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Mind the Gap: Back to School - Reflecting - Module 3

Mind the Gap. Returning to school and mental health after Covid-19

Module 3 - REFLECTING

Having looked at the importance of Relationships and Routines, this final module of our Mind The Gap: Back To School series focuses on Reflections. Watch, read and do these activities to find out how positive self-reflection is a coping skill, which helps kids to be mentally healthy, successful learners.

Watch

Our video clips this week help parents and teachers to understand the importance of self-reflection as a coping skill, as well as a way of engaging our brains to find opportunities for learning and growth.

Introduction to Reflecting

Sarah Creegan explains why self-reflection is a great coping skill for children to have. She's been filming in and around her house for 10 weeks now, so we can only apologise for her garden-related gags!

Using Reflections as Learning Opportunities

Taking time to reflect on situations is a chance to engage our brains to think of learning opportunities. Take this challenge with Victoria Maitland to reflect on the last couple of months and shape your story.

Find out more about the Laughology Mind the Gap mental health virtual workshop ...

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Reading time approx. 5 minutes. Are you looking for ways to help the kids in your class regain their independence as learners? Teaching explicit metacognitive skills (thinking about thinking) can be lots of fun - especially when it involves making paper aeroplanes! Read these top tips to find out more.

TOP TIPS ON REFLECTION FOR SCHOOL STAFF

The most successful learners are reflective; they think about their thinking (metacognition) and they learn from their mistakes. If things go wrong, they don’t keep doing what they’ve always done.

Because that would be the definition of madness, right?

In this think piece on The Recovery Curriculum, Barry Carpenter and Matthew Carpenter recommend that, in order to reskill and rebuild pupils’ confidence as learners, it is vital that we make metacognitive skills explicit.

At Laughology, we have been running training sessions which look at the importance of self-reflection and metacognition skills – in adults and in children - for a long time now. Here are some ideas on how teachers can do this in their classrooms:

Developing Planning Skills

  • Ask the children, if they’re faced with a new challenge, what helps them to learn? Make a big list of their answers. For example, they might say that they’d ask questions, they’d search the internet for ideas, they’d work with others.
  • Then give out sheets of A4 paper and ask them to make a paper aeroplane. The chances are that everyone will just dive in, without asking how long they have, what else they can use. That’s because, when we feel slightly under pressure (even though it’s a fun activity), all of our great learning habits are forgotten.
  • We wrack our brains for the one and only way that we know to make a paper aeroplane. Do I fold it here? Or here?
  • Once everyone has their finished product, have a go at flying them. But then remind the kids of their earlier list. Did anyone check the rules? Did anyone Google ‘best paper aeroplane’? Did anyone choose to work in a team?
  • Now, repeat the exercise, but explain that they have 10 minutes to plan what they’re going to do. Answer questions to clarify the task.
  • Notice the differences in behaviours when they get making again. There’s likely to be far more chatting, collaboration and creative thinking.
  • Their second plane may or may not go further than the first, but the aim is to draw out what they’ve learnt about the importance of planning.

Reflecting On Progress

When children are learning, it helps if they understand the stage that they’re at and the emotions they’re feeling. This Laughology slide explains ‘The Learning Pit’.

learning pit

Ask the children questions to help them think about their thinking:

  • Did you jump voluntarily into the pit – in which case are you more motivated?
  • Were you nudged or pushed in by your teacher? If so, how do you feel? What can you do to feel more confident?
  • When you thought you’d nearly got out of the pit, but then slipped back a bit because your theory didn’t work, how resilient were you? What if that happens again?

Evaluating

When things go well (and, sometimes, when they don’t), we tend to move onto the next thing, without any reflection.

  • Build time into lessons for the children to think about their learning, their thinking and their emotions.
  • Challenge any ‘wonky’, irrational thinking or catastrophising. If they think they’ll never be able to do something, then the chances are they won’t. (See our Growth Mindset module to help kids develop a can-do attitude)
  • Ask them What Went Well (WWW)?
  • Get them to suggest ways that it could have been even better (EBI).

Last, but not least, remember it’s going to take time. It’ll need the right mix of nurturing and support for kids to become independent learners once more.

We know school staff will get it right though – because you’re brilliant!

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Reading time approx. 5 minutes. It's been a strange few months, eh! But, hopefully, we are all slowly starting to plan for the future. In order to do that, it will really help your child to reflect on their lockdown time using positive, forward thinking language. Here's how you can help them...

TOP TIPS ON REFLECTION FOR PARENTS

Being able to reflect is a life skill, which helps us to cope. In the busy world we used to live in, many of us charged from one event to the next, without giving them a second thought.

For example, have you ever done or said something that you weren’t especially proud of? Of course you have, we all have! But, if we don’t spend time reflecting on our thoughts, actions and behaviours, guess what happens?

We do it again!

As adults, we can help children learn to self-reflect and continually develop. Here’s how:

Having Time To Reflect

  • During lockdown, many of us have valued things that, previously, we may have taken for granted. Such as food, our health, family and friends. To support children’s mental health and wellbeing, build in daily opportunities to say what they’re most grateful for. Maybe just before bedtime?
  • Watch The Great Realisation. Help your child to understand that they can flip their thinking from negative to positive through the way that they look at things and the language they use. (See our FLIP It Thinking module for more advice) 
  • Think about the big things that your family have noticed over the past few weeks. Bluer, less polluted skies? More wildlife? Chat about the things that you want to do to help the environment, going forward. Achieving a family challenge, such as ditching the car and cycling to visit grandparents instead, will support everyone’s physical and mental health. And contribute to the greater good.

