St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton experts offer tips to tackle back-to-school fears in the age of COVID-19

Community Sep 04, 2020 by Mike Pearson Ancaster News

As students, parents and teachers battle fears over COVID-19, mental wellness is top of mind. Whether you’re preparing for in-person classes or remote learning, anxiety can be overwhelming.

For tips and coping strategies, we reached out to experts at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

Dr. Karen Rowa is a psychologist and clinical director of the St. Joseph’s Healthcare Anxiety Treatment and Research Clinic. Kyle Harber, a youth mentor at the Youth Wellness Centre, (YWC), is working with post-secondary students grappling with the uncertainties of remote learning.

COPING WITH FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN

Rowa says uncertainty is one of the biggest triggers of worry and anxiety. By planning ahead, you can minimize some of that stress.

“Uncertainty and constant change are triggers for people with anxiety,” says Rowa. “The best way to support ourselves, and the people around us, is to make an effort to take control over the things we have control over and try to tolerate the pieces that are out of our hands.”

Do your preparation, like reading the communication from the schools to get a sense of the plan. It’s also important not to get too caught up in the plan but to stay apprised of the most recent information.

“We can prepare kids to get them comfortable wearing and using a mask, making them aware of distancing and handwashing,” says Rowa.

Talk to your kids to help them reduce their anxiety. Remind them about some of the more balanced perspectives on what the school year will look like and what the risk actually is.

Be aware that the plan could change at a moment’s notice.

“It's good to be informed but it’s also good to put a limit on that and accept that we really won’t know until we actually get there. And even when we get there, things may change,” says Rowa. “So just be OK with the last little bits of uncertainty and really work on coping with those unknown pieces.”

SELF-HELP

Rowa recommends seeking out self-help information from a reputable online source. Explore general stress management techniques like keeping up with exercise, maintaining good sleep patterns and getting back to a good school routine. Make sure children are getting lots of fresh air.

FIND A BALANCE

It’s OK for parents to feel anxious, says Rowa. But it’s important to be open about anxiety and talk about how you’re coping with it.

Parents and students should acknowledge the anxiety but also talk about it in a coping framework.

“Try to remember that we don’t have a lot of cases in Hamilton, the school board’s trying their best to keep everybody safe and we’ve got a great health-care system in Hamilton,” says Rowa. “It’s always about finding the balance in our thinking. When we’re nervous we tend to get those blinders on and we tend to see only the worst outcomes.”

TIPS FOR TEACHERS

As Rowa points out, the pandemic is placing much stress on teachers.

“They’re doing their best to try and soldier through,” says Rowa.

Like parents, many of the teachers Rowa works with are facing elevated worries about risk, including whether they’ll contract COVID-19 and unknowingly spread it to others.

Often, says Rowa, teachers may take on responsibility for things they can’t control.

“I try to work with them to ensure they’re sharing (responsibility) appropriately and only taking on what’s really theirs.”

Teachers can be responsible by reporting any symptoms they have and calling in sick when feeling ill. Teachers can also be very vigilant about their own hygiene, wear a mask and maintain an appropriate distance from others.

Teachers should remember, however, that policy-makers, governments and parents share in the responsibility of keeping everyone safe.

“It’s a responsibility shared among many of us and if we’re all doing our very best, and somebody gets COVID, that sort of thing can happen and it doesn’t have to be someone’s fault,” says Rowa.

RESPECT OTHER'S DECISIONS

Rowa is a parent to two children heading back to classes in grades 7 and 10 and says she feels as confident as she can be with the information available.

“I’m weighing out that nothing’s perfect and there’s no zero risk. From my perspective I’ve kind of waited out and I feel confident giving this a try.”

Rowa said whether parents choose classroom learning or remote education, it’s important to respect other’s decisions.

“Because what’s good for me is not necessarily good for a neighbour or somebody else in another city. “It’s important to be tolerant of other people’s decision-making.”

