You are all trying your best to manage the challenges that school closures and the changes to the Leaving Certificate examinations have brought. This is hard. There are steps that you can take to support your wellbeing during this time of uncertainty.
It will help to:
Stay Positive and Calm
Notice your feelings:
You may be experiencing lots of different feelings. You may feel stressed, anxious, sad, worried, afraid, fed up, angry, frustrated or even numb. Some of you may feel nothing at all. These are all normal and healthy reactions to stressful situations. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel.
If you are feeling stressed or unable to relax try some breathing and relaxation strategies Relaxation Techniques.
Focus on what you can control:
There is a lot going on at the moment that you cannot control. It is important to keep in mind the difference between dealing with things you can change and being able to accept those you can’t. Spending too much time thinking about things you can’t change is not helpful and will prevent you from concentrating on things you can do.
Focus on what you can do right now.
Be kind to yourself:
This is a challenging time. It is completely normal if, at times, you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or worried. Stress limits our energy and ability to concentrate so you need to be realistic about what you can achieve. It is important to be gentle with yourself and to practice some self-care.
Take time for enjoyable/creative activities:
Make sure to factor in breaks to your daily routine, take quiet time and do activities you enjoy throughout the day.
Identify what it is that helps you to relax. It is different for everybody but it is important to include time to relax at different points during the day. It might involve being active or it might involve winding down. It might also include doing some meditation, mindfulness or yoga. Other ideas on how to relax can be found here
Do something you enjoy or try something creative every day. Think about things that make you feel good, then make it happen – like listening to music, going for walks, doing an exercise routine, writing, drawing, cooking or watching a funny movie. Remember laughter is good medicine!
Try to limit your exposure to the media:
Continually talking about what has been decided in relation to the examinations or constantly searching social media for updates can increase your anxiety. Although it is important to keep up to date, try to limit how often you are accessing information on the internet, television and social media. If you have updates coming through to your phone, limit how often you check them.
It may also be useful to turn updates off for a few days.
Remember that there are a lot of different opinions, rumours and ‘fake news’ going around at the moment. If you are worried about them, talk to someone you trust.
Get your information from a reliable source to ensure the information you are receiving is accurate.
We all find it hard to be away from our friends, to practice physical/social distancing and to stay at home. Use technology to stay in touch. Social connection is very important at the moment.
Schedule in time to ensure that you remain in regular contact with your friends. Even though we are going through a period of isolation, it is important to stay connected and to keep talking! Connect with your family whether this is eating together, walking together, watching TV together or anything else that you enjoy.
Draw on your support networks:
If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed you need to be able to draw on the support of others. Talk to family and friends about your feelings. Sharing thoughts or worries with others really does help. Ask for support from someone you trust.
If you think you need additional help consider contacting your school where support is available. There are also lots of support services for young people that provide advice and support via text, email and online see here
for further information.
It is also important to be able to provide support to others if you can. Think about who you may be able to reach out to in your support network.
Have a Plan for the Day
Routines and schedules are the key to getting through this time of uncertainty. Making your days structured and predictable will help you feel secure and will bring some predictability to the current situation. You can help ourselves get through this time by creating a Plan for the Day, every evening for the day ahead. When creating a Plan for the Day think about the following:
Include some basic daily activities:
Sleep is good for our health and wellbeing so it’s important to get plenty of sleep - eight to twelve hours is recommended. Try to get to bed at the same time every night. Leaving the phone, laptop and tablet outside the bedroom will help to get a better night’s sleep. More information on what will help is here.
It’s also important to eat healthily and to drink lots of water.
Remember to include showering and getting dressed into the Plan for the Day.
It is important to spend time with others, try to include family meals into your timetable.
Include some physical activities, social activities and enjoyable/creative activities as well as a study routine.
(Remember to discuss your plan with your family to make sure that your plan for meals, computer time, showering etc. works for everyone)
When studying and revising, set realistic goals and try not to be too hard on yourself. Make sure to pace yourself, take plenty of breaks because this is a ‘marathon and not a sprint’. Don’t feel guilty if you find it difficult to concentrate on certain days. Tomorrow is a new day so wipe the slate clean and start afresh.
