Adapting to change, stress, unknowns

Julianna Poe , Trending Editor

In just eight months, school, work and life have been greatly affected for many individuals, which has had a significant impact on mental health. 

“I think that the stigma is that mental health is not okay to talk about,” said Becky Woodward, Pawnee Mental Health Therapy and Recovery Services Director. “It’s something that is not talked about very frequently … This is hard right now, stress is high and it’s okay to talk about it.”

With students in both hybrid and remote learning models, adapting to change has been a huge part of every families’ day-to-day life. 

“I think it’s only natural that a lot of people have difficulty with change,” Eric Ross, Counseling Department Chair, said. “No matter what it is: graduating from high school, moving, different family situations and this is no different … Change causes stress and stress affects mental health … Things have just been a lot more difficult over the past year so that no doubt affects mental health for a lot of different people.”

All these changes and unknowns have caused elevated stress and anxiety, which can be very difficult to manage, especially in teenagers. 

“A lot of teenagers don’t know how to … express [their] emotions in a productive and positive manner,” Woodward said. “You can see behaviors escalate, such as isolation and little irritability or snapping back, … which parents may respond negatively to, but need to understand that that may be just the way that their teenager or adolescent is expressing those emotions.”

According to Woodward, staying positive, socializing with friends and family, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy diet, taking time for yourself and expressing your difficulties are key aspects to improving your mental health.

“You need to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself, that you’re exercising, that you’re eating right, that you’re talking about all those emotions and unknowns that are going through your head,” Woodward said. “You want to make sure that you’re still interacting … and still socializing.”

Students can improve their academic success, according to Woodward, by waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day as well as creating a productive learning environment at home. Additionally, according to Ross, sticking to a schedule on your offsite school days is one of the best ways to be successful in a hybrid model, including a remote model.

“It takes a lot of self-discipline and maturity to schedule yourself,” Ross said. “That’s a challenge for kids when they go off to college and university … It’s a challenge for a lot of adults, to be honest, so no doubt it’s been difficult for a lot of students. But I think the key is just to force yourself to remain on a schedule and get the things done that you need to get done.”

Students can get in contact with counselors at Manhattan High via email, text, call and QR code. They can also stop by during school or make an appointment. According to Ross, if someone doesn’t respond to a request, students are encouraged to reach out again and “ensure they get the help that they need.”

“I think [students] need to know that there are people out here that are willing to help and do whatever we can to make sure they’re in a good place mentally and that they can be successful in high school,” Ross said.

Pawnee Mental Health also offers resources for high school students. To set up a session, students can call (785) 587-4300 or fill out paperwork found on their website. 

“I know that a lot of individuals, especially teenagers, feel that they are all alone, especially if they’re experiencing maybe additional stressors,” Woodward said. “I just want them to know that they are not alone. There is an individual out there at your school, at your house, at your church, reach out to Pawnee if you need to, anybody. You don’t have to fight this fight alone.”