POST-SECONDARY STRATEGIES

Heading into a school year where most post-secondary course work will be delivered virtually, Harber is seeing more students battling anxiety and depression or coping with concerns about mental wellness.

Going to college or university is normally a social time, but COVID-19 is putting a damper on most frosh week activities.

Students should validate their feelings and remind themselves they’re not supposed to feel normal right now.

“A lot of the anxiety is we just don’t know what to expect,” says Harber. “For a lot of people, they haven’t been doing a lot of interacting in person.”

Harber recommends sticking to a routine for each school day.

• Get out of bed, shower and get dressed.

• Eat breakfast and prepare yourself to go to class, even if you’re not leaving home.

• Maintain a dedicated at-home workspace, other than your bed.

• Go outside for some exercise and try to remain social, whether you’re meeting virtually with friends or interacting with family members inside your bubble.

“We still need to find time to be social,” says Harber.

Keeping in mind that we all have differing levels of risk we’re willing to accept, try getting creative and meet with friends in a park or outdoor space where physical distancing is easily accommodated.

DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP

If things get to a point where anxiety and depression are too much to bear, don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Reach out to the Youth Wellness Centre or your doctor.

The YWC offers programming for youth aged 17-25 to address a range of concerns, including anxiety and depression. Patients can be self-referred. See http://reachouthamilton.ca/.

St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton experts offer tips to tackle back-to-school fears in the age of COVID-19

Community Sep 04, 2020 by Mike Pearson Ancaster News

As students, parents and teachers battle fears over COVID-19, mental wellness is top of mind. Whether you’re preparing for in-person classes or remote learning, anxiety can be overwhelming.

For tips and coping strategies, we reached out to experts at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

Dr. Karen Rowa is a psychologist and clinical director of the St. Joseph’s Healthcare Anxiety Treatment and Research Clinic. Kyle Harber, a youth mentor at the Youth Wellness Centre, (YWC), is working with post-secondary students grappling with the uncertainties of remote learning.

COPING WITH FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN

Related Content

Rowa says uncertainty is one of the biggest triggers of worry and anxiety. By planning ahead, you can minimize some of that stress.

“Uncertainty and constant change are triggers for people with anxiety,” says Rowa. “The best way to support ourselves, and the people around us, is to make an effort to take control over the things we have control over and try to tolerate the pieces that are out of our hands.”

Do your preparation, like reading the communication from the schools to get a sense of the plan. It’s also important not to get too caught up in the plan but to stay apprised of the most recent information.

“We can prepare kids to get them comfortable wearing and using a mask, making them aware of distancing and handwashing,” says Rowa.

Talk to your kids to help them reduce their anxiety. Remind them about some of the more balanced perspectives on what the school year will look like and what the risk actually is.

Be aware that the plan could change at a moment’s notice.

“It's good to be informed but it’s also good to put a limit on that and accept that we really won’t know until we actually get there. And even when we get there, things may change,” says Rowa. “So just be OK with the last little bits of uncertainty and really work on coping with those unknown pieces.”

SELF-HELP

Rowa recommends seeking out self-help information from a reputable online source. Explore general stress management techniques like keeping up with exercise, maintaining good sleep patterns and getting back to a good school routine. Make sure children are getting lots of fresh air.

FIND A BALANCE

It’s OK for parents to feel anxious, says Rowa. But it’s important to be open about anxiety and talk about how you’re coping with it.

Parents and students should acknowledge the anxiety but also talk about it in a coping framework.

“Try to remember that we don’t have a lot of cases in Hamilton, the school board’s trying their best to keep everybody safe and we’ve got a great health-care system in Hamilton,” says Rowa. “It’s always about finding the balance in our thinking. When we’re nervous we tend to get those blinders on and we tend to see only the worst outcomes.”

TIPS FOR TEACHERS

As Rowa points out, the pandemic is placing much stress on teachers.

“They’re doing their best to try and soldier through,” says Rowa.

