Reset and Renew: Improving Mental Health by Fostering Emotional Regulation Skills

  • The ability to label, understand, and express emotions.
  • The ability to observe and describe the physical sensations, thoughts, and behaviors that accompany various emotions.
  • The willingness and ability to ACCEPT and TOLERATE all emotions without judgment, even uncomfortable or painful emotions, without labeling any emotion as “good” or “bad” per se.
  • The recognition that ALL emotions play a useful function. A painful emotion such as sadness or hurt might signal the need to make a change (e.g., to leave a toxic friendship), to seek help, or to improve self-care. Anxiety and fear help us identify and move away from dangerous situations. Overwhelmed and confused feelings might motivate us to seek information, or to work harder on a project or task.
  • Deep or paced breathing
  • Tossing/catching a bean bag
  • Running in place or doing jumping jacks for 30 seconds followed by counting one’s pulse
  • Tapping out a song’s rhythm or singing a song
  • A game of Simon-Says
  • Stretching or yoga poses
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Five Senses Exercise: Write 5 things you can see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, one thing you can taste
  • Guided Muscle Relaxation Exercise: gently squeeze and release muscle groups, from the feet up
  • Individual writing, e.g., self-observation journaling describing thoughts, feelings, and sensations that are experienced in the moment
  • Watching a video
  • Quiet reading, e.g., in a comic book or an article online
  • A teacher-led guided imagery that cues students, with eyes closed, to silently and non-judgmentally focus on their experience in the moment, e.g. “I am sitting at my desk, it’s a little warm in here, I have a pencil in my hand, I’m about to start math class, I hear some people out in the hall and a lawnmower outside”, etc.
  • A teacher-led guided imagery that allows students to “cope ahead” for upcoming stressful moments. Students can be asked to imagine possible emotional triggers as well as coping strategies for each challenging situation (e.g., a classmate being noisy or disruptive, a math problem that feels impossible to solve, etc.)
  • Coloring sheets

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Effective School Solutions

Effective School Solutions

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Reinventing K-12 Mental Health Care. Effective School Solution partners with school districts to help develop K-12 whole-school mental health programs.