The last few weeks of the calendar year are the home stretch for many educators to a much-deserved break and time with friends and family. But there’s no denying the winter holidays can also be challenging for many reasons — not the least of which is how easy it is to become overwhelmed with the extra seasonal activities and responsibilities crowding educators’ plates.
Most educators would agree that ADHD, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is one of the top conditions they see their students grappling with. The numbers have been increasing steadily: While 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found nearly 10% of children and teens ages 3 to 17 had been diagnosed with ADHD, that share is expected to grow as many students coped with situations during quarantines that exacerbated their condition — or revealed it for the first time.
The pandemic drove an already challenging situation for youth mental health to crisis levels. One outcome of that trend is a heightened risk of suicide among young people. In this post, we’ll share details about factors driving the crisis and how educators can help identify at-risk students and create an environment supportive of student mental health and wellbeing in their school or district.
We are proud to announce the new Call for Research published by Pearson Clinical Assessment. Our goal is to ensure that Pearson assessments comply with the highest standards of quality and support research that investigates the validity or efficacy of our products. We are inviting United States-based faculty members, graduate students, and qualified researchers to submit their proposals no later than September 16, 2022.
Do you ever find yourself jumping to the worst possible conclusions in everyday situations? When you’re facing an upsetting scenario, do you find yourself preparing for negative outcomes as if they’ll inevitably come true? If so, you’re “catastrophizing” — and you’re not alone. Catastrophizing is a distorted way of thinking that causes people to assume the most destructive outcomes, typically without much justification, sending them spiraling into a loop of fearful thoughts. It’s a behavior that can be easy to fall into and hard to overcome.
Clinical Licensed Psychologist, Patrick Moran, PhD explains, “Catastrophizing takes an often-minor true experience and projects the probability of it being a reality in the future without sufficient and reliable evidence, usually in larger proportions than the original experience. It’s often comprised of ‘Fortune Teller Error,’ and ‘Mind Reading’ where people believe in their accuracy in predicting future outcomes and/or what others are thinking. It can make people very anxious when catastrophic thinking habits are not balanced by contradictory facts, or if the facts are dismissed or minimized.”
The mind-body connection of catastrophizing
Beyond the effects on your mental health, this kind of fearful thinking can trigger strong physical reactions in your body. The amygdala, located in the center of the brain, is activated by fear and alerts the nervous system. This causes a release of adrenaline and the stress hormone, cortisol, which can trigger your “fight or flight” instinct. This instinct results in elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration as well as increased blood flow to your limbs to help you “fight” or “run for your life”.
While this “fight or flight” response is meant to prepare us for danger, the increased adrenaline affects our cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that controls judgment and reasoning, cognitive functioning, and ability to think clearly — ultimately coloring our decision making.
How can I stop catastrophizing?
If this is a common experience for you, you may want to try cognitive reframing, a psychological method that involves identifying and changing the way you view experiences, events, or emotions in order to stop yourself from “making a mountain out of a molehill”. The technique allows you to shift your mindset so you're able to look at a situation, person, or relationship from a slightly different perspective and replace your negative thoughts.
For example, if you find yourself catastrophizing frequently at work, consider some of the situations that may trigger those thoughts. Is it conversations with specific people or working on specific projects? If you identify those potential triggers, you can practice reframing your thinking in advance of the situation to help avoid fearful thoughts. Before facing the triggers you’ve identified, envision positive scenarios and ideal outcomes. Expect the best instead of preparing yourself for negative results or failure. Be specific and walk yourself through an ideal experience. Include details like positive conversations and outcomes. Envisioning these scenarios with a positive mindset can help you avoid fearful thinking and the effects that come with it.
What strategies or tips do you find helpful to promote positive thinking?
Mental health concerns are not a new topic by any stretch of the imagination, but what is new is the validation and support that has been desperately needed by so many... for so long. Throughout history, people with mental illness have been ostracized, lobotomized, institutionalized, and demonized, but as our understanding of many of these common conditions has grown, so has our capacity for compassion and treatment.
If recent events have taught us anything, it’s that we are all facing private battles, often waged internally. In the United States, an estimated 15% of kids and 20% of adults are living with a mental health condition at any one time. While many feel comfortable talking about mental health, others are still lacking support to find the resources they need.
Culturally, there is still a wide range of thinking when it comes to conditions such as depression and anxiety. While some communities still prefer to encourage their members to internalize their struggles or share them only with leaders, many others have adopted a broader mindset on mental health resources by setting up support groups and treatment centers and speaking openly on topics that were once considered “sensitive”. This mindset shift has led to a more global normalization of mental health concerns — and not a minute too soon.
Here are a few ways you can reduce stigma and bring more awareness to mental health concerns in your community.
Speak openly about mental health. Stigma is rooted in ignorance, so educating yourself and those around you helps counteract lingering negativity. If you feel comfortable speaking about your own mental health with a trusted person in your life, it may help that person feel safe to do the same.
Utilize local support groups. Open dialogue often leads to discovery, so having available resources at the ready could be a game-changer for the next person you talk to!
Share relevant articles. Social media’s influence stretches way past the bounds of what we’re eating for dinner, so if you find an article with a positive spin on mental health, share, share, share!
Reach out to the experts. If you're looking for someone to talk to about your mental health, we’ve gathered some additional mental health resources to help you find support and information.
How many times have you gotten into your car after a particularly challenging day, turned on the radio, and suddenly felt your mood improving? Believe it or not, there’s actual science behind this phenomenon. Music’s rhythm and repetition engage the neocortex of your brain, and research supports the use of music therapy for various mental health conditions, including depression, trauma, and anxiety. Creating a “rainy-day” playlist can be a lot of fun and might just save the day tomorrow! Here are a few of our favorites...
Five foot-tapping fan favorites
I Can See Clearly Now by Jimmy Cliff — This transcendent, joy-inspiring song perfectly encapsulates the jubilance that comes from a bad day that’s suddenly turned itself around. Look straight ahead; there’s nothing but blue skies!
I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown — From the iconic “Whoa!” that sets the tone for James’ buoyant lyrics, this ultimate “feel good” song will have you singing along in no time (and you knew that it would now).
Happy by Pharrell Williams — Seems as if Pharrell knows a thing or two about turning lemons into lemonade when he sings, “Well give me all you’ve got, don't hold back. Well, I should probably warn you — I'll be just fine.” Clap along if you know what happiness is to you!
Young Folks by Peter Bjorn and John — Sometimes we just need to feel accepted, imperfections and all. Young Folks tells the tale of two friends who turn a blind eye to one another’s pasts and choose to live in the moment. If the whistling doesn’t turn your frown upside down, the message certainly will!
What a Feeling by Irene Cara — If you grew up in the 80’s, three things are true: You used waaaaay too much hairspray (yes... you did), you got up early every Saturday to watch cartoons, and you kicked and stomped your way through this song like a champ. Your hairstyle may have (drastically) changed and cartoons are now available on-demand, but this song will ALWAYS inspire you to dance right through your life.