I’m getting fancy y’all. It’s video on the blog time. I know, I’m so 2000 and late on the world of vlogging (I’m sure the cool kids don’t even call it vlogging), but here we are! I felt inspired to share some strategies for getting to the light at the end of the tunnel that is SUMMER BREAK.
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And for those of you who like to kick it old school, like me, here’s a transcript of the video! 🙂
Hey school psych friends! It’s Rebecca from Notes from the School Psychologist Blog and The Thriving School Psychologist Collective. How are you guys doing? It’s May, which means that we are looking at the finish line for summer break and we’re also looking at our calendars and being like, “Oh my gosh how are we going to get it done?!?” So, I wanted to do a quick little video series on how to survive what one of my great friends calls “The 100 days of May.” So, although there’s 31-days in May, we have 100 days of work often to get done in that time period before we’re off to the races and enjoying our summer. So, I wanted to give you five different strategies that you can use in May to keep sane and keep calm and school psych on!
So, the first one is gratitude and I will talk about that in a moment, and I’m going to talk about focus, intentional kindness, acceptance, and self-care. And those five topics are not just random topics that I’ve pulled up; it’s based on the science of happiness and a lot of the work of Nataly Kogan, who has done some really great work on how to apply what we know about the brain into our daily lives.
Let’s just jump in with some practical strategies around gratitude, and gratitude is one of those things that, I don’t know about for you guys, but for me, falls squarely under “Oh I should do that,” and then I don’t do that on a regular basis, and then I get really excited about doing a gratitude practice and I write down in my journal at night three things that made me happy, and then the next couple of nights I’m tired and I don’t do it. So how can you infuse gratitude in your day? And why is it even important?
So, what the research shows about the brain is that the human brain has evolved to scan for the negative. Evolutionarily speaking, we want to be looking for danger, right? And so back in the day, it was looking for a saber tooth tiger, and today it’s psychological danger. We’re looking for things that are negative or wrong so that we can kind of either head them off at the pass or fix them. So, what your brain is actually doing is kind of sucking in the negative and then sort of discounting the positive, because the brain is really good at adapting to positive things.
What we want to do is kind of “re-train” the brain to focus in on the positive. And this is not just like a Pollyanna situation where you just like, “This is horrible, I love this, right?” You want a practical strategy, so let me tell you a little story about the one gratitude practice that I’m able to do every single day. So I was getting ready to go to work and I get in my car and I start driving and then there’s a hail storm and I’m like, wow, okay, so I’m in California, so people are unaccustomed to any weather and it just ruined the commute; it was just awful, right? And so, I’m sitting there in the car just getting more and more annoyed, and more and more stressed because I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh I have a meeting to go to, and I’m going to be late!” and then I remembered a gratitude practice in which when something is annoying you or upsetting you, to imagine your life without that thing. And what I mean by that is then I started to flip the switch, and it was like okay, “What would my life be like without being stuck in traffic?” And what I meant by that was what would my life be like without a car, right? So, I started to kind of spin it to be grateful that I have a car, it’s warm in this car, I have a great radio station, and I have a cell phone where I can quickly text and say I’m going to be late. And once I started focusing in on what would my life be like without this annoyance, I started to flip it onto gratitude.
So I get to work and then Q Global is not working and I know you guys can relate to me on that, and I started to get annoyed again. I’m like gosh, “Q Global, get it together!” and then I was like, “Wait a minute, what would life be like without Q Global?” and I conjured up the days in which I used to like have to pull out a paper BASC and mail it and it never came back and I’d have to mail another one, and all that nonsense. So today, I switched to thinking: “Okay so this is like a temporary thing, but what would life be like without Q Global?” And I started to find my annoyance level completely drop.
What the larger picture is, is when you find yourself in those moments of being annoyed, is to flip it on “What would my life be like without this annoying thing.” And you can also do the same thing just when something is generally annoying you. You can kind of use that as a mental cue to focus on something positive and it can be related to what was annoying you. Like for me, in the car, and I was appreciative of my car, or it could be something totally unrelated: someone cuts you off in traffic, or a teacher says something that’s rude to you, and you can just make that be your trigger for gratitude. Like focus on that I’m really glad that I have a job and that I am able to use self-care to manage my feelings around what this teacher said, or whatever. But there’s so many mild annoyances in the day that you don’t want to stack up to being big big annoyances, so if you can, each time something annoying happens, flip it to a gratitude practice. I think it’s going to be easier to train your brain to focus in on positive as well by using this method.
And I would want to leave you with a really great quote that I really love, and it’s around this practice of gratitude and it’s that “Our brains are like Velcro of negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones” (Rick Hanson). And I want you guys to flip the switch and try it out this week and let me know how it works for you! We want to make the happy things Velcro and sort of Teflon-off those negative things, right? As much as possible!
So, with that, I hope you guys have a great day and if you want to make sure that you get these videos and I want you to go ahead and click below to like the Facebook page, and then you’ll be getting videos in your feed about how to manage the “100 Days of May.” So, I look forward to hearing from you all, and if you want to comment in the box about how this practice went for you, I’d love to hear how it’s going for you! Talk to you soon!
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Rebecca Branstetter is a school psychologist and the creator of the Thriving School Psychologist Collective™, a professional development learning community for school psychologists. To learn how to spend more time with actual students rather than spending time with students’ paperwork (and earn NASP-approved CEUs doing it!) visit www.thrivingschoolpsych.com/mentor.