Create study routines:
This is not an easy time to study, but keeping a study routine is important. Put together a study timetable with time slots to focus on different subjects.
It is often hard to stay focused when working alone at home. This is normal. Taking regular breaks and rewarding yourself is key to staying motivated.
If you have a place in your home where you can make your own study space this will help. If it’s possible, try to study somewhere with little noise or distractions and away from where you normally relax.
If you have difficulty accessing online content, classes or resources contact your school. They will help you to resolve these issues.
Make contact with your school if you have questions or require further clarification or information on the topics you are studying.
Set realistic deadlines and tasks to complete every day. Identify a small number of specific goals each day. It is often helpful to complete the most challenging task first. Alternatively you could start with a task you enjoy, move to a more challenging task and finish with a subject you really like, even if the topic isn’t the easiest.
Use breathing and relaxation strategies to improve focus and concentration before and during study periods. See Relaxation techniques.
Set definite time-limits for assigned work and reward yourself when you get the task done, Many people find using a timer to break work down into time intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks, works well.
For certain subjects, many students find flashcards particularly helpful in revision. You may find it useful to prepare digital versions and there are many free apps which facilitate this.
Keep a log of what you have worked on each day. Many people find that crossing out or ticking what you have completed helps gives you a sense of success and overall achievement.
Review your plan. Identify what worked and what you need to change.
It might also be helpful to include a virtual study group with your friends in your study routine,
Tips and techniques to improve wellbeing
Our sense of wellbeing can be improved by taking some time to reflect on some of the following:
What positive/healthy experiences can I plan to do today (e.g. reading, music, food, games, exercise, meditation, learning etc.)
What can I be grateful for today? (I am grateful for …. list 3 things)
What small act of kindness can I do for someone else today?
How can I help myself to take a moment of calm?
What gives me enjoyment and makes me laugh?
How can I use one or more of my strengths today?
Who can I connect with today (over the telephone, online, in reality)?
In what way can I make a small positive difference to someone else?
How can I show interest in another person or their work/hobbies?
What goals can I set for today?
What goals no matter how small can I achieve today?
A number of supports are available to you during this uncertain time.
During this challenging time of COVID-19 your school building may be closed but your school has structures in place to support you. In these uncertain times, it is important for you to connect with your school. We hope that your familiarity with your teachers and them with you, will provide you with the necessary information and reassurance to help and support you.
Members of the Student Support Team which includes the principal or deputy principal, the guidance counsellor the special education needs coordinator and all the other key support staff in your school are available now. Please contact your school if you want information or need assistance or support.
Supports for Young People
Ireland's 24-hour national listening service for young people up to the age of 18
Barnardos provide a national telephone support service for parents, in response to the challenges they are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Freephone 1800 910 123 from 10am to 2pm, Monday to Friday.
Barnardos also provide a children's bereavement helpline service, for members of the public seeking information and support in relation to bereavement. Telephone 01 473 2110 from 10am to 12pm, Monday to Thursday.
SpunOut.ie provides a wide range of articles and information for young people, on many different topics, including mental health.
text SPUNOUT to 086 1800 280 to chat to a trained volunteer (standard message rates may apply)
Pieta provides free therapy to those engaging in self-harm, with suicidal ideation, or bereaved by suicide.
visit pieta.ie for more information
call free on 1800 247 247
text help to 51444
More online supports
website provides information and signposting on all mental health supports and services that are available nationally and locally provided by the HSE and its funded partners. You can also call the freephone YourMentalHealth Information Line to find supports and services any time, day or night: 1800 111 888.
Online counselling supports:
provides a 3 tiered approach to supporting mental well-being - self-help, support groups and professional support. Online services include counselling and support groups
provides access to counselling and psychotherapy, face to face and online
The support offered by various agencies listed above are for individuals who are feeling worried or anxious about various issues.
For students who have complex mental health needs, access to help continues to be through your GP or health centre or hospital emergency services as detailed below:
GP and health centres
A GP can offer support for anyone in crisis. If possible, ask someone to come along with you.
A new mental health messaging support service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It provides in-the-moment anonymous support when you need it most.
This service aims to connect you with a trained volunteer in less than 5 minutes. They will listen to you and help you think more clearly, enabling you to know that you can take the next step to feeling better.