Knowing When To Reflect

For a lot of people, including children, self-confidence may have taken a bit of a knock and anxiety levels have been raised because of COVID-19. If your child is upset or having a meltdown, now is not the time to try to talk to them – their brain will be in fight, flight or freeze mode.

Now is the time to give them a hug, if that’s what they want. Or to give them time and a safe space to calm down. 

As life begins to return to normal, use Steph Caswell’s blog: Strategies to Develop Your Child's Self-Confidence to help reduce your child’s worries and support them to regain their confidence.

Using Positive Language

  • Help your child to understand that sometimes we find it tricky to cope, which is normal and okay. Explain that we can all learn to cope better and help our bodies to release helpful chemicals, by doing things such as negotiating, exercising and having a giggle. 
  • Research shows that many of us don’t want our ‘new normal’ to be exactly the same as life before Coronavirus. As a family, take some time to reflect on the past 3 months. Ask What Went Well (WWW); what do we want to keep? Family walks, weekly baking?  
  • Until now, we weren’t used to spending so much time together so, in all families, there will be things that didn’t go as well! Don’t focus on the negatives of these situations, try to use positive language and think of solutions instead. For example, ‘So that everyone’s happy and we don’t have rows, it would be Even Better If (EBI) we all walk away.’

Then, when a similar situation arises, guess what will (hopefully) happen?

 

Do

Over the past few months, your child will probably have shown coping skills that you didn't even know they had! So, what are they most proud of? Which strategies would they like to use more in the future? And how can they get even better at coping? Have a look at Ed's Thunk and the downloadable activities so that you can help them to reflect.

Ed’s Thunk: Proud in Lockdown

We’ve all had to deal with a lot of changes to our lives during lockdown and many people have adapted so well to this strange new life. So this week, I want to ask you what are you most proud of yourself for during lockdown? It would be anything you’ve achieved, anything you’ve helped others with, any positive changes that you’ve made to your lives. Also, what are you most proud of others for doing? It could be people you know, people you live with, or indeed people you’ve heard about who have gone above and beyond to do amazing things during lockdown.

Download...

DOWNLOADABLE LESSON PLAN FOR TEACHERS - Understanding Our Brains.

As we go back to school, we will need to put just as much emphasis on children's wellbeing as we are on filling academic gaps. Help the kids in your class develop better coping skills, by teaching them about the brain. This lesson is for Year 5, but can be adapted to other age groups.

DOWNLOADABLE ACTIVITY FOR PARENTS - Making a Coping Plan

This activity idea can be adapted for any age group, but is especially relevant for Year 6 kids, who now have their sights set on secondary school. Help them to reflect on all of the great coping skills that they now have and how they will use them in the future.

Download...

Coming up...

That's all folks, for our Mind The Gap: Back To School series. 

All in all, during lockdown, we've created 4 FLIP It Thinking modules, 3 Home Schooling modules, as well as the Relationships, Routines and Reflections Mental Health and Wellbeing modules. Phew!

We hope they've been helpful and, if you'd like to know any more, just drop our Education Team an email: sarah@laughology.co.uk

 

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Mind the Gap: Back to Work - What We Can Do - Module 3

Mind the Gap. Returning to work and mental health after Covid-19

Module 3 - What We Can Do

These learning bursts will give you practical ways to support mental health for individuals, teams and organisations. They will look at preventative approaches, as well as how to support people with mental health challenges to feel safe and in control at work, both in the virtual working space and face-to-face. Supporting everyone to live and work in a way that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing.

Watch

In these learning bursts, Kerry Leigh and Dave Keeling explain the mental health continuum model, while Stephanie Davies talks about how to help yourself be mentally confident through challenging times.

The Mental Health Continuum

An introduction to the mental health continuum model from Kerry and Dave that helps us to understand we are ALL on the mental health spectrum.

Building Mental Confidence

This video shares four top tips for building self confidence.

Find out more about the Laughology Mind the Gap mental health virtual workshop ...

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Reading time approximately 5 mins. Laura has some suggestions to help you manage your own mental health, as well as that of others.

Laugh to Stay Mentally Strong

What can you do to help maintain mental health? Well, laughing is a good start…

Mental ill health is not to be laughed at, but laughing with someone who’s experiencing it or at something without causing offence, can be extremely beneficial.

How can laughing help you? In many ways...

Laughing:

  • Releases endorphins which relax us and make us feel more positive  
  • Helps protect us from colds and viruses (good news right now) by increasing levels of the antibody ‘Immunoglobulin A’ 
  • Helps boost our immunity
  • Decreases blood pressure and heart rate when done regularly
  • Enhances problem solving skills
  • Helps reduce the levels of stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine 
  • …and much more 

How can you make yourself laugh when you really don’t feel like it?

By keeping a humour diary.

Whatever makes you laugh (your humour) is completely unique to you. Identifying and writing down what makes you laugh encourages your brain to seek out funny situations. When you’re down, pick up your humour diary, remind yourself of those entertaining moments and have a chuckle!

Everything we do, say, think and feel creates pathways in our brain. The more we do something, the stronger the pathway becomes. By repeating this process we can shape and grow our humour and develop a new, positive habit. 

How can humour help people cope with depression? 

Humour enables us to look at a situation from an objective perspective, diffusing intense emotions. That mixed with the endorphin hit of laughter can interrupt our automatic response, e.g., stress, and help us to think differently.

However, it’s important to highlight that all emotions are important and have a role to play. It’s when we get stuck and feel depressed or anxious continuously that we need to use these tools to boost our resilience.

How else can I manage my anxiety and depression?

