The Importance of a Brain Break

On the minds and hearts of all parents and teachers is how the pandemic affects our children and students. With different routines at home and school, it’s essential to provide opportunities to rest the brain. Taquera Walker, Middle School Counselor, designed a Mental Health Day for Middle School students. The day included age-appropriate activities and discussions to help students understand the importance of emotional, psychological, and social well-being and, in the process, learn about themselves and how to take care of their mental health.

“Mental health affects how we think, feel, and act,” Walker said. “It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”

Each grade level enjoyed a unique schedule of activities and presentations along with time for reflections, opening up with classmates, and learning about what anxiety, stress, and depression can do to minds and bodies. Students enjoyed three different activities of their choosing, including reading, escape rooms, campus hikes, Minecraft, writing, and origami. Walker introduced mindfulness practices that bring self-awareness in noticing emotions in both brains and bodies, and how to make conscious choices to improve one’s feelings.

Students also attended a virtual session with CHADS Coalition for Mental Health. They learned about the warning signs and symptoms of depression and suicide and how to reach out for help.

Supporting each other was another key theme for the day. Walker said, “I encouraged students to show respect to one another by listening and offering support and encouragement as a meaningful exchange. I also reminded them to allow their friends space if they need it, would like to be alone, or if they would like to hang out or eat lunch with someone new.”

Teachers and students found the day interactive, relaxing, and meaningful to their well-being.

“It was a great day to relax with students where the number one goal was to have fun and be together outside of the academic classroom,” said Mark Duvall, 6th Grade Dean. Students and teachers were more at ease, and you could feel the calmness in the halls and the activities. I think we should do one mental health day each semester.”

“It was kind of like a chill day without as much pressure from tests and quizzes,” said Elle Faerber ’28. “I feel happier and less stressed out to take our minds off school for just one day.”

“I thought the day held a good balance for the students of learning about mental health and strategies to manage emotions along with actually taking time to use these strategies, such as playing with LEGOs,” said Branson Lawrence, Middle School Science Teacher.