By Guest Blogger Aieshah Ashfer
Aieshah: Can you tell me what you do daily as a High School Social Worker?
Mrs. Sheets: Every day is different. I typically have each period of the day scheduled by students who want to come in for a group session or an individual session. The framework that I use is dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and I also utilize the strengths perspective. I use DBT to help students understand and accept their difficult feelings, and learn skills to manage them. CBT is used to connect thoughts, behaviors, and emotions together. I use the strengths of each student and treat them with unconditional positive regard in our sessions. Overall, I try to destigmatize reaching out for help and I try to make the environment seem comfortable and warm for students to be able to reach out.
Aieshah: You are around students all the time. What are the main stressors in high school? Any specific ones this time of year?
Mrs. Sheets: At our school, I think there is a lot of pressure to be successful. That’s the number one stressor that I see here. I think students internalize that pressure and then what comes out is anxiety and depression, fear of failure, and perfectionism. At times I also see students neglecting their sleep, social relationships, and passions; these are all the things that make us human. I think sometimes we focus so much on being intelligent and successful, that we forget the other things that balance us out. I also feel students can’t talk to people in their lives for support and I think sometimes they feel what they’re going through is not valid. At this time of year, midterms seem to highlight students’ pressure on themselves and their need to succeed as well as the neglect of their health. These are the biggest stressors.
Aieshah: What are some ways to properly cope with the stress of finals and midterms?
Mrs. Sheets: When it comes to big tests like midterms, finals and even SATs, I feel that preparation is key. The best way to take these on is to make a schedule to study regularly weeks before. I see a lot of students at times will procrastinate and cram all their studying for the last day, and I think that builds even more pressure. Even studying for five minutes a day is better than not studying at all and cramming. Let yourself balance your activities so that you’re not sacrificing sleep and social interaction. Everything should be within balance, especially during these testing seasons. Since midterms also come after the holidays I think we’re left with a lot of mixed emotions; around the holidays can be one of the most depressing times of the year. Self-care is tuning into that and recognizing that this time of the year is stressful, and doing something that helps you; this can be listening to music or spending time talking to your friends. Have a little thing to look forward to each day, like meditating or exercise.
Aieshah: Is there a quick meditation technique you would recommend for stressed-out students?
Mrs. Sheets: I think you mentioning “quick” is very important. Students often say they can’t take the time out to meditate during the day. This is where our technology comes in and is so valuable to us. If you just go on YouTube to find a one-minute meditation tutorial, you’re able to take a short break and relax. I tell students who don’t want to compromise any time that they can meditate while they’re doing any task– for example, brushing their teeth. Put on a one-minute meditation video so you’re able to take a break. Even a small meditation break is an important one.
Aieshah: What are some resolutions students should keep to avoid academic stress and burnout for the new year?
Mrs. Sheets: I think a resolution students should set is to focus on progress, not perfection. This can be done through positive self-talk; it sounds unrealistic at times but can really bring us up from negative places. Even when it comes to homework, instead of saying “I have to do this,” start to say “I want to do this because I want to earn a positive grade.” Keeping a neutral mindset after setbacks as well can really help you in the future. But being able to talk to yourself positively is extremely important and will help you to more easily accomplish tasks. Positive self-talk and progress over perfection should be the things we bring into 2023.