Care for Self + Others | A Zoom Guide, by Emily Donavon, AMFT
To everyone working with students over screens right now, thank you! As you continue to take great care of your students via Zoom, here are some ways you can care for yourself, protect your mental health, and continue to show up well every week.
Rituals: creating small rhythms surrounding Zoom calls can both prepare your mind + body and help you relax at the end of the call. It is best to find things that are easy to remember + repeat.
Set your computer up in the same place weekly, ideally somewhere different than where you sleep, eat, or work (even if just a different location on the desk). Moving locations is a signal to your brain that this is a new activity requiring unique attention.
Light a candle, diffuse an oil, or grab a soft blanket. Having something familiar about setting up your space for youth is another signal to your brain.
Put your computer away. Put. It. Away. Following the call, close your computer and walk away from it. This will help as you transition for the rest of your evening and mirrors what used to be your commute home at the end of the day.
Shake it off, literally. If you are feeling emotionally drained or your thoughts keep returning to your Zoom call in a way that makes it hard to transition, pretend you’re a wet dog and shake off the emotional residue like it’s water.
Grounding: this practice is as literal as it sounds, and it is designed to keep you familiar with your surroundings. This is particularly helpful when your thoughts and emotions are highly engaged, as it keeps you anchored in your physical reality.
Physical sensations: these are small ways to remind yourself that you are in a safe location while you’re engaging via screens. Things like shifting in your seat to feel the chair or couch beneath you, moving your feet to apply pressure from your toes down to your heels, or straightening your back and feeling the support of your seating behind you can bring your awareness to this.
Sensory engagement: by activating senses other than what you’re seeing/hearing on the Zoom call, it has a similar grounding effect. This can be done through taste, like chewing your favorite flavor of gum. Smell + touch can be used in combination by applying a familiar lotion to your hands during the call. This is especially soothing for your brain because of the bi-lateral stimulation of both hands feeling something, also accomplished through passing a stress ball or smooth stone between your hands.
Boundaries: you are leaders and caretakers for students during a very chaotic time in the world. This is further complicated by the fact that this is a shared experience—the fear and disruption your students might be experiencing is likely tied to the same things bringing up fear and disruption for you and your family. At the end of the call, it can be helpful to think through how to protect your headspace.
Zoom check-ins: if a heavy topic has come up during the evening, asking each student to “check in” before logging off can both alert you to students that might need more focused attention and protect your headspace post-call. Students can say something simple like “I’m good!” or even hold up thumbs-up signs before logging off.
Who is caring for you? After you’ve had a challenging call, who can you talk to? Even while you are protecting the privacy of your students, is there a friend or partner you can share your experience of the evening with? Things like “this evening brought up feelings of ____ for me” is a great place to start.
Emily Donavon, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist
Supervised by Janelle Froehlich, LMFT, Teen Translation