Like parents, many of the teachers Rowa works with are facing elevated worries about risk, including whether they’ll contract COVID-19 and unknowingly spread it to others.

Often, says Rowa, teachers may take on responsibility for things they can’t control.

“I try to work with them to ensure they’re sharing (responsibility) appropriately and only taking on what’s really theirs.”

Teachers can be responsible by reporting any symptoms they have and calling in sick when feeling ill. Teachers can also be very vigilant about their own hygiene, wear a mask and maintain an appropriate distance from others.

Teachers should remember, however, that policy-makers, governments and parents share in the responsibility of keeping everyone safe.

“It’s a responsibility shared among many of us and if we’re all doing our very best, and somebody gets COVID, that sort of thing can happen and it doesn’t have to be someone’s fault,” says Rowa.

RESPECT OTHER'S DECISIONS

Rowa is a parent to two children heading back to classes in grades 7 and 10 and says she feels as confident as she can be with the information available.

“I’m weighing out that nothing’s perfect and there’s no zero risk. From my perspective I’ve kind of waited out and I feel confident giving this a try.”

Rowa said whether parents choose classroom learning or remote education, it’s important to respect other’s decisions.

“Because what’s good for me is not necessarily good for a neighbour or somebody else in another city. “It’s important to be tolerant of other people’s decision-making.”

POST-SECONDARY STRATEGIES

Heading into a school year where most post-secondary course work will be delivered virtually, Harber is seeing more students battling anxiety and depression or coping with concerns about mental wellness.

Going to college or university is normally a social time, but COVID-19 is putting a damper on most frosh week activities.

Students should validate their feelings and remind themselves they’re not supposed to feel normal right now.

“A lot of the anxiety is we just don’t know what to expect,” says Harber. “For a lot of people, they haven’t been doing a lot of interacting in person.”

Harber recommends sticking to a routine for each school day.

• Get out of bed, shower and get dressed.

• Eat breakfast and prepare yourself to go to class, even if you’re not leaving home.

• Maintain a dedicated at-home workspace, other than your bed.

• Go outside for some exercise and try to remain social, whether you’re meeting virtually with friends or interacting with family members inside your bubble.

“We still need to find time to be social,” says Harber.

Keeping in mind that we all have differing levels of risk we’re willing to accept, try getting creative and meet with friends in a park or outdoor space where physical distancing is easily accommodated.

DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP

If things get to a point where anxiety and depression are too much to bear, don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Reach out to the Youth Wellness Centre or your doctor.

The YWC offers programming for youth aged 17-25 to address a range of concerns, including anxiety and depression. Patients can be self-referred. See http://reachouthamilton.ca/.

St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton experts offer tips to tackle back-to-school fears in the age of COVID-19

Community Sep 04, 2020 by Mike Pearson Ancaster News

As students, parents and teachers battle fears over COVID-19, mental wellness is top of mind. Whether you’re preparing for in-person classes or remote learning, anxiety can be overwhelming.

For tips and coping strategies, we reached out to experts at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

Dr. Karen Rowa is a psychologist and clinical director of the St. Joseph’s Healthcare Anxiety Treatment and Research Clinic. Kyle Harber, a youth mentor at the Youth Wellness Centre, (YWC), is working with post-secondary students grappling with the uncertainties of remote learning.

COPING WITH FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN

Related Content

Rowa says uncertainty is one of the biggest triggers of worry and anxiety. By planning ahead, you can minimize some of that stress.

“Uncertainty and constant change are triggers for people with anxiety,” says Rowa. “The best way to support ourselves, and the people around us, is to make an effort to take control over the things we have control over and try to tolerate the pieces that are out of our hands.”

Do your preparation, like reading the communication from the schools to get a sense of the plan. It’s also important not to get too caught up in the plan but to stay apprised of the most recent information.

“We can prepare kids to get them comfortable wearing and using a mask, making them aware of distancing and handwashing,” says Rowa.