  1. Exercise – also releases endorphins and helps with cognitive function amongst many other things. 
  2. Diet – Food impacts mood. Sugar is the enemy. Have treats but limit your intake. Indulge in veggies, pulses, nuts, legumes and fruit.
  3. Curb drinking – alcohol exacerbates depression. It reduces serotonin (another neurotransmitter that helps us feel positive). Whilst it initially alleviates mood, this is temporary, and the after effects are much worse.
  4. Screen time – Without doubt technology has helped during lockdown, but too much of it is detrimental to both physical and mental health. Ensure you take regular breaks, giving your focus to other activities.
  5. Manage your social media use – Carefully select who you follow. Stick to friends who make you happy and are first on your post lockdown visiting list.  Limit your news intake if needs be and weed out the fake news!  Finally, post responsibly. You also have the power to impact someone else’s mood too, how do you want them to feel?
  6. Get 8 hours sleep a night – lack of sleep negatively affects mood and memory.  It also impairs the ability of the emotional and rational parts of the brain to communicate effectively, so if you’re sleep deprived it’s harder to reconcile your situation. 
  7. Establish a routine – Especially with regards to sleep, as going to bed and getting up at the same time, improves circadian rhythms (sleeping cycles). Plan things that might alleviate your feelings such as meditation, a walk outside, any activity that has brought you pleasure in the past, reading your humour diary or watching a funny show!
  8. Be kind – Kindness stimulates the aforementioned serotonin and lights up the brain’s pleasure and reward system. There are many benefits to kindness. Most importantly, it increases happiness and decreases stress, depression and anxiety. 

Knowing what to do is much easier than doing what you know, especially when you’re not mentally fit. Take it one step at a time and see what works for you. 

Where to start? Having that laugh.

 

 

Do

This cheat sheet shares the mental health continuum - an easy to use model that explores ill mental health through to positive wellbeing, with top tips on how to prevent ill mental health and protect mental wellness.

INTRO TO CHEAT SHEET:

This cheat sheet shares the mental health continuum - an easy to use model that explores ill mental health through to positive wellbeing, with top tips on how to prevent ill mental health and protect mental wellness.

INTRO TO BUZZ SESSION:

This buzz session will help you understand how to manage emotions and thoughts, and how to develop more helpful thoughts for greater mental health.

Download Buzz Session - Emotions and Thoughts.pdf

Coming up...

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be re-sharing our most popular content for supporting people back to work and school. Keep an eye out for our next free Zoom sessions and sign up to the newsletter so you don’t miss out.

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Mental health at school - module 2 - routines

Mind the Gap. Returning to school and mental health after Covid-19

Module 2 - ROUTINES

Our brains love patterns and routines - they help to keep us safe. How can parents and school staff work together to help children re-establish some helpful habits from before lockdown? And which new routines will need to be established, to keep them safe and to get them learning effectively again, as part of a larger group?

Watch

However determined we were to maintain children's routines when home-schooling began, chances are that a few things have gone out of the window. Like getting dressed every day! Have a look at these clips to find out how parents and teachers can help kids get back on track.

Introduction to Routines

Sarah Creegan introduces Module 2 of our Mind The Gap: Back To School series, looking at the importance of routines on children's mental health, wellbeing and learning.

Back to School Routines

With a return to the school on the cards next week, the struggle of getting back into a routine might seem particularly daunting. However, the more we can help ourselves this week the less chance there is of a shock to the system. Victoria shares three tips on how to make the transition seem easier.

Find out more about the Laughology Mind the Gap mental health virtual workshop ...

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Reading time approx. 5 minutes. With one half term left of the academic year, what should schools be focussing on as the children gradually return? Here, Sarah Creegan gives school staff some top tips to get children back into those great learning habits.

TOP TIPS FOR ROUTINES - FOR SCHOOL STAFF

The vast majority of school staff are chomping at the bit to get kids back and learning – when it’s safe to do so. To support children’s good mental health and wellbeing during this transition stage, adults need to balance their keenness with caution.

Heads, teachers and teaching assistants need to remind themselves, for some time to come, of the unprecedented situation we’ve been in, the trauma that some families have experienced and what’s been happening, in homes, over the past few months:

  • During challenging times, children’s behaviours often regress. This means that parents may have had to do a lot more ‘hand-holding’ and less ‘tough love’ than they ordinarily would.
  • Unless they are trained themselves, parents are unlikely to have the questioning skills of teachers. How many will have had the knowledge or patience to go back a few steps, extend or tease out their thinking?
  • Understandably, parents have felt anxious and more protective than ever. They may have ensured their child got things right and felt good, rather than setting challenges to stretch and develop them.

It’s going to be really important in the first few weeks back, to carefully and kindly re-establish some of the great practice which, we know, helps children to become successful learners - and which teachers do routinely.

Promoting independence

Almost every classroom will have something similar to the 5 Bs model. To develop independence, children should use their Brain, Book, the Boards and their Buddy, before asking the Boss.

When they reopen, some schools are using loose leaf paper, so kids may not be able to flick back through their exercise books to remind themselves of a concept. And, with social distancing, it won’t be as easy to discreetly ask friends or the teacher for help.

Develop an enquiring culture, especially if you don’t usually teach this group of children:

  • Explain that there’s no such thing as a silly question – all questions are helpful.
  • Encourage debate by asking if they want to agree, build on or challenge their classmate’s thinking?
  • Make sure your working walls are like having another adult in the room.
  • Set up team activities to get them thinking again and to put a competitive edge back in. During lockdown, we’ve all done online or virtual quizzes and games which can easily be transferred into the classroom.

Developing a Growth Mindset

More than ever, children are going to need to be encouraged to develop a Growth Mindset (search ‘Carol Dweck’).

