Summer De-Stressing with a Therapist

Mission completed.

Teachers, professors, school administrators, student support… those who directly interact with children in an educational setting know the joys and challenges that are present at the end of the school year.

Some of the highlights include making a difference in the lives of children, feeling fulfilled, being rewarded within the work, and building relationships.

The end of the year can be tough. Students and staff may find that it is more difficult to be present. Things feel like a blur when you are in survival mode. Burnout is especially high in the spring. Challenges in the educational setting such as school politics, pressure, stress, and student behavioral challenges can all contribute to emotional and physical exhaustion.

During my years as a school-based therapist, teachers would often joke that they needed therapy at the end of the day after I would check in after critical events that had taken place in the classroom. That was pre-COVID. The National Center for Education Statistics reports a 76% increase in staff expressing concerns about student mental health, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, and trauma.

In 2021, more than 1 in 5 students seriously considered suicide (nearly half at 45% for LGBTQ+ students), with 1 in 10 students attempting suicide, with Black students more likely to attempt suicide. Having so many students struggling with mental health impacts the entire school and extends beyond the school doors.

While there are more mental health supports being put in place to help students, teachers often do not get the support that they need. Teachers and other individuals who work within an educational setting report similar concerns as students, including anxiety and trauma-related symptoms. Now is a good time to pause and check in with how you are doing.

Take time to reflect and process the school year.

Personal therapy is a confidential space to process thoughts, feelings, and experiences that have taken place during the school year. Your therapist will help guide your exploration by asking open-ended questions and allowing space to process and reflect.

Tune into your body.

How are you sleeping? Are you experiencing tiredness or fatigue? Are you able to relax? Are you struggling with focus or concentration? Are you taking care of your body? Your therapist will help work with physical symptoms associated with burnout and assess for underlying mental health conditions.

Validation of experiences

There is power in having your experiences validated. Your therapist will believe what you are saying, listening to fully hear and understand how you feel. It feels good to have a dedicated time and space that is your own.

Identify the impact of critical life events.

Did you have time and space to get support for things that were happening during the school year? These could be events that directly happened to you or someone you care about such as a student or loved one. Often there are parallels in things that a student may be experiencing such as the death of a parent that may coincide with your own experiences. Therapy is an appropriate place to identify the impact of critical life events and build on coping skills.

Build Resilience

How you and a colleague view the same situation may be completely different, depending on the feelings and emotions in response to events and how each person makes meaning. Your therapist will help you build resilience within the context of the therapeutic relationship, building upon your protective factors, and restoring you to wellness. Rather than just surviving, we want you to be thriving.

Scheduling time to meet with a mental health therapist over the summer is a great opportunity to process highly stressful and traumatic events to help take care of yourself and restore your physical and emotional well-being.

Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC

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