From the Lincoln Center: De-stressing in Distressing Times


By Melissa Miller

The phrase “unprecedented times” gets thrown around so much that it’s almost cliché now. The world has changed drastically during the past seven months, and as much as many of us wish we could “return to factory settings,” that does not seem likely anytime in the near future.

Many schools, for example, are striving to maintain stability for students in virtual and hybrid models, while other schools are attempting to safely transition back into more traditional in-person settings.

Despite our attempts to adjust to this new environment, it still feels anything but normal, but there is one important thing we can all choose to embrace: “It’s OK to NOT be OK.”

This encouragement is for everyone, but it is especially for parents, guardians, and teachers feeling overwhelmed as they try to help their students who are struggling to succeed academically this school year.

It can be devastating to feel defeated or feel like a failure because you do not know how to provide what your students need, but it is important to know that you are not alone.

Whether you have experienced these emotions for a moment or for months, know that your feelings are valid, and it is OK to allow yourself to have them.

“That’s all well and good,” you may think, “but what can I do to combat these feelings?

Acknowledge your feelings

Recognizing and embracing your thoughts is usually half the battle. It is also essential to know your own mindset and process your emotions in a healthy way.

This step can be difficult, but it is key to overcoming these challenging times.

Be aware of your emotional triggers

When you experience a trigger, give yourself a moment before reacting to try to envision the other person’s response.

Remember to “use tact before you react,” if possible. Using this strategy will help you gain more awareness of others in tense situations. In fact, this approach can even help you de-escalate conflicts with other people in your life.

If you do not succeed at first, keep trying. Learning to apply this technique takes time and practice.

Take a deep breath

Another simple strategy to is to try short breathing exercises. There are various forms of deep breathing exercises that you can use at your own discretion to help manage your emotions.

To access some helpful resources, consider trying mobile apps, such as “Calm,” “The Tapping Solution,” and “DARE – Break Free from Anxiety.” These apps are just a few easily accessible guides, and each of these apps offer methods to assist with providing time to reset, revisit, and most importantly relax for a few moments.

Seize the moment

Remind yourself to not feel guilty for taking time to care for yourself and to calm you mind and body.

It’s easy to feel as though every second of the day needs your full attention. If you let this mindset rule you, you will not be the best version of yourself.  Sometimes one minute can be all it takes for you to give yourself the space you need to de-stress in distressing moments.

Although you may feel overwhelmed right now, adopting a focus on mindfulness can help change that feeling. Yes, the future is uncertain in regards to how we will move forward amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but one thing remains absolutely certain: You can do this.

Melissa Miller is a Positive Behavior Coach for The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth.

The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth is a nonprofit headquartered in Audubon that has served students and families in the Greater Philadelphia Area for 50 years. TLC is one of the region’s largest community-based organizations providing alternative education, coaching, and counseling services to public school students and their families.