To start to shift them from their comfort zone, set up fun activities. For example, try asking them to draw the teacher’s face without looking at their paper. Then talk about how that felt.

  • Was anyone’s first thought, ‘Oh no! I can’t draw?’ If so, what can they do to improve? Here, stress the importance of being resilient, practising and having a ‘can-do’ attitude.
  • Were they happier when they knew that no-one else was allowed to look at the paper, meaning everyone else's was likely to be a bit rubbish? Ask the children if they think it helps to compare ourselves to other people? How about trying to set personal bests and targets instead? If they do want to draw as well as a classmate, what can they learn from them?
  • How easy was it not to peep? Explain that it felt uncomfortable because we’re so used to looking at the paper when we draw. If we always feel comfortable then we aren’t going to learn as much. With the portrait today, what was the worst that happened? The teacher’s nose was as big as her head, and she didn’t have any teeth. But she’s not offended – honest!

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Reading time approx. 5 minutes. To have a happy and successful transition back to school, there are lots of ways that parents can support their children - particularly around their routines. Whether it's getting back into the swing of old habits or doing some things a bit differently.

TOP TIPS FOR ROUTINES - FOR PARENTS

Life is slowly returning to ‘normal’ and schools are making plans to reopen for more pupils soon. In order to maintain kids’ good mental health and wellbeing during the transition period, and beyond:

  • Now’s the time to ensure they understand why routines have been so different over the past few weeks.
  • They need to know what the adults are going to do to help them to be school-ready again.
  • They also need to be able to tell the difference, once more, between school and home.

Establishing new routines

It’s likely that, for the rest of the academic year at least, school life will be very different for the children. They may be at school for part of the week, in smaller groups and possibly not with their usual teacher. Once you know the plans:

  • Create a weekly timetable with your child, so that they know what’s happening and when. Make the distinction between school days, home learning days and family days clear.
  • If they haven’t got their own teacher when they return, make sure they understand that he/she still very much cares about them, they’ll still be setting the work and checking in on them, from a distance.
  • Chat through all of the exciting opportunities of having someone else teach them for a few weeks – maybe it’s a teacher they’ve had before? Or one their brother or sister knows well?
  • Talk about their new class, the friends that they have in it and all of the learning and safety benefits of being in a smaller ‘bubble’.

Rethinking previous routines

  • If they’re sad that certain people aren’t in their bubble, make sure that they understand how they can still be friends across the playground. While We Can't Hug is a great film, which will help young children to reconnect from a distance.
  • If you usually walk to or from school with another family, then start doing this again. Maybe they can’t zoom off on their scooters together, but they can chat over the road from one pavement to another.
  • And, until we can safely be in each other’s houses again, make sure they’re getting plenty of virtual play dates. Adults’ and children’s conversations might have been a bit ‘samey’ during lockdown but, once they’re back at school, there should be lots more to chat about.

Re-establishing old, helpful routines

Pre-Corona, we all know how tricky it was to return to school or work after a couple of weeks’ holiday. To support children to readjust:

  • Help them to be in the right frame of mind for school days. The night before, lay out their uniform and get them to help pack their lunchbox (with at least one treat).
  • Reintroduce a consistent bedtime and early morning routine during the week.
  • Encourage greater independence – in learning and self-care skills. For example, remind them of the hand washing rules and make sure that, out of habit, they are singing Happy Birthday twice while washing.
  • Help them to start concentrating for longer periods of time by themselves. A sand timer is a good visual cue for younger children. Older children could set an alarm, though it’s better if it’s not on their phone.
  • Gradually start to remove that mortarboard and cape. It suited you – it really did! But, hopefully, you won’t be needing it for too much longer.

Do

You've watched the clips and read the tips. Now it's time to start supporting children to develop their coping skills, as well as helping them establish a growth mindset when faced with new challenges . Here are some quick and easy activities to help you.

Ed’s Thunk: What would you like to do that you can’t do yet, and how are you going to go about doing that?

We’re thinking about growth mindset this week, so let’s look at what our ambitions are. What do we really want to be able to do? What are the steps that we need to take in order to achieve our ambitions?

Download...

DOWNLOADABLE LESSON PLAN FOR TEACHERS - Developing a Growth Mindset

Why not get the children to make their own coping cube in their first week back at school? With lots of positive phrases, it'll remind them of the importance of having a Growth Mindset and using positive, 'can-do' language.

Coming up...

Coming up next week we look into practical ways that workplaces can continue the conversation around mental health, as well as activities to support mental wellbeing.

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Mind the Gap: Back to Work - Looking After Yourself and Others - Module 2

Mind the Gap. Returning to work and mental health after Covid-19

Module 2 - Looking After Yourself and Others

These learning bursts will give you practical ways to support mental health for individuals, teams and organisations. They will look at preventative approaches, as well as how to support people with mental health challenges to feel safe and in control at work, both in the virtual working space and face-to-face. Supporting everyone to live and work in a way that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing.

Watch

If you’re struggling to know how to support someone with their mental health, Kerry Leigh and Dave Keeling give you a simple strategy to use whenever you might need to.

Spot, Support and Signpost

Don’t know where to start with mental health? Here’s a simple and colourful Laughology introduction to the three S’s – SPOT, SUPPORT, SIGNPOST for better mental health.

Find out more about the Laughology Mind the Gap mental health virtual workshop ...

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Reading time approx. 5 minutes. We can worry about how to support others with their mental health. Here, Sarah Brown, gives you some top tips to help you feel prepared.

How to Support Others with Mental Health

When we enjoy good mental health, we have a sense of purpose, the drive to do the things we want to do and also the resilience to deal with the challenges that happen in our lives. 

