphins, which in turn help us feel positive and improve our mental health. Physical exercise also gets our blood flowing, helps clear our minds, and can improve our overall state of mind throughout the day.  

There are many different types of exercise programs you can choose from. It’s important to find one that works for you. Not everyone will have the same interest or enjoy the same sort of exercise. Some people prefer high-intensity cardio workouts, while others may prefer weight training or even stretching or meditation-focused workouts.

Remember, you don’t need a gym membership to exercise. There are lots of forms of exercise that are completely free—walking or running, for example. There are also many free exercise videos on YouTube, including barre, yoga, cardio, and more. However you choose to get moving, remember that exercise is a great way to care for and celebrate your body!

Next week, we’ll talk about sleep as a form of self care. Have a great weekend!

Friday, March 19: Having a Dedicated Workspace

This week, Ms. Stachina shares some tips about creating a dedicated workspace for yourself. This is especially relevant for everyone learning from home, but also applies to our students who have returned to some in-person classes.

Having a dedicated workspace signals to your brain that it’s time to work on assignments and that it’s time to end schoolwork when you leave this dedicated area. For our virtual learners, this could be a desk in your bedroom, the dining room table, or somewhere in the kitchen. This should be an area that’s just for schoolwork, if possible, and that you can leave when your work is done for the day. For students who are attending some in-person classes, your student desk in the classroom is your dedicated workspace.  

Your workspace doesn’t have to be an entire room. It can just be a specific area where your school materials and laptop computer stay. It’s important to think about creating a dedicated workspace at home, even if you are attending some in-person classes now. This will be even more important when we are able to resume our regular school schedule someday in the future. You’ll still need a place to do homework!

Overall, having a designated workspace can help you stay organized, know when it’s time to get down to business, and know when it’s time to take a break and have fun.  

Next week, we’ll talk about setting school or work hours for yourself.

Friday, March 26: Setting School Hours

In this video, Ms. Stachina focuses on the importance of setting aside time just for school or work.

What does it mean to set school hours? It’s easy to get distracted when school is still happening from home for many of us. School hours are those times what you will dedicate only to your assignments. Make sure that SnapChat, Fortnight, TikTok, Instagram and other similar apps aren’t open during this dedicate work time. Those can be some pretty intense distractions! Setting –and sticking to – your school hours can help remove distractions and keep you focused on what needs to get done, especially during your On Your Own classes.  

Next week, we’ll discuss how having a route and writing it down can help keep you organized!
Friday, April 9: Having a Routine and Writing It Down

This week, Ms. Stachina explains why it’s important to establish a daily routine AND write it down.

Whether you are coming into school a few days a week or learning entirely from home, it’s important to be consistent and do what you’re used to doing. Make your routine the same every day – getting up at a certain time, eating breakfast, showering, etc. If you have siblings at home, it’s a good idea to work together, brainstorm ideas, and create a morning routine that works for everyone, especially if you only have one bathroom in your home. Communication with your family about your morning routine is a really important part of making your routine sustainable and consistent. 

It’s also very important to know how and when to log into your online classes and submit assignments. If you have questions about this, be sure to talk to your teachers. They are always there to help you!

Once you have a routine established and written down, you’ll be better able to start your day successfully and continue that through the entire day, too. 

Next week, we’ll talk about taking breaks during the school day at home and in the school building.

Friday, April 16: Taking Breaks

This week, Ms. Stachina discusses why it’s essential to take breaks during the work or school day.

´╗┐Whether you’re learning virtually or in the school building, it’s incredibly important to step away from your work sometimes, especially during lunch or snacks. You can also try adding breaks for movement, mindfulness, or other healthy activities. Your brain needs time to relax and recharge! 

Virtual Learning students: make sure you are taking your lunch for yourself! Take this time to eat and do something else you enjoy. Don’t do schoolwork during this time if you can help it. 

Students attending classes at school: take your lunchtime to reconnect with your friends and focus on your nutrition and hydration.

If you can take two or three minutes from your day, it’s a great idea to try a mindfulness activity. We’ve talked about mindfulness exercises in the past, but you can also find many options online, too.

Friday, April 23: Ending Your School Day with Intention

This week, Ms. Stachina discusses how to end your school day with intention.

Ending the school day with intention means giving your brain some sort of signal that the work day is over. You could try stretching or running in place as a way of letting our mind know that you’re moving on from the day’s work. You’ll then be ready to spend the rest of the day with your family or doing things that aren’t school related. 

It’s really important to give your mind some down-time to recharge in the evenings between school days. If you can make this part of your daily routine, you’ll be more prepared for the next day’s challenges!


Friday, April 30: Checking In with a Positive Friend and Others

This week, Ms. Stachina reminds us about the importance of checking in with the positive people in our lives. 

It’s a really great idea to reach out to someone each day and have a conversation that’s not related to school at all. This can help you get anything that’s scrambling in your brain out into the open. It also helps to sometimes put your focus on something else so your mind isn’t always on one thing, like school. When it comes to talking to a positive friend or family member, you’re likely to have a great conversation and feel really good! It’s not that school isn’t important. It is! School does take up a lot of your time, though, and having a positive conversation outside of that context is a great way to take care of yourself and your mental health.

Friday, April 30

Friday, May 7: Practicing Healthy Activities

Teaming up with the people in your household to find new games and activities is a great form of self care! Think outside the box with your family )and friends!) to come up with a list of fun activities that everyone will be interested and invested in. Trying new things and being adventurous is great for your brain because it encourages you to think in new ways and challenge yourself. And doing this with others is just fun!

There are just a few more videos left before the end of the school year! I hope these videos have been helpful to you during this crazy school year. 

Friday, May 21: Making Your Summer Count

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be shifting the topic of our series a bit. As we move closer to the summer, I’d like to talk about how to have a successful summer break, what a successful summer break looks like, and some tips on how to make that happen. This week, we’ll focus on maintaining a daily schedule for yourself. 

During summer break, it can be easy to roll out of bed whenever you feel like it without any specific goals or plans for the day. That may be fine at first, but it will make for a difficult transition back into your school schedule in August. If you maintain a schedule for yourself, the transition back to school will be much easier. For example, you might try getting out of bed by 9:00am each day instead of 10 or 11. There’s a lot of opportunity over the summer, and keeping a schedule—even a loose schedule—will keep you in a productive groove during your break. 

Next week, we’ll discuss making plans and setting goals for your summer break.

Friday, May 28: Making Summer Plans

With only a few weeks left in the school year, Ms. Stachina is here with some ideas on how to make plans for your summer break! 

Summer is all about refreshing, recharging, getting ready for another school year, and especially taking care of yourself. It’s important to take some time for yourself and focus on going the things you want to do with as little stress as possible.

It’s a good idea to start planning your summer activities as early as possible and establish a daily routine. Keep yourself motivated by setting goals for yourself. The summer is a perfect time to focus your attention on achieving goals you might have been too busy for during the school year. You might even have a chance to see family or friends you haven’t seen in a while or because of the pandemic. Some of our eighth graders may even be looking into summer jobs, and that’s fantastic! Whatever you choose to do, make plans early and have fun!