Talk to your kids to help them reduce their anxiety. Remind them about some of the more balanced perspectives on what the school year will look like and what the risk actually is.

Be aware that the plan could change at a moment’s notice.

“It's good to be informed but it’s also good to put a limit on that and accept that we really won’t know until we actually get there. And even when we get there, things may change,” says Rowa. “So just be OK with the last little bits of uncertainty and really work on coping with those unknown pieces.”

SELF-HELP

Rowa recommends seeking out self-help information from a reputable online source. Explore general stress management techniques like keeping up with exercise, maintaining good sleep patterns and getting back to a good school routine. Make sure children are getting lots of fresh air.

FIND A BALANCE

It’s OK for parents to feel anxious, says Rowa. But it’s important to be open about anxiety and talk about how you’re coping with it.

Parents and students should acknowledge the anxiety but also talk about it in a coping framework.

“Try to remember that we don’t have a lot of cases in Hamilton, the school board’s trying their best to keep everybody safe and we’ve got a great health-care system in Hamilton,” says Rowa. “It’s always about finding the balance in our thinking. When we’re nervous we tend to get those blinders on and we tend to see only the worst outcomes.”

TIPS FOR TEACHERS

As Rowa points out, the pandemic is placing much stress on teachers.

“They’re doing their best to try and soldier through,” says Rowa.

Like parents, many of the teachers Rowa works with are facing elevated worries about risk, including whether they’ll contract COVID-19 and unknowingly spread it to others.

Often, says Rowa, teachers may take on responsibility for things they can’t control.

“I try to work with them to ensure they’re sharing (responsibility) appropriately and only taking on what’s really theirs.”

Teachers can be responsible by reporting any symptoms they have and calling in sick when feeling ill. Teachers can also be very vigilant about their own hygiene, wear a mask and maintain an appropriate distance from others.

Teachers should remember, however, that policy-makers, governments and parents share in the responsibility of keeping everyone safe.

“It’s a responsibility shared among many of us and if we’re all doing our very best, and somebody gets COVID, that sort of thing can happen and it doesn’t have to be someone’s fault,” says Rowa.

RESPECT OTHER'S DECISIONS

Rowa is a parent to two children heading back to classes in grades 7 and 10 and says she feels as confident as she can be with the information available.

“I’m weighing out that nothing’s perfect and there’s no zero risk. From my perspective I’ve kind of waited out and I feel confident giving this a try.”

Rowa said whether parents choose classroom learning or remote education, it’s important to respect other’s decisions.

“Because what’s good for me is not necessarily good for a neighbour or somebody else in another city. “It’s important to be tolerant of other people’s decision-making.”

POST-SECONDARY STRATEGIES

Heading into a school year where most post-secondary course work will be delivered virtually, Harber is seeing more students battling anxiety and depression or coping with concerns about mental wellness.

Going to college or university is normally a social time, but COVID-19 is putting a damper on most frosh week activities.

Students should validate their feelings and remind themselves they’re not supposed to feel normal right now.

“A lot of the anxiety is we just don’t know what to expect,” says Harber. “For a lot of people, they haven’t been doing a lot of interacting in person.”

Harber recommends sticking to a routine for each school day.

• Get out of bed, shower and get dressed.

• Eat breakfast and prepare yourself to go to class, even if you’re not leaving home.

• Maintain a dedicated at-home workspace, other than your bed.

• Go outside for some exercise and try to remain social, whether you’re meeting virtually with friends or interacting with family members inside your bubble.

“We still need to find time to be social,” says Harber.

Keeping in mind that we all have differing levels of risk we’re willing to accept, try getting creative and meet with friends in a park or outdoor space where physical distancing is easily accommodated.

DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP

If things get to a point where anxiety and depression are too much to bear, don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Reach out to the Youth Wellness Centre or your doctor.

The YWC offers programming for youth aged 17-25 to address a range of concerns, including anxiety and depression. Patients can be self-referred. See http://reachouthamilton.ca/.