However, just like our physical health, our mental health can change and fluctuate. It moves up and down, travelling along a continuum from good to poor. It’s affected by a range of factors, both inside and outside of work. 

We know that mental health awareness is increasing, but we also know that some people still find it hard to talk about. Asking for help can be a struggle, but so can offering help - for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. 

Often we worry how to approach a conversation about someone’s mental health, but helping someone doesn’t have to be hard. You don’t have to be a psychologist either. There are no special skills needed, just the ones you use every day like being approachable and empathetic, as well as using your listening skills. Doing nothing and brushing things under the carpet just makes matters worse.  

Good mental health at work and good management go hand in hand. There’s strong evidence that workplaces with high levels of mental wellbeing are more productive. 

Spot, support, and signpost 

It all starts with asking someone how they are doing and genuinely caring. If you get the stock answer of, ‘fine’ but you suspect that they aren’t, then ask a few more questions. Don’t interrogate them. Just letting someone know you care is a good way to open a conversation.

If people do want to talk about how they’re feeling, it must be in a place where they feel comfortable. You must also have the time to listen. The last thing anyone needs is to feel rushed or that you’re not interested.  It’s also important that you give your full attention to the person and minimise disruptions like your phone ringing, emails popping up or people just nipping in and out. 

Active listening is vital and that means being present and engaged in a conversation. Repeat what they have said back to them to ensure you have understood. This is powerful as it shows them you care. When the conversation ends, recap what you have discussed and agreed to. Ensure you do what you’ve said you’ll do, as this will help build trust. 

It can be hard to hear difficult or upsetting things, so suspend any judgment. Don’t try to fix them. Listen with empathy, saying things like, “I don’t know how you’re feeling but I can see that you’re upset,” is better than saying you ‘understand’. 

Ask open questions but not too many. Give them time to answer. As a former police officer, you can imagine that this took me a while to refine!

Give them some tips on wellbeing and share what you do. We know that exercise, having a healthy diet, taking a break and connecting with others can help protect our mental health and sustain wellbeing. Ask what has helped them in the past and what you can do to help. 

Encourage them to get support, if needed, from external agencies or HR, and signpost them to places that they can get resources to self-help. 

By having open conversations and implementing strategies about mental health, we can help remove the stigma.

 

Do

In this week’s ‘Do’, we introduce the second cheat sheet full of practical tips for supporting yourself and others with mental health, as well as developing a morning mindset routine to support a positive mindset.

INTRO TO CHEAT SHEET:

This cheat sheet is a practical guide for spotting ill mental health early, as well as how to support people who might be struggling.

INTRO TO BUZZ SESSION:

This hack introduces four simple activities you can do by yourself or with others to support positive mental health every day. It’s called the Morning Mindset Routine and will set you up for facing the day with a positive mindset.

Download Buzz Session - Morning Mindset routine.pdf

Coming up...

Coming up next week we look into practical ways that workplaces can continue the conversation around mental health, as well as activities to support mental wellbeing.

Continue reading

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Mind the Gap. Returning to work and mental health after Covid-19

Mind the Gap. Returning to work and mental health after Covid-19

Module 1 - What Workplaces Can Do

These learning bursts will give you practical ways to support mental health for individuals, teams and organisations. They will look at preventative approaches, as well as how to support people with mental health challenges to feel safe and in control at work, both in the virtual working space and face-to-face. Supporting everyone to live and work in a way that promotes positive mental health and wellbeing.

Watch

These learning shorts introduce our mental health theme and why taking a proactive approach is important to helping us all feel cared for.

How are you?

In this opening video, Stephanie Davies explains the importance of asking, ‘How are you?’ and introduces the mental health learning burst series.

Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace

In this video, Kerry Leigh talks about the subtle differences we might notice in people we know and how they can be clues to how we’re feeling. She encourages you to get to know your colleagues a bit more and how, in doing so, you’ll be able to notice when something might not be right.

Find out more about the Laughology Mind the Gap mental health virtual workshop ...

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Reading time approx. 5 minutes. Support your team getting back to work through clear communication and planning.

Mental Health: - Supporting People Back to Work

Over the past months, we’ve witnessed one of the biggest crises the world has ever seen and there’s no doubt that it’s affected people’s mental health. 

Some people are now returning to work and whilst this is good news, we must recognise that several will return to work experiencing new or existing mental health challenges. People will be leaving the safety of their homes and transitioning from lockdown to returning to work, which may bring varying levels of anxiety and stress. 

“More than two-fifths of UK workers are anxious about the prospect of returning to the workplace following the coronavirus outbreak.” 

(CIPD) 

So, what can you do to make the transition back to work a little easier?

Communicate through regular conversations 

Uncertainty makes anxiety far worse, so help people focus on things they can control. Communicate regular, clear updates so everyone’s kept in the loop, otherwise people will adopt the ‘crystal ball’ mindset and start creating their own (negative) updates - known here at Laughology as ‘wonky thoughts’.

It’s also crucial that you have regular catch ups about people’s overall wellbeing, listening to what’s being said, as well as what’s not being said. British people tend to say we’re fine when we’re not; we think it’s the polite thing to do. 

So ask questions and listen to ensure that they really are okay and reassure them of support if needed. We’re all unique and therefore it’s key that you adapt, showing flexibility in your approach - what works for one person may not work for another. 

People need to feel psychologically safe to be motivated and productive. 

Signpost people to where they can get help and support

If people have access to an employee’s assistant plan, make sure they’re aware of any mental health services available to them through this, and also inform them of any other tools and resources available to support them. 

Have a WRAP

Here at Laughology, we have developed a Work Ready Action Plan (WRAP) that you can use to support you, your teams, and individuals when getting back to work. 

