A System in Distress

Since 2009, IGM has been working with education institutions, primarily with students, to better understand mental health and its effects on youth. 

Early in 2020, along with others, we identified that the pandemic would afflict the education systems. The loss of routines, the joy of seeing students interact and learn, and the lack of well-being of their students. In fact, it has created more chaos than anyone could have anticipated. 

Educators, administrators and entire districts have been reeling for over two years. They have been asked and required to do much more than their job descriptions state. They have been asked to keep the students safe when allowed in school, and when not; forced to teach online and to keep them engaged through a screen where they cannot control the environment. All the while still managing their own families at home. 

Teachers and administrators are often informed just as we the public are, and with less than ample time to make the necessary arrangements. They have to scramble to move lessons online; they have to figure out what to do with their children. Balance is impossible as they adapt as best they can to support our children.  

The education system is far from perfect. It is demanding and full of ego; the culture can be toxic. It is hard not to shed a tear when listening to their shared stories. It is often the case that those who care deeply for the well-being of others do not take care of themselves. 

These human beings have been pushed to the limit. Like the rest of us, they are at a loss for words as no words can describe the state of the world today. Days are filled with uncertainty, fear, and worry. Unfortunately, this contributes to unhealthy mindsets and will lead to afflictions that will change generations to come. 

Students are suffering. Some children do not know school without a mask. Students who have done what has been asked have been denied their graduation ceremony, which marks a significant achievement in their young lives. They have been disappointed countless times and are not growing up in an environment that will help develop valuable life skills. They are learning the opposite, to not trust others, to judge the values of others, and all of this contributes to them growing up with excessive stress and social anxiety. These afflictions will alter the generations to come and the fallout will likely be far more significant than we can imagine today. 

The system is in trouble; the individuals are battling every day. Experienced teachers are quitting; young teachers are questioning themselves and the choice they made. Students are not considering teaching as a career. Why would they? The result of this is going to cause more and more issues in the future. What will happen when we do not have enough teachers in the future to educate the next generation?

Here’s the good news, we can help them. We can show patience and understanding. It is not their choice to shut down schools. They suffer as much as everyone else, if not more. We can support the people who have one of the most important jobs in our society.  We can make sure the next generation is better than we are. 

The children are our future, and we need to do all that we can to support our teachers. These are the people who have dedicated their lives to making sure our kids are educated and understand the importance of learning. A thankless job at times, a demanding job always. 

So the next time you get frustrated by the restrictions, the shutdowns, or the fact that our kids have to wear masks to school, please remember, our teachers are a courageous group that we need to appreciate and support. They are doing their jobs in a system that is in distress. 
If you are a teacher or a support staff member working within a school or online school, please reach out to us at info[email protected] for information about our complimentary 50-minute IGM Mental Wealth presentation. We would love to provide this complimentary presentation to you and your coworkers to support mental well-being within the education system.

Your Stress Becomes Theirs

Over the past 24 months, we have seen a multitude of mental health issues growing within all demographics of our work at IGM. 

Illnesses such as toxic stress, which is one’s inability to manage their stress, is causing mental, emotional and physical problems. Social anxiety is another issue we have seen increase dramatically. People have become fearful of other humans and going to public places. A sneeze in a grocery store can send people into a frenzy, and handshakes are almost like dinosaurs, a thing of the past. 

One significant issue we have seen is the amount of stress young people are experiencing. We have attributed this to how adults manage their stress. 

As someone who battled for years managing my own stress, I always thought I was hiding it from others. But what I was doing was lying to myself. We cannot think properly when we live under unhealthy stress, we call this; lizard brain. It is when we are using the lowest functioning part of our brains, and no rational thinking can occur here. Our ego is activated in an unhealthy manner, and we go into self-preservation mode. I like to call this ‘the box’. 

While living in ‘the box’, we think we are protecting ourselves. We blame others for our circumstances and we judge others for their behaviours. Sometimes we begin the pity party and feel sorry for ourselves. None of these are productive behaviours, and yet this is what we are displaying and teaching our children. Giving them the impression that all of this behaviour is ok. It is not. 

Our children watch us and they begin to emulate the behaviour. They begin to use words they hear us use. They begin to blame, deflect, condemn and develop their own ‘box’. 

These challenging times have exposed our weaknesses, which is terrifying to many. We like our lives to be predictable and safe. However, the last 24 months have removed that usual comfort for all of us. 

There are some essential questions we need to ask ourselves. 

Do I let my stress affect my kids? 

Is my inability to manage my stress affecting my behaviour?

When I am stressed do I lose emotional control of myself?

Do I need to learn some coping skills to manage my stress more effectively?

Do I see my kids showing similar traits in how they are managing their stress? (Shutting down or blowing up)

We know the power of self-reflection. It is something we promote to our clients. Athletes, educators, coaches, business owners, and employees; we all need to take time to reflect. When we do this we can realize where we did well and where we need to improve. We recognize our strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, we can identify where we need to learn and grow. 

If you think your stress does not teach your child, student, athlete how to ‘stress’ for themselves, you need to know that it does. Your pain becomes theirs. Your afflictions become theirs. Your stress becomes theirs. 

Do yourself and your son or daughter a favour. Do some self-reflection and identify what it is that you may need to learn. The benefits far outweigh the fear that may be stopping you. 

When you begin to learn and improve, your children will benefit in more ways than you can imagine. 

If you are a parent interested in learning more about stress, the different types of stress, how it affects your loved ones, and what you can do to change the negative outcomes, click here for information about our Understanding Stress for Parents course.