A WRAP should cover the following:

  • Approaches and behaviours people can adopt to support being back at work
  • Support that’s needed from their manager or leader
  • Actions and positive steps that they (and their manager) can take if they’re experiencing stress or poor mental health     
  • Agreed times to review the WRAP and any support measures that have been put 

in place, to see if they are still working

  • Anything else that would be useful in supporting people to get back to work in a safe    and supportive way
  • Checking any challenges that have arisen because of Covid-19, such as being a vulnerable person, looking after children or elderly relatives which means working patterns have changed. 

A WRAP reminds us what we need to do to stay well and feel safe at work.

Role modelling

Lead from the front and share how you’re coping -  what are you doing to look after your own well-being? Don’t be afraid to share your own struggles. If we’re going to reduce the stigma surrounding mental ill health and develop a culture of wellbeing and support, then we all need to start talking openly and honestly. 

“The mental health crisis stemming from Covid-19 is serious and will be with us for some time to come. Let’s approach it with compassion, honesty, and openness. We will emerge from this as better leaders, better people, and better companies.” 

(Harvard)

 

Do

In this section you’ll find a cheat sheet, which is a practical guide to what you can do to support mental health. You’ll also find a buzz session, which is an activity sheet you can have a go at either by yourself or with colleagues.

Mental health cheat sheet

This cheat sheet gives practical ways you can support mental health in your workplace. You can do these practical steps virtually too. Have a read and have a go!

Buzz activity cheat sheet

This buzz activity sheet can be done by yourself or with others, virtually or face to face with people you live with. It’s a short 10 minute activity to help you understand how to access positive emotions to feel calm, in control or confident in any situation.

Coming up...

Next week is all about how we look after ourselves and others. There will be practical ways we can do this, as well as some simple but effective ways we can support people with mental health issues.

Continue reading

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Mind the Gap. Returning to school and mental health after Covid-19

Mind the Gap. Returning to school and mental health after Covid-19

Module 1 - Relationsips

Having strong, supportive relationships is important for children's mental health and wellbeing. With schools planning to reopen, how can adults help children to rebuild their relationships with classmates and school staff? It will also mean adjusting at home - what happens when mum or dad stops being the teacher?

Watch

Since lockdown, parents and school staff have worked together, from a distance, to support children with their home learning. Over the next few weeks that 'gap' between home and school will be closing - but how do we help children to readjust and reconnect?

Introduction to Mind The Gap - Back To School

Sarah Creegan says that adults need to think about the 3 Rs when the kids go back to school. And, while reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic are important, that's not what she means!

Telling Your Own Story

During mental health week, Victoria takes a look at a way to support ourselves and our children to help us all feel safe and secure in this strange new world. The language that we use will impact how our brains react to the situations we are faced with. What story will you tell?

Find out more about the Laughology Mind the Gap virtual workshop for schools...

Read more

Read

Before you can even think about closing those academic gaps, kids have to feel happy and safe. Here, Sarah Creegan suggests ways in which school staff can support children's mental health and wellbeing on their return to school.

MIND THE GAP - TOP TIPS FOR SCHOOL STAFF - RELATIONSHIPS

Since lockdown began, there’s been a lot of concern around the impact on children’s academic progress. Some will have really enjoyed and benefitted from being taught at home and may find it tricky to settle back into a class of 30. Others may not have engaged as well with home learning. 

For children at both ends of the spectrum (and everyone in between), the most important thing to remember is that, until they feel safe and happy back at school, any ‘learning’ will be minimal. 

What can school staff do to rebuild relationships?

  • Have lots of chats. Although school staff have done their best to keep in touch with families over the past couple of months, it’s not the same as having those face-to-face conversations, which help us to bond with others. Put plenty of time aside to listen to the children’s stories and to share some of yours.
  • Have empathy. With everyone, but especially if someone comes back more withdrawn, or louder, than usual. Give them time and space to reconnect. For the quieter ones, maybe ask them to draw what they’ve been up to, to open up a conversation.
  • Have patience. As adults, it’s been tricky enough to focus during lockdown, so it’s likely that many of the children will find it difficult to pay attention for any length of time when they first come back. Plan short sharp bursts of learning, intermingled with lots of fun stuff.
  • Have wellbeing at the forefront of all you do. Laughology’s Happy-Centred School PSHE programme identifies 5 wellbeing enablers for children. Build activities that promote these areas into and around other, more-academic tasks:
    • Self-Confidence  
    • Achievement and Success  
    • Positive Relationships - (see the downloadable lesson plan in the DO! section)
    • Support 
    • Coping Skills – (download free coping skills lessons from our website)
  • Have a laugh. Ask the children to remind you of what makes them laugh – the chances are, while they’re explaining it, the giggles will start. You could also find some YouTube clips of animals doing silly things and babies giggling, to get each day off to a good start.
    • Have a mental health strategy. At Laughology we use our SPOT, SUPPORT, SIGNPOST model. 
    • SPOT. Some children and families will already be on your radar, from emails and conversations during lockdown. But do be aware that it may not be so obvious for others. It may be that you send a short questionnaire to all parents before the kids return, to ask questions related to their child’s mental health and wellbeing. For example: How have they coped during lockdown? How are they feeling about coming back? How have they been sleeping? Is there anything else it would help us to know?
    • SUPPORT. Seek support for yourself, if you’re unsure about a child. It’s always best to chat through any concerns with a Mental Health First Aider, your Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL), your Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) or your line manager.
    • SUPPORT. Offer support to the family. It might be that the child would benefit from a 1:1 chat, or some ELSA (Emotional Literacy Support Assistant) time. The parent might welcome a phone or video call.
    • SIGNPOST. It may be that some children and/ or their parents will need more specialist support, such as a CAMHS referral (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) or bereavement counselling. Make sure that you know what is available and appropriate, before making any suggestions.

Read

So, your time as a home-schooling teacher is coming to an end. HOORAY! But how do you support your child to make a smooth transition back to school? And how do you get back to being 'just' mum or dad?

MIND THE GAP - TOP TIPS FOR PARENTS - RELATIONSHIPS

When schools temporarily closed their doors to the majority of pupils, what were parents and teachers saying? Of course, people were telling each other to stay safe and well. Yes, there was some reassurance about homeschooling the kids, alongside working from home - although we don’t think anyone had really understood the enormity of that! But, above all, as folks parted ways they were saying, ‘We’re going to miss you.’ Because, whether you realised it or not before Coronavirus hit, you most certainly will now - life is all about relationships.

So, how do the adults around the children help to rebuild their relationship with school, and how does that relationship at home return to something like it used to be – maybe with a few changes?

For Parents

When the time is right for your child and your family’s circumstances, they will be going back to school. To support their mental health and wellbeing, and to help them make a smooth transition:

  • Be open and share anything with school staff that they need to know. With social distancing measures in place, parents may not be able to have face-to-face meetings with teachers, so drop them an email or phone to explain about a family situation, or sleeping difficulties, or anxiety at coming back (yours or your child’s).
  • Be positive. At the moment, parents are having to decide when they feel it’s safe for their child to return. Phone calls to other parents and WhatsApp group messages may or may not be helping and, of course, little ones are very good at listening in! As adults, in unprecedented times, it’s normal to feel cautious or anxious, but children need to know that school staff are going to work really hard to make them happy and keep them safe. 
  • Be solution focussed and look to the future. Whilst it will be a good idea to ask your Year 6 child how they feel about going back to school, and you do need to listen to any worries they have, focus on how they can overcome these (see Laughology’s coping model, FLIP-It for home schooling parents) and ask them what they’re most looking forward to.
  • Be ‘just’ mum or dad again. When you know the date that your child is going back, you can start helping them to separate home and school a bit more. Due to the circumstances, a lot of children have become less independent and more reliant on parents, so it may be that you want to nudge them to start thinking for themselves a bit more, while easing up on the home learning.
  • Be supportive. Our mental health and emotional wellbeing go hand-in-hand with feeling physically safe. When the kids go back to school, staff will be encouraging them to wash their hands regularly, cough and sneeze into their elbow and bin tissues. You can support this by doing the same at home. 
  • Be realistic. All adults will be doing their best to keep the children 2m apart but, let’s face it, that’s not always going to happen. The biggest thing that children are looking forward to, when they return to school, is playing with their friends and having a cuddle! If they come home and say that’s what they’ve done, gently remind them of the rules at the moment, but also acknowledge how lovely that must have been!

Do

You've watched the clips and read the tips. Now it's time to start getting the children to think about their relationships, as well as all of the lovely things that they're looking forward to when they get back to school. Here are some quick and easy activities to help you.

Ed’s Thunk: What are you most looking forward to doing when you get back to school?

We may be heading back to school soon, so what are you most excited about doing when you get there? Seeing your friends? A particular lesson? Simply getting back to normal?

DOWNLOADABLE LESSON PLAN FOR TEACHERS - How can I help others feel that they belong and be a good friend?

Looking for activities to support children's mental health and wellbeing when they come back to school? Why not download and deliver this lesson, to help the children understand that everyone has strengths, which help them belong to the school community.


DOWNLOADABLE ACTIVITY FOR PARENTS - Can I reflect on the positive relationships in my life?

As a family, why not do this activity and make a paper chain to celebrate all of the positive relationships in your lives. With schools reopening soon, make sure you include lots of the staff.

Coming up...

Next week we are looking at the importance of routines when getting back to normal. We're not just talking about the day-to-day and self-care routines (although they are important), we're talking about getting back into the groove of learning.

Remember, there are lots more downloadable resources on our website, including some great blogs for parents and blogs for teachers.

Continue reading

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Free L&D resources

FREE LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES

OUR FREE MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

Here at Laughology, supporting mental health and wellbeing in organisations is our bag - if there was a Curly Wurly for every time we’d helped a team to feel more positive and FLIP their thinking, we’d be bursting out of our belt buckles.

But luckily for you, we’ve kept our fingers out of the Curly Wurly jar and instead created some fantastic mental health resources for you to use - either with your team or individually.

All we ask is that you always credit Laughology when using our free stuff, don’t use it commercially or pass it off as your own.Enjoy!

Mental health and wellbeing videos

Welcome to our selection of videos to help you manage your own mental health or to support your team’s wellbeing. In this section, you’ll find two types of videos to watch - our longer recorded Webinars (30-40 minutes) or our Bursts (under 2 minutes). So whether you just need a quick tip or a longer piece of training for supporting mental health in your workplace, we’ve got you covered.

  • Pull up Your Big Pants

    Kerry Leigh (30 mins)

    Need support to grow your reslience? Keen to improve your coping skills? In this webinar recording, Kerry Leigh gives you her top tips to feel more confident and positive.

  • Exploring Happiness and Developing Skills to Flourish

    Stephanie Davies (30 mins)

    Join our CEO, Stephanie Davies sharing some insight and research into how happiness can help us flourish in difficult times.

  • Mental Health and Wellbeing Webinar

    Stephanie Davies (30 mins)

    Join Stephanie, our CEO, as she talks about mental health and our well-being as we start to return to normality.

  • Hot Damn, The Menopause is Happening

    (30 minutes) Kerry Leigh

    Laughologist, Kerry Leigh, talks all things menopuase and shares some helpful advice on how to make it the 'norm' in the workplace.

  • How to Improve Your Mood - Dave Keeling

    Dave Keeling

    Do you want some quick tips to help improve your mood? Laughology's Dave Keeling gives you his top 3 strategies to have you smiling again in no time.

  • Flip-it Thinking - Wonky Thoughts

    Kerry Leigh

    Negative thoughts can lead us to irrational behaviour and a wide range of emotions. In this video, Kerry Leigh explains why negative thoughts occur and what you can do when you recognise these 'wonky thoughts' in your everyday life.

  • Wonky Thoughts and Your Circle of Control

    Dave Keeling

     

    Tired of feeling negative? Are negative thoughts getting in the way of your
    overall happiness? Well, Dave Keeling's here to help you get rid of what we call 'wonky thoughts' by helping you to regain a sense of control and therefore
    ultimately feel happier.

  • Understanding and Managing Stress

    Laura Drury

     

    Are you fed up of feeling stressed? Do you just wish you could manage your stress levels and feel happier? Well, Laughologist Laura Drury is here to give you 3 ways to manage your stress easily and effectively.

  • Supporting Mental Health at Work

    Kerry Leigh

     

    Supporting mental health at work starts with getting to know your colleagues. Kerry Leigh explains just why it's so important for everyone in the workplace.

  • "Mental health in the Workplace - Spot, Support, Signpost

    Kerry Leigh

    Don’t know where to start with mental health? Here’s a simple and colourful Laughology introduction to the three S’s – SPOT, SUPPORT, SIGNPOST for better mental health.

  • Managing Wonky Thoughts

    Kerry Leigh and Laura Drury

    We can be our own worst critic and our negative thoughts can make us feel low. It's time to catch those 'wonky thoughts' and look at how you're speaking to yourself. In this video, Laura and Kerry give you a quick tip on how to notice when you're being unfairly negative to yourself and what to do about it."

  • Using Positive Anchors to Feel Calm and In Control

    Stephanie Davies

    If you're feeling overwhelmed or stressed, finding a positive anchor or trigger to help you feel calm again can work wonders for your wellbeing, helping you feel in control again. In this video, Stephanie Davies, explains how you can use everyday items as your positive anchors and how they've helped her to feel better.

  • Feel Happier and Fill Up Your Humour Bank

    Stephanie Davies

    Ready to feel happier? Fed up with feeling...fed up? Well, it's time to make a deposit in your humour bank. In this video, Stephanie Davies gives you one of her top tips to feeling happier and it's a lot easier to make a deposit in this kind of bank, than it is in a regular one! Enjoy!

  • Feel Better with the F*ck-it Bucket

    Stephanie Davies

    Wondering how to feel better by taking back control of your positivity? Well, our F*ck-it Bucket can help! So grab a pen and a bit of paper, and be prepared to make your first deposit in the bucket - you'll feel so much better when you do!

  • How Cold Showers Can Improve Your Mood

    Stephanie Davies

    Wondering how a cold shower can possibly improve your mood? Feeling brave but also a little bit naughty? In this video, Stephanie Davies explains the mood-boosting benefits of turning on the cold tap.

Mental health cheat sheets

Welcome to our Cheat Sheets - downloadable resources for you to use immediately. Each Cheat Sheet can be used with your team to promote discussion and enhance their knowledge and understanding of mental health. They also provide top tips to help you and your team stay mentally healthy. Just click and download the ones you need.

  • The Mental Health Continuum

    Cheat Sheet

    In this cheat sheet, you can learn more about the mental health continuum and what we can do to help ourselves be mentally healthy.

    Download

  • Why is a Growth Mindset and Why Should You Care

    Cheat Sheet

    Learn how having a growth mindset and attitude for success is more likely to help you achieve your outcomes than having a fixed, negative one.

    Download

  • Understanding the Menopause

    Cheat Sheet

    You may not think the menopause applies to you, but this cheat sheet gives you all the information you need to improve your understanding so you can support those you know/work with, who may be experiencing it.

    Download

  • Introduction to FLIP-it Thinking

    Cheat Sheet

    In this cheat sheet you'll gain a better understanding of the FLIP-it Thinking model, that challenges 'wonky' thoughts and ensure more positive outcomes.

    Download

  • DOSE of Happiness

    Cheat Sheet

    FInd out how you can get your daily dose of happiness with this handy poster, giving you all the information about the happiness chemicals in your body.

    Download

Mental health blogs

In this section, we’ve carefully selected some of our most popular blogs - ones that have been read thousands of times, so we know they’re good! Our blog posts can help you understand how best to support mental health in the workplace and give you strategies you can put in place immediately. You can even share the links with your colleagues too

  • How chatting can help to remove the stigma around mental health in the workplace

    Blog

    Read

  • Do Laughologists Get Depressed?

    Kerry Leigh

    Read

  • Steps to help you put together a mental health workplace strategy

    Stephanie Davies:

    Read

  • Top tips on how to create a mentally healthy workplace culture

    Kerry Leigh

    Read

  • Top Tips for Virtual Workplace Social Interaction and Positive Mental Health

    Read

  • What is burnout and how can we combat it?

    Stephanie Davies

    Read

  • Is optimism a positive attribute in a leader?

    Stephanie Davies

    Read

  • How cheeky daytime naps can do wonders for wellbeing

    Sarah Helm

    Read

  • Laura Drury: Advising her other half (which is completely different to nagging) to cut down on his screen time

    Laura Drury

    Read

Continue reading

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